will-o'-the-wisp

[ wil-uh-thuh-wisp ]
/ ˈwɪl ə ðəˈwɪsp /

noun

anything that deludes or misleads by luring on.

QUIZZES

Discover The Influence Of Portuguese On English Via This Quiz!
We’ve gathered some interesting words donated to English from Portuguese … as well as some that just don’t translate at all. Do you know what they mean?
Question 1 of 11
Which of the following bird names traces its immediate origin to Portuguese?

Words nearby will-o'-the-wisp

Origin of will-o'-the-wisp

1600–10; orig. Will (i.e., William) with the wisp; see wisp

OTHER WORDS FROM will-o'-the-wisp

will·o'-the-wisp·ish; especially British, will·o'-the-wisp·y, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2020

British Dictionary definitions for will-o'-the-wisp

will-o'-the-wisp
/ (ˌwɪləðəˈwɪsp) /

noun

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

Derived forms of will-o'-the-wisp

will-o'-the-wispish or will-o'-the-wispy, adjective

Word Origin for will-o'-the-wisp

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