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Word of the Day
Saturday, October 31, 2015

Definitions for ignis fatuus

  1. something deluding or misleading.
  2. Also called friar's lantern, will-o'-the-wisp. a flitting phosphorescent light seen at night, chiefly over marshy ground, and believed to be due to spontaneous combustion of gas from decomposed organic matter.

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Citations for ignis fatuus
We fear that it has deceived many an unwary youth, and seduced him from the more useful occupations of life, where his humble talents might have been serviceably employed, to the hopeless pursuit of an ignis fatuus, which constantly eludes his grasp, and will finally conduct him to indigence and despair. M. A. Shee, "Elements of Art," The Quarterly Review, 1810
As well as trekking round the dinosaurs of the profession, he finds the biographer's ignis fatuus: the unknown confidant, who has kept notes all his or her life. Croall's is Mavis Walker, oddly described as Gielgud's travelling companion; she has written an unpublished book about their jaunts together, and appears to have total recall of his conversation. Simon Callow, "In Search of Gielgud: A Biographer's Tale by Jonathan Croall—Review," The Guardian, August 23, 2014
Origin of ignis fatuus
1555-1565
Ignis fatuus comes from the Medieval Latin word of the same spelling that literally means "foolish fire."