Lanthorn and torches

Here we talk about lights of all kinds. Why the name? Lanthorn is an old, chiefly British word for a lantern, as in a device used as a portable source of lighting. C’mon now, it’s part of how we’re setting the mood and staying in character.

A lanthorn was typically made with reflectors of some kind, often a translucent horn or thin polished metal, and usually featuring a cage or other enclosure to protect a light source.

Historically the latter was a candle or wick in oil, though that of course evolved. That’s why what you see here will usually be a modern flashlight or camping lantern (and occasionally a weapon light).

Lanthorn lantern

Above: an old school lanthorn in a photo by Wayne Robinson, “leatherworkingreverend” on Flickr.

The pronunciation of lanthorn vs. lantern is virtually indistinguishable, barring differences in regional accents and speech patterns. The spelling was possibly derived in part from the use of animal horns in their construction.

[1250-1300;  Middle English lanterne  < Latin lanterna ( <  Etruscan)  < Greek  lamptḗr lamp, light]

torch, of course, can be more than a cresset or flambeau. It is also slang for a flashlight, particularly in British/Commonwealth parlance.

Dungeon torches burning

Why are “flashlights” known as “torches” in the UK, former Commonwealth countries, and similar places? We’re not entirely sure, though we have heard “electric torch” used to differentiate a handheld battery-powered light from one that has fire on top and so often accompanies mobs with pitchforks.