ignis fatuus

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English[edit]

Etymology[edit]

Modern Latin, from ignis (fire) + fatuus (foolish). Literally "foolish fire".

Pronunciation[edit]

  • IPA(key): /ˈɪɡnɪs ˈfætjuːəs/

Noun[edit]

ignis fatuus (plural ignes fatui)

  1. A will o' the wisp.
    • 1621, Robert Burton, The Anatomy of Melancholy, New York, 2001, p.190:
      Fiery spirits or devils are such as commonly work by blazing stars, fire-drakes, or ignes fatui; which lead men often in flumina aut præcipitia, saith Bodine […].
    • 1663, Hudibras, by Samuel Butler, part 1, canto 1
      [] An ignis fatuus, that bewitches, \ And leads men into pools and ditches [...]
  2. (figuratively) A delusion, a false hope.
    • 1985, Cormac McCarthy, Blood Meridian,
      Like some ignis fatuus belated upon the road behind them which all could see and of which none spoke. For this will to deceive that is in things luminous may manifest itself likewise in retrospect and so by sleight of some fixed part of a journey already accomplished may also post men to fraudulent destinies.
    • 2007, Clive James, Cultural Amnesia, Picador 2007, p. 805:
      But he was slow – painfully slow, hour after hour slow, sweating and struggling in front of his own class slow – to accept the truth about the simple statement: the truth being that it is an ignis fatuus.

Translations[edit]