a smoked herring.
something intended to divert attention from the real problem or matter at hand; a misleading clue.
Also called red-her·ring pro·spec·tus [red-her-ing pruh-spek-tuhs] /ˈrɛdˈhɛr ɪŋ prəˌspɛk təs/ .Finance. a tentative prospectus circulated by the underwriters of a new issue of stocks or bonds that is pending approval by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission: so called because the front cover of such a prospectus must carry a special notice printed in red.
any similar tentative financial prospectus, as one concerning a pending or proposed sale of cooperative or condominium apartments.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023
How to use red herring in a sentence
Koenig makes a big deal out of this call and frames it as a massive red herring.The Scoop on ‘Serial’: Making Sense of The Nisha Call, Asia's Letters, and Our Obsession | Emily Shire | December 11, 2014 | THE DAILY BEAST
Nevertheless, Brian Rogers, a McCain aide pushed back against UANI, calling the Rio Tinto-Iran connection “a red herring.”
The brutality of Dothraki culture is actually a red herring.
The fact that some BDS activists are for one state solution is irrelevant here and no more than a red herring.
He opposes settlements but calls them “a giant red herring.”
But we have to discuss the red-herring, not of the artful politician, anxious to dodge his hearers, but of the breakfast-table.East Anglia | J. Ewing Ritchie
The red herring of annexation was drawn across the trail, and many a farmer followed it to the polling booth.The Canadian Dominion | Oscar D. Skelton
I know not what object her pale blue orbs encountered; but mine fell on the half-picked head of a red herring!Bentley's Miscellany, Volume II | Various
If I can tell which is the way to my master's house, I am a red herring, and no honest gentleman.
As Grandfather Bryant used to say, they are neither fish nor flesh, nor good red herring.The Boy Settlers | Noah Brooks
British Dictionary definitions for red herring
anything that diverts attention from a topic or line of inquiry
a herring cured by salting and smoking
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
Cultural definitions for red herring
In argument, something designed to divert an opponent's attention from the central issue. If a herring is dragged across a trail that hounds are following, it throws them off the scent.
The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Other Idioms and Phrases with red herring
Something that draws attention away from the central issue, as in Talking about the new plant is a red herring to keep us from learning about downsizing plans. The herring in this expression is red and strong-smelling from being preserved by smoking. The idiom alludes to dragging a smoked herring across a trail to cover up the scent and throw off tracking dogs. [Late 1800s]
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.