Would you believe that the defrazzalator on our OctoPlasmaBot 9000 just broke? We needed a new one badly, so we set out in search of a replacement.

We checked every grocery store, gas station, yogurt shop and shoe retailer in a 100-mile radius. Unfortunately, our search turned out to be nothing but a wild goose chase. Apparently, they don’t even make defrazzalators or OctoPlasmaBot 9000s any longer!

You’re probably wondering what in the world we’re talking about. You probably already knew that defrazzalators and OctoPlasmaBot 9000s were SO 2010. And what do these things have to do with wild geese anyway?

“Wild goose chase” is an idiom, which is a saying that has a meaning unrelated to the actual words in the phrase. A wild goose chase — literally — would mean chasing after a wild goose. We’re not sure why anyone would do that, but it does sound kind of fun.

Most people use the phrase “wild goose chase” to mean a fruitless search or a long and ultimately useless pursuit. It can also be used to refer to a task that is overly complicated relative to the expected benefit. For example, searching for hours for something that doesn’t exist any longer would definitely qualify as a wild goose chase!

While chasing after a wild goose in real life would probably qualify as a long and ultimately useless pursuit, the phrase “wild goose chase” didn’t originate from that literal interpretation. Instead, the phrase originally was used in conjunction with a type of horse race popular in England in the 16th century.

Englishmen on a “wild goose chase” would follow a lead horse that could go off in any direction. The other riders had to follow the leader’s course accurately at precise intervals, kind of like wild geese following their leader in formation.

In this sense, the phrase first referred to an erratic course taken by a leader and followed by others. Shakespeare used the phrase in this sense in Romeo and Juliet.

The phrase’s “follow the leader” meaning and horse-racing origins were eventually forgotten. Over time, the phrase came to mean a hopeless quest…much like actually chasing a wild goose would be long and ultimately pointless.

Today, some people purposefully send people on a wild goose chase as a practical joke. These are sometimes referred to by other phrases, such as a fool’s errand or a snipe hunt.

For example, a snipe hunt involves a search for an imaginary animal — the elusive snipe — and usually involves ridiculous methods of catching it, such as running around the woods with a net and a bag. If someone ever wants to send you snipe hunting, kindly thank them but tell them you’ll stick to real, rather than imaginary, animals!


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    • Hi, Julia! Thank you so much for leaving us a comment! You are the very first Wonder Friend to comment on today’s Wonder of the Day®! Did you know that today’s Wonder was actually the idea of a Wonder Friend just like YOU! It’s true! Someone left us a comment to let us know they wanted to know the meaning of “wild goose chase!” :-)

    • Thank you SO MUCH for sharing Wonderopolis with your friend, Ethan! We’re so happy to know that you BOTH explored today’s Wonder and learned something new! :-)

  1. Dear Wonderopolis,
    Nice Wonder! It’s really lead me on a wild goose chase! Also, just for the record, my friend wanted to tell you: If a wolf bites you, BITE HIM BACK! GRRRR! I think tommorow’s wonder will be about the phrase “Birds of a feather must stay together” or what are birds of a feather. I’ve learned to make crazy guesses because you guys think outside the box!

    • Your comments ROCK, YuGiOhNinja! Thanks for giving us an idea for a future Wonder of the Day®, too…we like your “birds of a feather” idea! We hope you AND your friend had a great time visiting today’s Wonder, but we hope we never get THAT close to a wolf! :-)

  2. Dear Wonderopolis,
    Also, I’ve always had a few questions about wonderopolis, so if you can answer them, that would be swell!
    Question 1: Are you guys ever worried that you will run out of wonders in the future?
    Question 2: Who created wonderopolis and when was it created?
    If you could answer these, it would be great!

    • Those are both AWESOME questions, YuGiOhNinja! There are SO MANY things in the world to WONDER about, and our amazing Wonder Friends (like you!) are always sharing what they WONDER about, too, so we hope we will always have Wonders of the Day! Wonderopolis was created by awesome people who wanted to make learning FUN for people of all ages! Because we have a new, exciting Wonder each day, and today’s Wonder of the Day® was #482, that means we have been around for 482 days! Pretty neat, huh? :-)

    • We’re so glad you had fun exploring today’s Wonder, Wyntre! Thank you for sharing your comment with everyone in Wonderopolis today! :-)

  3. This is Mr. A and I liked today’s wonder of the day, and also, can you do a wonder on brains, like what color is your brain or how big is your brain?

    • We really like the idea of a future Wonder of the Day® about the human brain, Mr. A.! Great job on the WONDERing with that one! Thanks for letting us know you liked today’s Wonder, too! :-)

  4. Hi, Wonderopolis. I posted yesterday, and I saw the comment that you left for my friend, Maddie, she told me that she asked if you could wonder about monkeys. I wonder what tomorrow’s wonder will be?

    • We WONDER what tomorrow’s Wonder of the Day® will be about, too, Caroline! It’s always fun to see what new, fun adventures await us each day when we visit Wonderopolis! Thanks for being such a super Wonder Friend and leaving us this comment today…you are AWESOME! :-)

    • Thanks for checking out this Wonder of the Day® and letting us know what you think, Avery! We appreciate your comment and hope you have a WONDERful day! :-)

  5. I have never been on a wild goose chase, but I’m sure one of my family members have in the past. But, the real question of the day is have you, wonderopolis, ever been on a wild goose chase??? If you have, is it fun???

    • Thanks for asking us super question, Avery! Wild goose chases can be fun if you’re “chasing” objects or ideas with your Wonder Friends, but some wild goose chases are not so fun, and can be a bit frustrating, especially if you’re trying (and not succeeding) to find something at a store or at school. Sometimes you just want to find what you’re looking for and not have to “chase” after it! :-)

  6. One time, when we were at my dad’s firehouse, my sister had a snow cone. The next thing we know, we hear screaming and here comes my sister getting chased by a goose. We thought that the goose wanted the snow cone from my sisters hand. So she dropped it and ran inside. It was hilarious. hahahahahahahahaha!!!

    • What an awesome personal connection to this Wonder of the Day®, Cassidy! Thank you SO MUCH for sharing it! We think snow cones are super yummy, so it only makes sense that a goose would think so, too! :-)

  7. I have gotten attacked by a goose before, only because I was kind of being rude to it, but it jumped on my back and starting pecking at my back. It was crazy!!!

    • YIKES, Isaac! That sounds like a scary ordeal! We hope you were OK, and didn’t get hurt! Thank you for sharing your personal connection to this Wonder of the Day®! :-)

  8. I have been on a wild goose chase… looking for a specific Webkinz for my sister. So we looked everywhere and we couldn’t find it anywhere. Bye, have a great day! 😉

    • That is a GREAT example of a wild goose chase, Audrey! Thank you for sharing your personal connection to this Wonder today. We hope your sister eventually found the Webkinz™ she was looking for! :-)

    • Thanks for letting us know what you thought about the video for this Wonder of the Day®, Juan! We appreciate your comment! :-)

  9. No, I’ve never been on a wild goose chase, never at all probably because I’m 9 years old and I’m in 4th grade. That is my reason why I’ve never been on a wild goose chase!!!! Have you ever been on a wild goose chase?? I just asked my brother if he’d ever been on a wild goose chase and he has. He was chasing his friend. The reason why he was on a goose chase was they were doing it for fun. My mom has never been on one. Mostly my whole family has never been on a wild goose chase. Some of them don’t know what that means, anyway, so they might have or not. Some of them are old, that is probably why they don’t know what wild goose chase means. Some of them probably do, I think they do not know what wild goose chase means!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


    • WOW! We think it’s really great that you asked members of your family if they had ever been on a wild goose chase, Ashlyn! We really like hearing about our Wonder Friends sharing things they learn in Wonderopolis with their families at home! Learning can be fun for people of ALL ages! :-)

    • We think a wild chicken chase sounds like a lot of fun, too, Christina! Thanks so much for sharing your personal connection to this Wonder of the Day®! :-)

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Have you ever wondered…

  • Have you ever been on a wild goose chase?
  • What is the origin of the phrase “wild goose chase”?
  • Would you like to go on a snipe hunt?

Wonder Gallery

goose chasing duck_shutterstock_10427974Vimeo Video

Try It Out

So have you ever been on a wild goose chase? We all have crazy experiences from time to time. Can you remember a time in the past when you’ve been on a hopeless quest?

What about friends and family members? Ask your parents or a neighbor to tell you a story about a time that they went on a wild goose chase. If you ask enough people, you might even run across someone who’s been on a snipe hunt!

If you have a really funny story you’d like to share, email it to us or post it on Facebook. We’d love to hear about your wild goose chase!


Still Wondering

Use ReadWriteThink’s Unveiling Idioms: A Game of Concentration activity to explore the meanings behind many of these common phrases.


Wonder Categories/Tags



chase  goose  idiom  snipe  wild 

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