tilt at windmills, to

tilt at windmills

To waste time fighting enemies or trying to resolve issues that are imaginary, not as important, or impossible to overcome. The CEO seems to be tilting at windmills lately, flinging accusations at members of the press for no reason. The company keeps tilting at windmills with its insistence on implementing a service structure that serves no immediate purpose.
See also: tilt, windmill
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.

tilt at windmills

Fig. to fight battles with imaginary enemies; to fight against unimportant enemies or issues. (As with the fictional character, Don Quixote, who attacked windmills.) Aren't you too smart to go around tilting at windmills? I'm not going to fight this issue. I've wasted too much of my life tilting at windmills.
See also: tilt, windmill
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.

tilt at windmills

Engage in conflict with an imagined opponent, pursue a vain goal, as in Trying to reform campaign financing in this legislature is tilting at windmills. This metaphoric expression alludes to the hero of Miguel de Cervantes' Don Quixote (1605), who rides with his lance at full tilt (poised to strike) against a row of windmills, which he mistakes for evil giants.
See also: tilt, windmill
The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer. Copyright © 2003, 1997 by The Christine Ammer 1992 Trust. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

tilt at windmills

LITERARY
If someone tilts at windmills, they waste their time on problems which do not exist or are unimportant. Of course with their petition and their campaign, they are all tilting at windmills. His critics considered him a tiresome idealist who spent an idle life tilting at windmills. Note: This expression refers to the novel `Don Quixote' (1605) by the Spanish writer Cervantes, in which Don Quixote sees some windmills, thinks that they are giants, and tries to attack them.
See also: tilt, windmill
Collins COBUILD Idioms Dictionary, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2012

tilt at windmills

attack imaginary enemies or evils.
In Cervantes' 17th-century mock-chivalric novel Don Quixote, the eponymous hero attacked windmills in the deluded belief that they were giants.
See also: tilt, windmill
Farlex Partner Idioms Dictionary © Farlex 2017

tilt at ˈwindmills

waste your energy attacking imaginary enemies: For some reason he thinks everyone is out to get him, but he’s really just tilting at windmills.This expression comes from Cervantes’ novel Don Quixote, in which the hero thought that the windmills he saw were giants and tried to fight them.
See also: tilt, windmill
Farlex Partner Idioms Dictionary © Farlex 2017

tilt at windmills

To confront and engage in conflict with an imagined opponent or threat.
See also: tilt, windmill
American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright © 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

tilt at windmills, to

To pursue a fruitless course or attack nonexistent enemies. This expression comes from Cervantes’s famous hero, Don Quixote, who rides with his lance at full tilt (poised to attack) upon a row of windmills, which he mistakes for evil giants (Don Quixote, Part 1, chapter 8; 1605). The image has caught the imagination of subsequent writers to the present day.
See also: tilt
The Dictionary of Clichés by Christine Ammer Copyright © 2013 by Christine Ammer

tilt at windmills

Fight imaginary enemies or fight a battle that can't be won. “Tilt” means “joust,” as in mounted knights fighting each other with lances. In Miguel Cervantes's Don Quixote, the Man of La Mancha came upon a row of windmills and took them for giants, their flailing arms ready to do battle. Despite his squire Sancho Panza's pointing out that they were windmills, Don Quote set his lance, spurred his steed Rocinante, and charged the “enemy.” Alas for the Knight of the Woeful Countenance, the windmills prevailed. Anyone who similarly takes on a losing cause is tilting at windmills.
See also: tilt, windmill
Endangered Phrases by Steven D. Price Copyright © 2011 by Steven D. Price
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