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ignis fatuus

[ig-nis fach-oo-uh s] /ˈɪg nɪs ˈfætʃ u əs/
noun, plural ignes fatui
[ig-neez fach-oo-ahy] /ˈɪg niz ˈfætʃ uˌaɪ/ (Show IPA)
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.
something deluding or misleading.
Origin of ignis fatuus
1555-65; < Medieval Latin: literally, foolish fire Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for ignes fatui
Historical Examples
  • Why should not clever Jack have this in view as much as the ignes fatui of woolsacks and mitres?

    Some Private Views James Payn
  • On the mountains, where the soil is looser, the ignes fatui were less.

  • She found another—and another, but they fled from her like ignes fatui.

    The Secret Witness George Gibbs
  • The virtuous young man defending a virtuous mother against a number of powerful enemies is one of the ignes fatui of literature.

  • How I know not yet; my thoughts and resolutions are so confused that they flicker like the ignes fatui.

    Old Fritz and the New Era Louise Muhlbach
  • Her dreams returned to her, fleeting and elusive, like the ignes fatui which had been a part of them.

    The Secret Witness George Gibbs
British Dictionary definitions for ignes fatui

ignis fatuus

/ˈɪɡnɪs ˈfætjʊəs/
noun (pl) ignes fatui (ˈɪɡniːz ˈfætjʊˌaɪ)
another name for will-o'-the-wisp
Word Origin
C16: from Medieval Latin, literally: foolish fire
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
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Word Origin and History for ignes fatui

ignis fatuus


"will o' the wisp, jack-a-lantern," 1560s, from Medieval Latin, literally "foolish fire;" see igneous + fatuous.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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