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1. An unrealistic, unattainable, or delusional hope or goal. The mobile phone market has proven a will-o'-the-wisp for the giant tech company, despite the huge amount of resources they've poured into staking their claim in it. As we've seen time and time again, attempting to change or repeal the amendment will forever be a will-o'-the-wisp.
2. A person or thing that is or seems to be fleeting, intangible, or illusory. The president's stance on the issue has been something of a will-o'-the wisp, seeming to change or disappear entirely as the political climate dictates. The linebacker has been a will-o'-the-wisp all evening, appearing seemingly out of nowhere to deliver bone-rattling tackles.
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.

will o' the wisp

An unattainable goal. Will o' the wisp is one of the names of the marsh gas phenomenon that causes lights suddenly to appear and disappear over swampy ground (ignis fatuus is another term). Trying to catch a will o' the wisp is impossible, much like trying to catch lightning in a bottle, and so the phrase came to mean anything that can't be done.
See also: will, wisp
Endangered Phrases by Steven D. Price Copyright © 2011 by Steven D. Price
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References in periodicals archive ?
When figures enter Soth's frame, they are almost always rich specimens of the rural grotesque, the dispersed citizenry of Sherwood Anderson and Carson McCullers; In one photo, a pinheaded bodybuilder sits with his rottweiler in a grandmotherly kitchen; in another, a woman in a bouffant poses with a framed photograph of wispy nimbus clouds that resemble an angel.
The wispy dresses in earthy greens were long off the hip,creating a billowing, flowing movement with the models'every step.
In the summer, specks of colorful wildflowers nestle in the soft, wispy blades of grass.
Everything comes together on high-toned heartbreakers like The Lighthouse's Tale, Sinead Lohan's wispy Out Of The Woods and the wonderful When You Come Back Down.
The third chapter is devoted to an anonymous scribe Beal has aptly christened the Feathery scribe, whose "wispy, trailing strokes" (58) appear in well over 11,000 pages, as Beal's impressive appendix details.
I was studying the head of a fellow in front of me, whose thin and wispy white hair recalled Timothy Leary, while the patch of hair hanging onto his lower lip reminded me of the late Frank Zappa.
A small forest of columns peeks out of Ginger's wispy transparent skirts, a fizzy froth of metaphorical legs and petticoats suddenly tumbling on to the street below, marking the entrance to the building on Jiraskovo namesti.
while that familiar pair the reticent man in black the wispy woman in white who brought you into this world and will usher you out of it
Wispelwey finds a marvellously wispy and mysterious sound during the development of the F major's first movement (4[feet] 15[inches] onwards on track 4), helped by his momentary lack of vibrato.
And many of my Jewish friends have chosen to yoke themselves to a long religious tradition precisely to anchor their wispy urbanity in more solid spiritual foundations.
The Co Antrim actor, 63, who plays former CIA operative Bryan Mills in hit film Taken, looked worryingly thin, showing gaunt features and long grey wispy hair on Saturday.
A Met Office spokesman said the phenomenon occurs when thin wispy cirrus clouds - made of ice crystals - are at a specific angle to the sun.
WISPY "I only use it at two tournaments a year, this one and the Open Championship.
and block the sun Set free your wispy trails Stand sullen and immovable Or chase along the gales; Be there to balance our hopes To take with cheer the rain For we know that soon you will relent And let the sun through again PAUL REED