"to shed light; to set on fire," late Old English lihtan (Anglian), liehtan (West Saxon), originally transitive, "to ignite, set on fire," also in a spiritual sense, "to illuminate, fill with brightness." It is common Germanic (cognates: Old Saxon liohtian, Old High German liuhtan, German leuchten, Gothic liuhtjan "to light"), from the source of light (n.).
Meaning "furnish light for" is from c. 1200; sense of "emit light, shed light, shine" is from c. 1300. Buck writes that light is "much more common than kindle even with fire, and only light, not kindle, with candle, lamp, pipe, etc." To light up is from c. 1200 as "give light to" (a room, etc.); 1861 in reference to a pipe, cigar, etc. Related: Lighted; lighting.