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will-o'-the-wisp

[wil-uh-th uh-wisp] /ˈwɪl ə ðəˈwɪsp/
noun
1.
ignis fatuus (def 1).
2.
anything that deludes or misleads by luring on.
Origin
1600-1610
1600-10; orig. Will (i.e., William) with the wisp; see wisp
Related forms
willo'-the-wispish; especially British, willo'-the-wispy, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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British Dictionary definitions for willo-the-wispish

will-o'-the-wisp

/ˌwɪləðəˈwɪsp/
noun
1.
Also called friar's lantern, ignis fatuus, jack-o'-lantern. a pale flame or phosphorescence sometimes seen over marshy ground at night. It is believed to be due to the spontaneous combustion of methane or other hydrocarbons originating from decomposing organic matter
2.
a person or thing that is elusive or allures and misleads
Derived Forms
will-o'-the-wispish, will-o'-the-wispy, adjective
Word Origin
C17: originally Will with the wisp, from Will short for William and wisp in former sense of a twist of hay or straw burning as a torch
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 willo-the-wispish

will-o'-the-wisp

n.

1660s, earlier Will with the wisp (c.1600), from the masc. proper name Will + wisp "bundle of hay or straw used as a torch."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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