Definition of torch in English:

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Pronunciation: /tɔːtʃ/


1British A portable battery-powered electric lamp.
Example sentences
  • Electricity showrooms in the borough were swamped with calls about the scheduled power cuts and at the same time coped with a booming demand for torches, lamps and batteries.
  • It looked impressive, but the light from the battery-operated torch bulb-lit lanterns could have been brighter to enable them to stand out better in the darkness.
  • Kingston shoppers took heed of advice given on the Home Office website last week to stockpile battery-powered torches, radios, food and bottled water.
1.1chiefly historical A portable means of illumination such as a piece of wood or cloth soaked in tallow and ignited, sometimes carried ceremonially.
Example sentences
  • The colourful cloth and the cardboard piece that symbolised the torch of the statue made the model look appealing.
  • We took off our sandals, and two of the bissu carried burning torches to light our way.
  • He also choreographed the dance piece for the ceremony of lighting the torch at the courthouse steps and later in Dublin at the Point Depot.
firebrand, brand;
lantern, candle, taper
historical link, cresset
1.2 [in singular] Used to refer to a valuable quality, principle, or cause, which needs to be protected and maintained: mountain warlords carried the torch of Greek independence
More example sentences
  • She not only carried the torch of educating young women, but she passed it on.
  • Others view Poland as the suffering Christ among nations raising the torch of liberty and independence for themselves and others.
  • He is married with four children, one of whom, Zoe, has picked up the educational torch and is now a teacher in Chiseldon.
2chiefly North American A blowlamp.
Example sentences
  • In addition to this, wire cutters, torches, chainsaws, axes, etc. can come in handy.
  • Armed with pitch forks, torches, and stakes; the men planned to overwhelm the vampire until he was struck down.
  • Stonefist had armed himself with throwing axes, his battleaxe, a torch, and a tower shield.
3US informal An arsonist.


[with object] informal
Set fire to: the shops had been looted and torched
More example sentences
  • I teach the same groups how to light fires - kids who may have torched vehicles often don't know how to keep a real fire going.
  • The car behind the fire station used for training purposes was torched around 1pm.
  • Small numbers of music fans set fire to tents, but organisers insisted people had only torched their own belongings.
burn, set fire to, set on fire, set light to, set alight, incinerate, ignite, kindle, put/set a match to, light, start, touch off;
reduce to ashes, destroy by fire



carry a torch for

Suffer from unrequited love for: he was carrying a torch for the local strawberry blonde
More example sentences
  • Catherine discovers she still carries a torch for her old love, but that's only one of the complications as Catherine deals with past hurts and potential romance.
  • He knew that Steven still carried a torch for his former love.
  • A few months later I fell in love with this friend and carried a torch for him for years, but he would never have me (the nerve).

put to the torch (or put a torch to)

Destroy by burning: heretics were put to the torch
More example sentences
  • Following the battle of Clonegal which was fought on July 29, 1650, the houses on both sides of the street were put to the torch and the homes of Moyacomb Meadow are the first houses to have been built there since.
  • All of Kirribilli might, in passing, be put to the torch as enraged tree-worshippers marched on the council chambers.
  • It went up in smoke when the Bounty was put to the torch.


Middle English: from Old French torche, from Latin torqua, variant of torques 'necklace, wreath', from torquere 'to twist'. The current verb sense was originally US slang and dates from the 1930s.

  • A torch in the original sense of ‘something soaked in an inflammable substance used to give light’ was often made of twisted hemp or other fibres. This is still the American meaning, and reflects the word's Latin origin, torquere ‘to twist’. Only in British English can torch describe a battery-powered electric lamp, which Americans call a flashlight. A torch song is a sad or sentimental song of unrequited love, whose name, used since the 1920s, comes from the phrase carry a torch for, ‘to love someone who does not love you in return’. The image in pass on the torch, ‘to pass on a tradition, especially one of learning or enlightenment’, is that of the runners in a relay race passing on the torch to each other, as was the custom in the ancient Greek Olympic Games. The Latin source of torch, torquere, is found in a large number of other English words. Most obviously it is the source of the engineer's torque (late 19th century), and the twisted Celtic neck-ring the torc (mid 19th century). Less obviously it is in contort (Late Middle English) ‘twist together’; distort (Late Middle English) ‘twist out of shape’; extort (early 16th century) ‘twist out of’; and retort (Late Middle English) ‘to twist back’ (the chemical apparatus gets its name from its twisted shape). Tortura ‘twisting, torment’ the Latin noun formed from the verb gives us torture and tortuous (both LME), and torment (Middle English). Thwart (Middle English) is an Old Norse word that goes back to the same Indo-European root.

Words that rhyme with torch

debauch, nautch, porch, scorch

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: torch

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