We often say turn off the lights. Is it correct to say turn off the lamp when referring to a non-electric lamp (lit by fire)? That doesn't sound proper. Which is the better phrase to use there?

  • 4
    Another option would be 'extinguish the lamp'.
    – pew
    Jun 27, 2017 at 9:33
  • 5
    If it's a gas lamp, "turn off" would work, and in fact I think it's originally where the phrase comes from, as you'd physically turn the gas valve. You're right that "turn off the lamp" for some reason doesn't sound perfectly right but "Turn the lamp off" sounds fine to me as a native British English speaker.
    – Muzer
    Jun 27, 2017 at 10:24
  • 1
    "Turn off" is completely fine too. Many oil lamps have a wick that is adjustable by a knob on the side, and turning the knob in a certain direction causes the wick to retract, extinguishing the flame. It would be interesting to investigate the full etymology of the phrase "turn off". Jun 28, 2017 at 18:52
  • Is "turn off" really derived from turning a rotary switch ... or by turning (moving) it off the circuit? Jun 28, 2017 at 20:39

7 Answers 7


If the lamp is lit by actual fire, I'd probably say:

Put out the lamp.

This is like how you "put out" a barbeque or a camping fire.

Note that, at least where I am, "lamp" and "light" are now synonymous and it took me a while to figure out what difference you were implying between the electric lightbulb and your "lamp".

  • 4
    This is the correct answer, for a lamp that burns. "Extinguish" (as in @pew's answer) does work too, but is much more formal.
    – psmears
    Jun 27, 2017 at 9:51
  • See the fun... put the lamp out would mean all different! Just changing the place makes a lot of difference!
    – Maulik V
    Jun 27, 2017 at 9:56
  • 2
    @MaulikV - 'put out the light' and 'put the light out' can BOTH mean either 'extinguish the light' or 'take the light outside'.
    – Dan
    Jun 27, 2017 at 10:17
  • 10
    @MaulikV As a native speaker I would say "put the light outside" if I wanted somebody to take it out of the room. "Put the light out" almost always means "switch the light off" or "extinguish it."
    – alephzero
    Jun 27, 2017 at 13:09
  • 1
    @MaulikV Yeah, I would quite probably say "put the lamp out" meaning "turn the lamp off". British English.
    – Muzer
    Jun 28, 2017 at 9:16

you can use douse the lamp or extinguish the lamp for a fire-lit lamp.

  • Maybe mariner use only --"douse the glim" Jun 27, 2017 at 12:25
  • 10
    A modern American English speaker likely would expect that you were asking to douse the lamp with water. Jun 27, 2017 at 17:49
  • @jameslarge in the theatrical lighting industry when you turn off the lamp in an arc-lamp fixture without killing power to the fixture itself, that's dousing. Jun 28, 2017 at 8:55
  • I would go for douse as a non-native English speaker. Have to admit I rarely hear that :)
    – miva2
    Jun 28, 2017 at 9:42
  • 2
    @JakobWeisblat, Sounds like a term of art. The first two definitions of "douse" in my U.S.A'n dictionary are all about soaking things with water. The third definition says, to extinguish something such as a lamp or a fire. It's easy to see where the first two came from. If one wanted to douse a camp fire, then a bucket of water would be useful. Once enough Americans got used to the idea that dousing fires is something you do with buckets of water, then they likely began to wonder what else could be doused with buckets of water. Teen-age children sleeping past noon, etc.? Jun 28, 2017 at 12:03

A single word for ending fires of all kinds: extinguish:

(transitive) to put out, as in fire; to end burning; to quench

This works for all kinds of flame lamps equally well (as does the original, put out):

  • candles: snuff, snuff out, put out, extinguish
  • gas lights: turn off, put out, extinguish
  • oil lamps: turn off, put out, extinguish
  • burning torches: douse, put out, extinguish

"Extinguish" and "put out" also appropriate for electric lights, for which I'd not use any of the other terms above.

  • As an AmE native speaker, I would never say that I "extinguished" an electric light. "Turned off" is my preferred term.
    – MJ713
    Apr 21, 2023 at 6:26

"Turn out the lamp" was also used more than 'off' in the times when lamps were oil or gas - see this ngram search.

  • 4
    Which more closely matches the way we always said "turn out the light(s)," growing up. This slowly morphed into "switch off the light(s)." With "turn" referencing the knob on the gas lamp, or the wick raiser on an oil lamp, and "switch" referring to the physical electric switch. Jun 27, 2017 at 18:15
  • Drat, you beat me to it. We'd turn down the lamp, then blow it out. Shortened, it'd be "Turn out the lamp." You don't want to completely lower the burning wick until it's extinguished by the roller, as you run the risk of doing it too quickly and dropping the still burning wick into the oil reserve. At that point bad things happen. A web commentary with similar advice: livingasimplelife.com/an-evening-with-oil-lamps
    – user57573
    Jun 29, 2017 at 8:27

Snuff or Snuff out applies specifically to lights based on fire: lamps, candles, torches. It's perhaps a little bit old fashioned (though so are fire-based lights!)


Your two choices in your scenario are

Turn off the lamp.

which is most idiomatic. Another possibility might be

Shut off the lamp.

but less often used.

  • 1
    Can that be used if lamp is lit by fire and not an electric one ?
    – Codeformer
    Jun 27, 2017 at 7:29
  • 2
    @Vinod I think it could be used if it is turned off by stopping a supply of fuel (AIUI the phrase originates from gas lamps) but not for e.g. a candle.
    – Random832
    Jun 27, 2017 at 13:07
  • I think many people are assuming a candle or oil lamp with their answers, but for a gas lamp, this is probably the best choice.
    – JPhi1618
    Jun 28, 2017 at 19:32

Blow out is an other precise phrase which can be used in this context.

It means:

Be extinguished by an air current.

Example usage:

She blew out the candles, posed graciously for countless photographs and accepted cheek kisses galore.

Seattle TimesNov 29, 2016

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