Definition of will-o'-the-wisp in English:


Syllabification: will-o'-the-wisp
Pronunciation: /ˌwil ə T͟Hə ˈwisp


  • 1A phosphorescent light seen hovering or floating at night over marshy ground, thought to result from the combustion of natural gases; ignis fatuus.
    More example sentences
    • Pale blue light, the colour of Egewe's hair or a will-o'-the-wisp, filled the room.
    • When lit, the cloth can be made to dance like a will-o'-the-wisp in the dark - a stunt that would definitely not amuse a modern fire marshal.
    • I saw it now, a dull orange will-o'-the-wisp bobbing and winking through the trees.
  • 1.1A person or thing that is difficult or impossible to find, reach, or catch.
    More example sentences
    • And yet if a writer succeeds in catching the will-o'-the-wisp she will go on existing, elusive and transformed, in the character she has created.
    • As the years passed, he became even more of a will-o'-the-wisp; not to be pinned down; difficult to track.
    • When confronted by the sacraments crisis, Louis XV had tried desperately to avoid treading on clerical toes and had pursued the will-o'-the-wisp of a ‘third way’ that could unite moderates against the fanatics on both sides.


early 17th century: originally as Will with the wisp, the sense of wisp being 'handful of (lighted) hay'.

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Word of the day skosh
Pronunciation: skəʊʃ
a small amount; a little