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Know Your Phrase - The Meanings For Common Phrases and Idioms > W-Letter Sayings
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Pursuing something that seems to be pointless or unattainable.
It's believed that this phrase's origin is rooted in some type of 16th century horse racing. Apparently, back then, a "wild goose chase" was a horse race in which the lead rider would be pursued by other riders, which is said to be similar to how geese flying in a formation will follow the one in the lead. However, the rules and details of this sort of race don't seem to be very clear; the opinions on it vary.

This phrase was used in a figurative way by William Shakespeare in the play Romeo and Juliet, believed to have been written in 1594 or 1595:

"Nay, if thy wits run the wild-goose chase, I have done, for thou hast more of the wild-goose in one of thy
wits than, I am sure, I have in my whole five: was I with you there for the goose?"
* I was searching for my cat all over the house but I couldn't find her anymore, it really felt like I was on a wild goose chase. It turns out my cat was outside during the entirety of my search, no wonder I couldn't find her!

* Throughout the day, Jake has been attempting to contact a close friend of his, but it was of no use, his friend would not answer the phone. It appeared that Jake was on a wild goose chase, but his friend finally answered and said that he had lost his phone earlier that day.
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This is not the case for every phrase, but there will certainly be times where the origin of a phrase is not clear. In such cases, what you'll usually see are theories or guesses that take a gander as to where the phrase may have come from, but these may not be accurate.

Additionally, the quotes that I... quote, are typically the oldest that I can find. These come from old books, poems, or newspapers, etc. Keep in mind, though, that there could be an older recording that I possibly overlooked.