Wild goose chase

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The idiom wild goose chase goes back at least to the 1500s. We will examine the definition of the expression wild goose chase, where it came from and some examples of its use in sentences.

A wild goose chase is a hopeless pursuit or foolish search after something that is in fact, pointless or unattainable. A wild goose chase is a frustrating enterprise that usually involves wasting a large amount of time. The idiom wild goose chase was first written down by William Shakespeare, in the play Romeo and Juliet in 1595: “Nay, if thy wits run the wild-goose chase, I have done, for thou hast more of the wild-goose in one of thy wits than, I am sure, I have in my whole five.” Interestingly, the term wild goose chase was first used to mean a type of horse race. In a wild goose chase horse race, the lead rider galloped across the open countryside in an erratic pattern. Subsequent riders were to follow at different intervals and had to follow the exact pattern of the lead rider. The idea is of geese flying in formation, following one leader. The exact rules of a wild goose chase are unclear, but it seems reasonable to assume the object is to overtake the leader.


Make sure the information that you’re going on is authentic or you could be off on a wild goose chase. (The Chicago Tribune)

Franks argued that the probe into the Trump campaign’s activities was a “snipe hunt,” a colloquial reference to a wild goose chase. (The Los Angeles Times)

A love story between these two would have been interesting enough without inserting the travel bit into it, but director Tanuja Chandra and co-writer Gazal Dhaliwal are determined to take these two on what turns out to be a wild goose chase. (Reuters)