carry a torch for

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carry a torch may derive from the Greek wedding torch tradition

Alternative forms[edit]


From the metaphor of a burning flame, to keep a fire burning.

The association of a torch with love may date to the Greek and Roman tradition of a wedding torch,[1] lit in the bride’s hearth on her wedding night, then used to light the hearth in her new home. Such a torch is associated with the Greek god of marriage Hymenaios.


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carry a torch for (third-person singular simple present carries a torch for, present participle carrying a torch for, simple past and past participle carried a torch for)

  1. (idiomatic) To love or to be romantically infatuated with, especially when such feelings are not reciprocated.
    • 1941, Nelson Shawn (lyrics), James Caesar Petrillo and Edward Ross (music), “Jim”:
      Someday, I know that Jim will up and leave me / But even if he does you can believe me / I'll go on carryin' the torch for Jim / I'll go on lovin' my Jim
    • 1955 June 6, “Books: Mixed Fiction (review of The Twelve Pictures by Edith Simon)”, in Time[1], archived from the original on 2013-03-15:
      Brunhilde, a kind of earth-mother goddess, carries a torch for her lost love.
    • 2006 April 20, Jeannette Walls, “Are Simpson and Lachey still in love?”, in[2], archived from the original on 2006-04-23:
      Lachey, for his part, seems to still carry a torch for his estranged wife.

Usage notes[edit]

  • Often used to characterize a situation in which a romantic relationship has ended, but where one partner still loves the other.
  • Considered by some to be dated,[2] but still in wide usage.

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