For example, this idiom is a thing that I'm trying hard to find. It applies itself in this situation.

While the idiom needle in a haystack is pretty close, it only describes the state of being hard to find, not the effort you actually have to spend to find it. It might be easily found by most people, but not me. That thing can be an object, an job, or a coterie.

More specific, the thing I'm looking for is a field of academic. For a long time, I have always wanted to see myself to do a specific scientific activity. But only recently I find the exactly name of the field that I think I should work for. Without it, my academic proposal is less persuaded. I want to convey this joy of this little success into my essay. Thanks to many answers, I think look high and low for is what I need, since it's simple enough so that the readers won't think that I'm trying to use bombastic words.

  • 1
    Do you want an idiom that express the idea that "you are working hard"? Or do you want an idiom that expresses "you are working too hard"? Or do you really want to play up the fact that "what you are looking for is easily found by others but not you"?
    – Nick2253
    Jan 14, 2015 at 17:36
  • The complete expression 'It's like looking for a needle in a haystack' obviously includes the notion of seeking. Jan 14, 2015 at 17:42
  • @EdwinAshworth it is, but I want to emphasize the work I spend to find it rather than the fact that's it's rare to find
    – Ooker
    Jan 14, 2015 at 17:50
  • @Nick2253 just "I'm working hard to find it". It's more like to find it, you will need endurance. It may sometimes make you tired, but it won't be so hard to make you exhausted. It may be easy for some people to find it, not can. I'll edit it.
    – Ooker
    Jan 14, 2015 at 17:53
  • The 'looking for' does that. Jan 14, 2015 at 17:53

4 Answers 4


"To look high and low for" is an idiomatic phrase about searching everywhere, perhaps with difficulty, for something.

The only "proverb" including this phrase that I could find concerns the quest for wisdom and comes from the Bible's book of Proverbs (14:6) :

  1. Cynics look high and low for wisdom - and never find it; the open-minded find it right on their doorstep!
  • Can I use it in present perfect tense?
    – Ooker
    Jan 14, 2015 at 23:48
  • I have (I've) looked high and low for that thing. Yeah, I think that's the present perfect and it works. I think you can use it in/with any tense. @Ooker
    – Papa Poule
    Jan 15, 2015 at 0:11

For the object of a difficult but earnestly prosecuted search or quest, I suggest grail, variously defined in on-line dictionaries as “the object of a prolonged endeavor” or “the object of an extended or difficult quest.”


The idiom "eludes" you, or you can say it is "elusive"

From Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary:

elusive: hard to find or capture


There are many examples of what you are looking for.

"It's like trying to herd cats."

"Pushing water uphill with rake."

"Like beating a dead horse."

"Trying to get blood out of a stone."

  • The middle two refer to things that are extremely hard to do, generally, but the first is specifically about trying to get uncoöperative people to do something and the last about trying to get something from someone or something that it won't deliver. They don't seem relevant.
    – Jon Hanna
    Jan 14, 2015 at 17:54
  • 2
    @JonHanna "Beating a dead horse" is not something that's hard to do. In fact, "beating a dead horse" has nothing to do with looking for things, or things that are hard to do. It's about continuing to bring up (generally in conversation) already resolved issues.
    – Nick2253
    Jan 14, 2015 at 17:59
  • @Nick2253 yes, easy to do but pointless. It does make it a reasonable hypernymic phrase.
    – Jon Hanna
    Jan 14, 2015 at 18:02

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