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Wild Goose Chase: Origin and Meaning

An unsuccessful search for something that does not exist or you are unlikely to discover.
wild goose chaseIt seems easy to imagine how this idiom originated because trying to chase a wild goose would almost always be unsuccessful. However, the actual origins are very different. In the 1500s, there was a popular type of horse race where riders had to follow a lead rider through an unpredictable course. This reminded many people of flying geese in formation following (or chasing) a leader, so the sport was called ‘a wild-goose chase’. It was first printed as an idiom in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet: “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: was I with you there for the goose?”
“After 2 hours walking around the art gallery, a security guard told me I was on a wild-goose chase because the painting had been moved to a different gallery last year.”

“I went on a wild-goose chase looking for John before I realised he was in a different shopping centre!”

Lisa: “Hi Mark. I think I’ve lost my keys, I can’t find them anywhere.”
Mark: “Oh, sorry, I picked them up by accident this morning. I have them with me.”
Lisa: “Are you serious?! You mean I’ve wasted my whole morning on a wild-goose chase?! I can’t believe it.”
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