will-o'-the-wisp


Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Medical, Wikipedia.
Related to will-o'-the-wisp: ball lightning

will-o'-the-wisp,

phenomenon known also as ignis fatuus and jack-o'-lantern. It is seen at night as a pale, flickering light over marshland. There is no generally accepted explanation for it; it may result from the spontaneous ignition of gases (e.g., methane) produced by the disintegration of dead plant or animal matter, or it may be a form of phosphorescence. The eerie lights have given rise to many superstitions.
References in periodicals archive ?
Today marks the 46th birthday of will-o'-the-wisp winger John Gallacher.
We did not understand our enemy, a will-o'-the-wisp guerrilla foe who went to ground as we passed through.
The United States, too, has been spending vast sums trying to buy various Yemeni factions, chasing the will-o'-the-wisp of an ever-elusive alliance.
The trail is only accessible by means of careful research and even then difficult to tell if a glimmer is light or will-o'-the-wisp.
Yet the picture of a calm and quiet city united around the urban and social benefits of these public works is but a will-o'-the-wisp.
Our joys, our woes, are all a will-o'-the-wisp game.
324--"But mind, the mountain's magic-mad to-night, / And if you choose a will-o'-the-wisp to light / Your path, take care, 'twill lead you all astray": Faust, 3868-70
THERE is no finer sight in rugby than a Will-o'-the-wisp No.
The Weiser Field Guide to Ghosts: Apparitions, Spirits, Spectral Lights, and Other Hauntings of History and Legend is a broad survey of ghosts, phantoms, and supernatural apparitions ranging from vampires to will-o'-the-wisp, as told of in cultures worldwide.
It did not sit well with the black community, which by the 1980s, certainly the '90s, was more interested in getting better education for black children than in following the will-o'-the-wisp of integration.
Some saw the entity as a nebulous blur of light like a moving will-o'-the-wisp, whereas others saw the ghost as a solid, living person, apparently as real as you or I.
To keep religious voters on board and co-opt the appeal of the Culture War and "conservatism of the heart," the GOP turned from its anti-big-government rhetoric and pledged to open the spigots of federal funding to religious ministries--Bush's "faith-based initiatives"--while hinting at referenda against homosexual marriage and holding out a will-o'-the-wisp promise of nominating judges who would overturn Roe v .