Burning the midnight oil


      • Hard work and intense effort
        To describe someone who is working late into the night, often to complete a task or meet a deadline

      • Studying or preparing for an exam or test
        To describe someone who is staying up late to study or finish schoolwork

    Examples of Burning the midnight oil

    • Sarah has been burning the midnight oil lately, trying to finish her dissertation before the deadline.

      This idiom means working very hard, especially late at night. It comes from the image of a person working by the light of an oil lamp late into the night, when most other people are sleeping.

    • The students in the library were burning the midnight oil, their eyes glued to their textbooks and laptops as they tried to cram for their exams.

      This idiom can be used to describe a group of people working hard together, often in a specific location like a library or office.

    • I've been burning the midnight oil, trying to catch up on all the work I fell behind on last week.

      This idiom can be used to describe a specific task or project that someone is working on late at night.

    • The CEO of the company has been burning the midnight oil, trying to come up with a solution to the financial crisis that's been plaguing the company for months.

      This idiom can be used to describe someone in a position of authority or responsibility, who is working hard to solve a difficult problem.

    • After a long day at work, I like to unwind by burning the midnight oil, reading a good book or watching a movie.

      This idiom can be used to describe an enjoyable activity that someone does late at night, often as a way to relax or de-stress after a long day.


    This idiom is typically used to describe a situation where someone is putting in a lot of hard work or effort, usually at night when most people are sleeping. It can also imply a sense of dedication or determination towards a particular task or goal.

    In both meanings, the phrase "burning the midnight oil" suggests that the person is sacrificing their rest or leisure time in order to achieve their desired outcome. It can also convey a sense of urgency or last-minute effort, as staying up late is often seen as a last resort in order to complete a task or meet a deadline.

    Origin of "Burning the midnight oil"

    The origin of this idiom can be traced back to the 17th century, when the use of oil lamps and candles was common for lighting during nighttime. Burning these sources of light late into the night was often necessary for people who needed to continue their work or studies. The phrase "midnight oil" was first used in a poem by English writer Eusebius Andrews in 1632, and it became a popular expression for hard work and determination.

    In the 19th century, the phrase evolved to "burning the midnight oil," and it has remained a commonly used idiom to this day. It has also been referenced in various literary works, such as Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" and Robert Louis Stevenson's "Treasure Island," further solidifying its place in the English language.