Italian Word of the Day: Candela (candle)

Today’s word of the day is part of our Italian Christmas Word Advent Calendar series. Each day throughout December, we’ll post a word that is related to the holiday season. Enjoy!

One of the most important Christmas symbols in Italy and across Europe is the candle – or candela (feminine, plural: candele) in Italian – as it is said to represent the light of Jesus Christ.

IPA: /kanˈdeː.la/

Candles can be found everywhere at this time of the year: on trees as decorations, inside churches during religious ceremonies and in the hands of carollers.

multiple candles burning inside a shop, creating a warm light and atmosphere

Ho acceso la candela ma si è spenta subito.

I lit the candle but it immediately went out.

In fact, a candle used during church ceremonies has its own special name in Italian: cero. It is a larger-than-average candle reserved for public worship.

Other kinds of candles include the candela profumata (scented candle) and the candela di cera (wax candle).

Candlelight translates as lume di candela in Italian and by candlelight would be a lume di candela.

The use of the word candela doesn’t stop here. In a car engine, the candela is the name given to the spark plug. There is the posizione a candela in gymnastics (candlestick position) and the noun candela (cd) is the base unit of luminous intensity in the International System of Units (SI).

Idioms featuring the word ‘candela’

There are a couple of important idioms in Italian with candela in them. Both are worth remembering as they are used quite frequently.

Il gioco non vale la candela

Literal translation: The game isn’t worth the candle.
English meaning: It’s not worth the trouble.

Tenere / Reggere la candela

Literal translation: to hold / bear the candle
English meaning: to be the third wheel in a relationship

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