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Burning the Midnight Oil Origin

People may use the phrase, “burning the midnight oil”, to refer to their effort of staying up all night completing work. This article will examine its origin and meaning.

The term dates back to Francis Quarles’ Emblemes book published in 1635 – at that time there was no electricity and people worked by candle or oil lamp light.


Burning the midnight oil” refers to working very late into the night on a project, usually an ambitious one, until completion. This phrase serves to demonstrate your willingness to put in extra effort for its completion, an expression which dates back centuries when candles and oil lamps were used as night lighting sources. English author Francis Quarles first used this term in 1635 in his literary work Emblemes; its definition can also be found within 1623’s definition of elucubrate: performing activities by candlelight.

Staying awake all night while studying can result in sleep deprivation that compromises both your overall health and ability to concentrate. Some pressed for time use stimulants like coffee to stay alert longer – something which may prove harmful over time. Parents of newborn babies often need to stay up late feedings and changings; lawmakers and researchers may have deadlines they must meet that necessitate staying up late too.


Burning the midnight oil refers to staying up late to work and originated in 1635 when used by Francis Quarles in his literary work Emblemes. The phrase itself comes from using candles or oil lamps in the night for work purposes – an act known as elucubrate.

Modern-day examples of those “burning the midnight oil” include attorneys preparing for an important case or physicians diagnosing complex ailments – often these individuals are praised for their dedication and hard work.

However, this phrase can also be interpreted negatively to suggest that someone is not sleeping well or is only getting very little rest, which is detrimental to health over time. Therefore it is better to develop study habits which allow for enough restful slumber so as to avoid burn out as well as insomnia or sleep deprivation – Michael is an active LanguageHumanities contributor as a journalist, blogger, and freelance writer.


Burning the midnight oil refers to working long and late into the night in modern offices. People considered as burning the midnight oil are often extremely dedicated and hardworking individuals.

This phrase dates back to 17th-century England where Francis Quarles used it in his literary work Emblemes under the phrase, “Wee spend our mid-day sweat and mid-night oyle.” Since candles were burned for lighting during the late night hours, this made perfect sense as an allusion.

These days it is quite common to hear someone describe their efforts to complete a project or task within its deadline as “burning the midnight oil”. This compliment shows them you appreciate their hard work in order to reach their goals; an example would be Chris who has been up all night working to finish an article for an exam he is taking soon.


Burning the midnight oil refers to working late into the night to complete a project or task, an expression used across cultures to signify dedication and commitment in accomplishing work. Lawyers taking on difficult cases or physicians dealing with complex diagnoses are prime examples of people who often go beyond working traditional 9-5 hours by working late into the night to complete work projects or tasks.

This term originates in 17th-century oil lamps used to illuminate evening and night hours. While its meaning remains uncertain today, we often use “oil lamp” to refer to someone working all night on something important.

Midnight Oil had several hit singles in Australia, such as Truganini and Diesel and Dust, but Beds Are Burning stands out as their signature piece and an important social statement on indigenous Australians’ plight. Written during a tour of two Indigenous groups – Gondwanaland and Warumpi Band – Beds Are Burning became their signature song that continues to resonate today.