Burn the Midnight Oil

Meaning

Burn the midnight oil: to work very late, past the end of the regular work day, and late into the night, especially to study; to work very hard.

Usage

The idiom often suggests working late at night and in this sense, it is especially applied to studying, as for exams. However, it just as often is used to refer to any hard work, whether done in the day or the night.

Examples Of Use

“Sorry I haven’t been able to visit you lately. I’ve been burning the midnight oil trying to get the new business going.”

“Burning the midnight oil, Roger? asked Kate. “Yeah I’ve got tons of red tape to catch up on.”

“When I was in college most students were busy partying while I was busy burning the midnight oil.”

(Red tape is slang for bureaucratic paperwork.)

Origin

Used since the early 1600’s, this expression alludes figuratively to the burning oil in lamps in order to have light for working during the night.

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