1

I come from Bulgaria and we have a proverb that says (translated one to one) "You're searching calf under the ox." which literally means that I am searching for something that might not exists.

Example usage: "Stop interrogating Mary already, she's obviously not guilty, don't search for calf under the ox."

Is there idiom with same meaning in English as well?

  • 'might' it not exist, or is it very probable that it does not exist? – loonquawl Aug 2 '18 at 12:10
  • well depends on the context actually, sometimes it definitely does not exist, but sometimes it is used when something is very unlikely to exists. :/ – kuskmen Aug 2 '18 at 12:41
  • 1
    Boiling the ocean is a good phrase for endless exploration and search. – DJohnson Aug 2 '18 at 14:22
5

"On a wild goose chase" might work.

Cambridge Dictionary gives this definition:

a search that is completely unsuccessful and a waste of time because the person or thing being searched for does not exist or is somewhere else:
After two hours spent wandering in the snow, I realized we were on a wild goose chase.

The phrase finder has an article on the history of the phrase. Here's an extract:

Our current use of the phrase alludes to an undertaking which will probably prove to be fruitless - and it's hard to imagine anything more doomed to failure than an attempt to catch a wild goose by chasing after it. Our understanding of the term differs from that in use in Shakespeare's day. The earlier meaning related not to hunting but to horse racing. A 'wild goose chase' was a race in which horses followed a lead horse at a set distance, mimicking wild geese flying in formation.

  • OP is looking for something that encompasses searches that might be successful (though probably aren't) - a Wild goose chase is (from the perspective of the one saying it) completely hopeless. – loonquawl Aug 2 '18 at 13:29
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    If the assumption is that it's definitely there then you could use 'looking for a needle in a haystack'. – S Conroy Aug 2 '18 at 18:20
1

tilt at windmills TFD

To waste time opposing or trying to resolve issues that are imaginary, not as important, or impossible to overcome.

0

Hunting the Snark

This is the title of a Lewis Carroll poem, referencing a non-existent animal, the hunt for which must be fruitless.

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