Where Did the Term “Three on a Match” Originate?

Where Did the Term “Three on a Match” Originate that implies that it’s bad luck to light three wooden tapers or cigarettes with one match from a match box?


1) Three is the symbol of the Holy Trinity.

To make mundane use of a match was to defile its sanctity and to transgress holy scripture. Man would invite disaster and put himself into the power of the ‘evil one.’ Thus, the use of a single match or lit wooden taper, would light the fires of Hell for one’s own soul.

2) Self-protection in time of war.

The superstition first arose among British troops during the Crimean War. British soldiers, entrenched against Dutch foes in the Boer War, learned by bitter experience of the danger of lighting three cigarettes from one match. When the men thriftily used one match to serve three of them, they gave the Boer Sniper time to spot the light, take aim and fire to kill ‘the third man’.

3) Ivar Kreuger, the President of The Swedish Match Company who was known as the ‘match king’, certainly did not create the term or the superstition surrounding it, as it has been alleged back in the 1930’s. But he certainly exploited the term to promote sales for his company’s matches! He surmised that most people, innately thrifty, were not using enough of his matches through their habit of conserving them by using a single match to light multiple candles, cigarettes, etc. After his successful campaign perpetuating the superstition of the wartime precaution and it’s association with the mortal consequences of using just one match, he earned millions of pounds of profit for his company by greatly increasing sales of his Swedish Matches.

There was also a famous movie Three on a Match
That was based upon the story of three friends from childhood, Mary, Ruth, and Vivian, who meet again as young adults after some time apart. They each light a cigarette from the same match and discuss the superstition that such an act is unlucky and that Vivian, the last to light her cigarette, will be the first to die.

Make sure to load up and avoid the curse of THREE ON A MATCH by buying your own batch of branded matches for your business from TheMatchGroup or call one of our experienced “match makers” at 800.605.7331.