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

will-o'-the-wisp

Line breaks: will-o'-the-wisp
Pronunciation: /wɪləðəˈwɪsp
 
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noun

1A phosphorescent light seen hovering or floating at night on marshy ground, thought to result from the combustion of natural gases.
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 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.

Origin

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

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