- ignis fatuus(def 1).
- anything that deludes or misleads by luring on.
Origin of will-o'-the-wisp
1600–10; orig. Will (i.e., William) with the wisp; see wisp
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018
- Also called: friar's lantern, ignis fatuus, jack-o'-lantern a pale flame or phosphorescence sometimes seen over marshy ground at night. It is believed to be due to the spontaneous combustion of methane or other hydrocarbons originating from decomposing organic matter
- a person or thing that is elusive or allures and misleads
C17: originally Will with the wisp, from Will short for William and wisp in former sense of a twist of hay or straw burning as a torch
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
Word Origin and History for will-o'-the-wisp
1660s, earlier Will with the wisp (c.1600), from the masc. proper name Will + wisp "bundle of hay or straw used as a torch."
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper