A task whose execution is inordinately complex relative to the value of the outcome.

Etymology:

  • Early recorded use refers to a type of 16th century horse race where everyone had to try to follow the erratic course of the lead horse, like wild geese have to follow their leader in formation. Mentioned in 1593 in the English poet Gervase Markham’s book about horsemanship. Also mentioned in the William Shakespeare play Romeo and Juliet, Act 2, scene 4 by the character Mercutio: "Nay, if our wits run the wild-goose chase, I am done; for thou hast more of the wild goose in one of thy wits than, I am sure, I have in my whole five." Mentioned in Robert Burton, Anatomy of Melancholy. Common use in the current may be the origin for the sport sense.
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Submitted on September 01, 2009

Additional definitions for 'wild-goose chase':

wild-goose chaseA futile search, a fruitless errand; a useless and often lengthy pursuit.
Wild-Goose ChaseA useless hunt, a worthless chase, a futile search
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