travellers from pathways into dangerous marshes or graveyards.' name='description'> will o' the wisp - definition and meaning
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will o' the wisp


from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • noun idiomatic, British folklore A strange light that attracts travellers from pathways into dangerous marshes or graveyards.
  • noun idiomatic A delusional or otherwise unobtainable goal that one feels compelled to pursue.


from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

from Will ("male given name") + of the + wisp ("bundle of straw or hay used as a torch")


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  • The will-o'-the-wisp, sometimes will-o'-wisp or ignis fatuus (modern Latin, from ignis ("fire") + fatuus ("foolish"), plural ignes fatui) refers to the ghostly lights sometimes seen at night or twilight — often over bogs. It looks like a flickering lamp, and is sometimes said to recede if approached. The term will-o'-the-wisp comes from wisp, a bundle of hay or straw sometimes used as a torch, and will-o' ("Will of").

    The folklore phenomenon will-o'-the-wisp (will of the wisp) is sometimes referred to as Jack o' lantern (Jack of the lantern), and indeed the two terms were originally synonymous. In fact the names "Jacky Lantern" and "Jack the Lantern" are still present in the oral tradition of Newfoundland. These lights are also sometimes referred to as "corpse candles" or "hobby lanterns", two monikers found in the Denham Tracts. They are often called spooklights or ghost lights by folklorists and paranormal enthusiasts in the United States. Sometimes the phenomenon is classified by the observer as a ghost, fairy, or elemental, and a different name is used.


    February 18, 2008