We have a variety of suggestions for something that you thought was bad, but turned out to be good.

Is there a single word that describes something that you thought was going to be a brilliant idea that turns out to be an apocalyptic blunder.

"His idea was an x"

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    It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time gets its own dedicated entry on TVTropes (but don't follow that link unless you've got an afternoon to spare! :) Pragmatically, whenever you hear that phrase, you know it refers to something which in hindsight was in fact the height of stupidity. Jun 15, 2016 at 16:26
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    The term Trojan Horse comes to mind. Jun 15, 2016 at 18:12
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    You might need to settle for a metaphorical reference. His idea was an Iraq Invasion.
    – jxh
    Jun 15, 2016 at 20:29
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    Why not just saying the idea turned out to be a nightmare?
    – M-b
    Jun 16, 2016 at 4:32

3 Answers 3


See goldbrick


A thing that looks valuable, but is in fact worthless.


The first comment on the question you link to suggests “a blessing in disguise,” which made me think of a wolf in sheep’s clothing, which refers to someone (or something) that initially appears benign, but is ultimately revealed to be harmful.

I’m not sure how well this fits your use case, but bait and switch seems to be related:

a selling method in which a customer is attracted by the advertisement of a low-priced product but then is encouraged to buy a more expensive one

i.e., something appears to be a bargain (a good deal), but you end up getting a worse deal than you expected.

  • Hmm. Perhaps "A pig in a poke"?
    – Richard
    Jun 21, 2016 at 6:18
  • I think of "a pig in a poke" as referring to (getting) something of unknown quality.  It doesn't necessarily imply that you've been promised something that is good, or that it turns out to be bad (although the clear implication is that you risk such an outcome). If you prefer the uncertainty angle, you could use "His idea was a roll of the dice", "... a shot in the dark," or perhaps "... a leap of faith."
    – Scott
    Jun 22, 2016 at 2:14

His approach turned out to be a dead end.

a situation, plan, or way of doing something that leads to nothing further — M-W

Plus synonyms like blind alley, cul-de-sac, false-positive.

EDIT Also at http://www.thefreedictionary.com/erroneousness some more options like :

off base - Badly mistaken, completely wrong.
Barking up the wrong tree - To pursue a false lead.
And lots more.

  • I'm not feeling it. "Dead end" doesn't really imply catastrophic failure, just failure.
    – Richard
    Jun 15, 2016 at 19:33
  • Nor does it imply that the original idea was brilliant. A dead end can just as easily result from a mediocre idea.
    – vynsane
    Jun 15, 2016 at 20:45

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