Wild Goose Chase – Meaning, Origin and Usage

Are you looking for a way to describe someone taking you on a pointless mission to nowhere? You could say they took you on a “wild goose chase.” This post unpacks the meaning and origin of this expression.


The expression “wild goose chase” means that someone gave you the runaround, and you wasted your time trying to find them or use the information they provided you.

It means that you should have rather conserved your resources, like your time and energy, and dedicated them to better strategies to get the required result.

You can go on a physical wild goose chase or go on a virtual wild goose chase. For instance, someone could send you information on someone you’re researching online, and you spend hours finding nothing. Or, you could go down to the local book store to find a specific book someone told you they saw there, only to find out it was never there in the first place.

Example Usage

“I think Simone is sending you on a wild goose chase, buddy. There is no way that girl actually wants to get with you. She’s just using you.”

“This map sent us on a wild goose chase to nothing. When we got to the end, there was nothing, just a hole in the ground and a tree.”

“The client is sending us on a wild goose chase with this. There is no way these people will close on this deal. They don’t even have the right credit score to qualify.”

I feel like we are on a wild goose chase with this. It feels like it's never going to end, and we’re never going to get the outcome we want.”

“We’re going on a wild goose chase with this, I know it. That little punk didn’t say a word of truth I there I know it.”


The expression “wild goose chase” originates from the 16th century. It relates to horseracing, where a “wild goose chase” was a race where the other riders would pursue the leader, using a formation like the “flying Vee” seen in migrating geese.

The first figurative use of the phrase in print comes from William Shakespeare’s play, “Romeo and Juliet,” performed between 1594 to 1595, where it appears as follows.

“Nay, if thy wits run the wild-goose chase, I have done, for thou hast more of the wild-goose in one of thy wits than, I am sure, I have in my whole five: was I with you there for the goose?”

Phrases Similar to Wild Goose Chase

  • The run around.
  • A waste of time.
  • Looking for a needle in a haystack.

Phrases Opposite to Wild Goose Chase

  • There it is.
  • Easy to find.
  • Stands out like a sore thumb.

What is the Correct Saying?

  • Wild goose chase.

Ways People May Say Wild Goose Chase Incorrectly

The phrase has nothing to do with chasing geese. It means that something as elusive as a goose is hard to catch. The chances are it will fly away before you get anywhere near it, and you’ll never know where it went. Using it to describe animal behavior is incorrect. However, an animal can send you on a wild goose chase.

Acceptable Ways to Phrase Wild Goose Chase

You can use the phrase “wild goose chase” when telling people that chasing after something or looking for it is a waste of time and energy. It means that all the time and effort you dedicate to trying to locate something is wasted and produces no results. You may as well go home and go to bed or find another strategy.

The phrase suits professional and social use. Use it at work to tell a colleague that the client is sending them on a wild goose chase and they will never close the sale. Use it with a friend to tell them that a girl is taking them on a wild goose chase, and she will never get with him.

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