The expression to carry a torch for someone came up when I was putting together this week’s mots de la semaine for the French Conversation Group. We talked about my experiences in Shetland, where lots of people were carrying flaming torches, and this got me wondering why you might say that you’re carry a torch for someone.
According to Wiktionary it might date back the the Greek and Roman wedding torch tradition, which involved the bride lighting a torch from her hearth on her wedding night, and taking it to her new home to light the hearth. The torch was associated with Hymen (Ὑμήν) or Hymenaios, the Greek god of wedding ceremonies.
So if you’re carry a torch for someone it means that you’re in love with them or romantically infatuated with them, but your feelings might not be reciprocated.
The French equivalent is en pincer pour qn, and in Welsh it’s caru rhywun (o bell) yn ofer, llosgu dy gariad at rhywun yn fud, or cadwai fflam dy serch at rhywun ynghyn. What about in other languages?