castle in the air
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- (Received Pronunciation) IPA(key): /ˈkɑːs(ə)l ɪn ðiː ˈɛə/
- (General American) IPA(key): /ˈkæs(ə)l ɪn ði ˈɛəɹ/
Audio (AU) (file)
- Hyphenation: cas‧tle in the air
- (idiomatic) A desire, idea, or plan that is unlikely to ever be realized; a visionary project or scheme; a daydream, an idle fancy, a near impossibility. [from mid 16th c.]
- Synonyms: air castle, castle in Spain, castle in the skies, eggs in moonshine, jam tomorrow, pie in the sky, pipe dream
- 1624, Democritus Junior [pseudonym; Robert Burton], “Of the Force of Imagination”, in The Anatomy of Melancholy: […], 2nd edition, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Printed by John Lichfield and James Short, for Henry Cripps, OCLC 54573970, partition 1, section 2, member 3, subsection 2, page 81:
- Many times ſuch men when they come to themſelves, tell ſtrange things of Heauen and Hell, what viſions they haue ſeene; […] The like effects almost are to bee ſeene in ſuch as are awake: How many Chimæras, Anticks, golden mountaines, and Caſtles in the Aire doe they build vnto themſelves?
- 1696, John Vanbrugh, The Relapse; or, Virtue in Danger. […] (Bell’s British Theatre; XXVI), London: Printed for the proprietors, under the Direction of John Bell, […], published 1795, OCLC 837257051, Act III, scene ii, page 72:
- Look you, Amanda, you may build castles in the air, "and fume, and fret, and grow thin and lean, and pale and ugly, if you please." But I tell you, no man worth having is true to his wife, or can be true to his wife, or ever was, or will be so.
- 1822, [Walter Scott], chapter III, in Peveril of the Peak. […], volume III, Edinburgh: […] Archibald Constable and Co.; London: Hurst, Robinson, and Co., OCLC 2392685, page 70:
- Her unlimited devotion for "the family," readily induced the old lady to acquiesce in his proposal, though not without a gentle sigh over the ruins of a castle in the air, which was founded on the well-saved purse of Mistress Deborah Debbitch.
- 1847 January – 1848 July, William Makepeace Thackeray, “Rebecca is in Presence of the Enemy”, in Vanity Fair. A Novel without a Hero, London: Bradbury and Evans, […], published 1848, OCLC 3174108, page 18:
- She had a vivid imagination; […] and it is a fact, that while she was dressing for dinner, and after she had asked Amelia whether her brother was very rich, she had built for herself a most magnificent castle in the air, of which she was mistress, with a husband somewhere in the background (she had not seen him as yet, and his figure would not therefore be very distinct); […]
desire, idea, or plan unlikely to ever be realized
- John A. Simpson and Edward S. C. Weiner, editors (1989), “castle in the air”, in The Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd edition, Oxford: Clarendon Press, →ISBN.