a wild goose chase

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Related to a wild goose chase: What's Sauce for the Goose

wild goose chase

A prolonged or chaotic search for something that is difficult to find (often because it does not exist). I've been on a wild goose chase trying to find a bag of Dan's favorite potato chips. Those jerks sent me on a wild goose chase to find a copy of a book that hasn't been released yet!
See also: chase, goose, wild
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.

a wild goose chase

If you describe a search for something as a wild goose chase, you mean that it was a waste of time and you found nothing, usually because the information you were given was wrong. Every time I've gone to Rome to try to find out if the story could be true, it has turned out to be a wild goose chase. I hope I haven't been sent off on another wild goose chase. Note: In medieval times, a wild goose chase was an unusual kind of horse race. It started with an ordinary horse race. The winner then rode in any direction they chose and the other riders had to follow. The race may have been called `a wild goose chase' because the movements of wild geese are often irregular and unpredictable, which makes them difficult to hunt.
See also: chase, goose, wild
Collins COBUILD Idioms Dictionary, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2012

a wild goose chase

a foolish and hopeless search for or pursuit of something unattainable.
This expression is first recorded in the late 16th century. It was then the term for a kind of equestrian sport in which all the competitors had to follow accurately the course of the leader at definite intervals, like a flight of wild geese. Later, the term was applied to an erratic course taken by one person or thing and followed by another.
1998 Spectator The ‘struggle to align the clock and the heavens’, then, is ultimately the story of mortal vanity, or at least a wild goose chase.
See also: chase, goose, wild
Farlex Partner Idioms Dictionary © Farlex 2017

a ˌwild ˈgoose chase

a (long) search for something that you cannot find because you have been given the wrong information: He gave us the wrong directions to the station and that led us off on a wild goose chase.Peter’s story sent the police on a wild goose chase. They soon realized he’d been lying.In the past, this was a sport in which horse riders had to follow the exact course taken by the first rider, like the way that geese fly by following a leader. Later it referred to any unplanned or irregular course taken by one person and followed by another, and then came to mean something that was like trying to find a wild goose: that is, a difficult or hopeless task.
See also: chase, goose, wild
Farlex Partner Idioms Dictionary © Farlex 2017

wild goose chase, a

A fruitless search or senseless pursuit. Pursuing a wild goose was already transferred to other wild chases by Shakespeare’s time. A popular follow-the-leader game was so called, and referred to by Shakespeare: “Nay if thy wits run the wild goose chase, I have done” (Romeo and Juliet, 2:4).
See also: goose, wild
The Dictionary of Clichés by Christine Ammer Copyright © 2013 by Christine Ammer
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References in periodicals archive ?
Marketers have been sent on a wild goose chase There are 600 million people who have no access to toilets or drinking water.
Eddie Hume sent us on a wild goose chase (briefly) due to the full-sleeve tats.
We are all familiar with cartoons in which Bugs Bunny or Daffy Duck throw on a quick, transparent disguise and send the pursuing Yosemite Sam or Elmer Fudd off on a wild goose chase. Politicians regularly use this ploy when caught red-handed, pointing to some supposed crisis or a scandal involving their opponents to divert attention from their own misdeeds.
And what are the chances of drunk drivers phoning to say they've spotted someone who's downed half-a-dozen large ones heading eastbound along the North Circular on a wild goose chase while they weave off in the opposite direction?
When Rosemary Miner takes off on a wild goose chase, she knows exactly where she's heading.
This rich nobleman from Caio in the hills north of Llandovery led the army of Henry IV on a wild goose chase through impenetrable countryside in 1401 rather than follow the king's instructions to betray Owain Glyndw^r.
Finding the next two addresses turned out to be a wild goose chase. The tenants at an apartment complex that seemed to me "exactly 75 meters west of the Colegio Metodista" knew nothing.
But whereas the first novel dwelt on the troublesome stasis of life on the bum among the self-appointed wretched of the earth, More Bread or I'll Appear is a wild goose chase. Or, seeing that the novel is a portmanteau of contemporary Irish themes (along with much, much more), maybe it should be called a Wild Goose chase.
She said they went on a wild goose chase while looking for him.
And they were also concerned they could be on a wild goose chase to rescue Harvey in time.
He manages to send most of his rivals off on a wild goose chase, leaving him free to hunt at his own pace.
When we got wind of where he was staying we went off on a wild goose chase to find him.
Llywelyn, a rich landowner in his sixties from Caio in northern Carmarthenshire, led the royal army on a wild goose chase for several weeks on the pretence that he was guiding them to Glynd ^wr's forces.
Simon Westland, filming the dig for a documentary, said: "This could be a wild goose chase or it could be amazing."
RESCUE teams were sent on a wild goose chase when an old ship's emergency beacon went off in a scrapyard.