ignis fatuus

ignis fatuus

[ig-nis fach-oo-uhs]
noun, plural ignes fatui [ig-neez fach-oo-ahy] .
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.

1555–65; < Medieval Latin: literally, foolish fire

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World English Dictionary
ignis fatuus (ˈɪɡnɪs ˈfætjʊəs)
n , pl ignes fatui
another name for will-o'-the-wisp
[C16: from Medieval Latin, literally: foolish fire]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
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Word Origin & History

ignis fatuus
"will o' the wisp, jack-a-lantern," 1563, from M.L., lit. "foolish fire." It seems once to have been more common than presently.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Encyclopedia Britannica

ignis fatuus

in meteorology, a mysterious light seen at night flickering over marshes; when approached, it advances, always out of reach. The phenomenon is also known as will-o'-the-wisp and ignis fatuus (Latin: "foolish fire"). In popular legend it is considered ominous and is often purported to be the soul of one who has been rejected by hell carrying its own hell coal on its wanderings. The phenomenon is generally believed to be due to the spontaneous ignition of marsh gas, which consists mostly of methane and which is produced by the decomposition of dead plant matter

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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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