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fishing expedition

noun, Informal.
a legal proceeding mainly for the purpose of interrogating an adversary, or of examining his or her property and documents, in order to gain useful information.
any inquiry carried on without any clearly defined plan or purpose in the hope of discovering useful information.
Also called fishing trip.
Origin of fishing expedition
First recorded in 1960-65 Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for fishing expedition
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • There must be abstinence from the sex relation before a fishing expedition.


    William Graham Sumner
  • This is a fishing expedition in the truest sense of the word.

    Smugglers' Reef John Blaine
  • It asked for the blessing of God on the fishing expedition which was about to set out.

    The Deemster

    Hall Caine
  • You intend to go on that fishing expedition with Jimmy Dumble to-morrow?

    The Zeppelin's Passenger E. Phillips Oppenheim
  • Excuse my costume, but I am just back from a fishing expedition.

    The Zeppelin's Passenger E. Phillips Oppenheim
  • He then would know that Kauhuhu was returning from his fishing expedition.

  • This time the kingfisher answered them, for he was just back from a fishing expedition.

Slang definitions & phrases for fishing expedition

fishing expedition

noun phrase

An attempt, on the part of the police, a prosecutor, etc, to discover evidence where it may or may not be; a sort of inquisition: She had nothing special in mind to ask Joan Tesell; it was just a fishing expedition (1961+)

Related Terms

go fishing

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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Idioms and Phrases with fishing expedition

fishing expedition

An attempt to find useful information by asking questions at random. For example, The sales force was told to go on a fishing expedition to find out what they could about the company's competitors. This expression was taken up by lawyers to describe interrogating an adversary in hopes of finding relevant evidence and is now used more broadly still. [ c. 1930 ]
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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