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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A wild-goose chase or wild goose chase may refer to:

  • A wild-goose chase, a futile search or fruitless errand, a task inordinately complex relative to its outcome
  • A snipe hunt or fool's errand, practical joke or hazing deliberately sending someone on a wild-goose chase


Up to date as of January 15, 2010
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Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary



Alternative spellings


Early recorded use refers to a type of 16th century horse race where everyone had to try to follow the erratic course of the lead horse, like wild geese have to follow their leader in formation. Mentioned in Robert Burton, Anatomy of Melancholy (1621). Common use in the current may be the origin for the sport sense.[1]


wild-goose chase

wild-goose chases

wild-goose chase (plural wild-goose chases) (idiomatic)

  1. (figuratively) A futile search, a fruitless errand; a useless and often lengthy pursuit.
    I went on a wild-goose chase all over the town looking for that adapter until I discovered they no longer make them.
  2. A task whose execution is inordinately complex relative to the value of the outcome.
    Diagnosing this software application's problems is a wild-goose chase because it is built in an environment that has poor debugging tools.

Usage notes

  • As wild-goose chase literally means "a chase for wild geese", it is usually hyphenated as shown for clarity. The form without the hyphen is also commonly seen, but can be construed as a "wild chase", but not an inevitably fruitless one, after a possibly domesticated and flightless goose, rather than after a wild goose.


See also


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