will o' the wisp

Definition from Wiktionary, the free dictionary
Jump to navigation Jump to search


English Wikipedia has an article on:

Alternative forms[edit]


Will (male given name) + of + the + wisp (bundle of straw or hay used as a torch)[1]


  • (US) IPA(key): /ˌwɪləðəˈwɪsp/
  • (file)


will o' the wisp (plural will o' the wisps)

  1. (Britain folklore) A flickering light or lantern, especially over bogs, swamps or marshes, held by a supernatural creature who uses it to lure travelers at night to their demise.
    • 1988, Michael Weikath, "Keeper of the Seven Keys", Helloween, Keeper of the Seven Keys: Part II.
      Will o' the wisps / Misguiding your path / You can't throw a curse / Without takin' their wrath
  2. (idiomatic) A delusionary or otherwise unachievable goal that one feels compelled to pursue.
    • 1992 March 2, Richard Preston, The New Yorker, "The Mountains of Pi":
      I happen to think the brothers’ pi project is a will-o’-the-wisp, and is one of the least interesting things they’ve ever done. But what do I know?



See also[edit]


  1. ^ Douglas Harper (2001–2021), “will o' the wisp”, in Online Etymology Dictionary.

Further reading[edit]