1. a light to be carried in the hand, consisting of some combustible substance, as resinous wood, or of twisted flax or the like soaked with tallow or other flammable substance, ignited at the upper end.
  2. something considered as a source of illumination, enlightenment, guidance, etc.: the torch of learning.
  3. any of various lamplike devices that produce a hot flame and are used for soldering, burning off paint, etc.
  4. Slang. an arsonist.
  5. Chiefly British. flashlight(def 1).

verb (used without object)

  1. to burn or flare up like a torch.

verb (used with object)

  1. to subject to the flame or light of a torch, as in order to burn, sear, solder, or illuminate.
  2. Slang. to set fire to maliciously, especially in order to collect insurance.
  1. carry the/a torch for, Slang. to be in love with, especially to suffer from unrequited love for: He still carries a torch for his ex-wife.

verb (used with object)

  1. to point (the joints between roofing slates) with a mixture of lime and hair.


  1. a small portable electric lamp powered by one or more dry batteriesUS and Canadian word: flashlight
  2. a wooden or tow shaft dipped in wax or tallow and set alight
  3. anything regarded as a source of enlightenment, guidance, etcthe torch of evangelism
  4. any apparatus that burns with a hot flame for welding, brazing, or soldering
  5. carry a torch for to be in love with, esp unrequitedly
  6. put to the torch to set fire to; burn downthe looted monastery was put to the torch


  1. (tr) slang to set fire to, esp deliberately as an act of arson

late 13c., from Old French torche, originally “twisted thing,” hence “torch formed of twisted tow dipped in wax,” probably from Vulgar Latin *torca, alteration of Late Latin torqua, variant of classical Latin torques “collar of twisted metal,” from torquere “to twist” (see thwart). In Britain, also applied to the battery-driven version (in U.S., flashlight). Torch song is 1927 (“My Melancholy Baby,” performed by Tommy Lyman, is said to have been the first so called), from carry a torch “suffer an unrequited love” (also 1927), an obscure notion from Broadway slang.


“set fire to,” 1931, from torch (n.). Related: Torched; torching.

see carry a torch; pass the torch.

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