ignis fatuus


  • WordNet 3.6
    • n ignis fatuus an illusion that misleads
    • n ignis fatuus a pale light sometimes seen at night over marshy ground
    • ***
Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary
    • Ignis fatuus A phosphorescent light that appears, in the night, over marshy ground, supposed to be occasioned by the decomposition of animal or vegetable substances, or by some inflammable gas; -- popularly called also Will-with-the-wisp, or Will-o'-the-wisp, and Jack-with-a-lantern, or Jack-o'-lantern.
    • Ignis fatuus Fig.: A misleading influence; a decoy. "Scared and guided by the ignis fatuus of popular superstition."
    • ***


  • Emily Dickinson
    “The abdication of belief makes the behavior small -- better an ignis fatuus than no illume at all.”


Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary
L. ignis, fire + fatuus, foolish. So called in allusion to its tendency to mislead travelers


In literature:

I'll fry some fat out of this ignis fatuus or burn a hole in the skillet.
"The Gentle Grafter" by O. Henry
How do you feel towards this fair ignis fatuus, this lily of the desert?
"Red Gauntlet" by Sir Walter Scott
A personal influence is an ignis fatuus.
"Essays, Second Series" by Ralph Waldo Emerson
It is only the meteoric light of the ignis fatuus, soon extinguished.
"Old Fritz and the New Era" by Louise Muhlbach
An ignis fatuus, perhaps; a Jack-o'-lanthorn begotten of putrescence.
"The Life of Cesare Borgia" by Raphael Sabatini
It is soon obscured by the mists of sensuality, the dust of routine, and he thinks it was only some meteor or ignis fatuus that shone.
"Woman in the Nineteenth Century" by Margaret Fuller Ossoli
But it all was a fallacy, a delusion, an ignis fatuus.
"History of Kershaw's Brigade" by D. Augustus Dickert
Even now a specialist in theology will lead us, if he can, a merry "ignis-fatuus" chase and land us in a morass.
"Little Journeys To the Homes of the Great, Volume 3 (of 14)" by Elbert Hubbard
A light which illuminates centuries must be more than an ignis fatuus.
"Ten Great Religions" by James Freeman Clarke
Ignis fatuus = erarlumo.
"English-Esperanto Dictionary" by John Charles O'Connor and Charles Frederic Hayes
It seemed as though he were following a flitting ignis-fatuus, that eluded him just as he came in sight of it.
"The Days of Mohammed" by Anna May Wilson
Upon the mast, where I noticed a sort of slight ignis fatuus, the sail hangs in loose heavy folds.
"A Journey to the Centre of the Earth" by Jules Verne
And even our illustrious Bryan Walton was not inaccessible to this oblique ray of Rabbinical or ignis fatuus.
"Chips From A German Workshop - Volume I" by Friedrich Max Müller
It is the "ignis fatuus" that has lured many promising ones and wrecked the future of many lives.
"Shadow and Light" by Mifflin Wistar Gibbs
GERMANY is still pursuing her ignis-fatuus of Unity, which is no nearer than when she first set out.
"The International Monthly, Volume 3, No. 2, May, 1851" by Various
It is yet the lure, the ignis fatuus of almost every breathing heart.
"The "Genius"" by Theodore Dreiser
He leaps over extensive regions of country like an ignis fatuus.
"Algic Researches, Comprising Inquiries Respecting the Mental Characteristics of the North American Indians, Vol. 1 of 2" by Henry Rowe Schoolcraft
Fortune came to them, instead of their being compelled to undertake an ignis fatuus chase after her.
"Peculiarities of American Cities" by Willard Glazier
Yes; a swarm of luminous insects sometimes passes over a meadow, and produces an appearance exactly like that of the ignis fatuus.
"A Guide to the Scientific Knowledge of Things Familiar" by Ebenezer Cobham Brewer
One knowing the intense nature of the man could not but fear he was following an ignis fatuus to his doom.
"A Summer's Outing" by Carter H. Harrison

In poetry:

Allured to southern climes—oh, ill-starred pair!—
By hope's deluding meretricious glare—
An ignis fatuus, dazzling to betray,
Ye followed, fell, and perished in the way!
"The Fate of Maximilian of Mexico And His Empress" by Janet Hamilton
Hope, that builds its airy schemes
On time's transitory star,
Revels in delusive dreams,
Which an ignis fatuus are;
Ever smiling, and beguiling,
Still misleading pilgrims far.
"Autumn: Friday Evening" by John Bowring
Hence doubts out bud for fear Thy fire in me
'S a mocking ignis fatuus,
Or lest Thine altar's fire out be,
It's hid in ashes thus.
Yet when the bellows of Thy spirit blow
Away mine ashes, then Thy fire doth glow.
"Ebb and Flow" by Edward Taylor