I am looking for an idiom or phrase that describes, in a humorous or funny way, the act of looking for something that probably isnt't there, or the act of looking for a solution in a place where it is not likely to be found.

  • something like look in vain ?
    – lineage
    May 6, 2020 at 13:29
  • While this question is closely related to the one it's been marked a duplicate of, I don't believe it strictly is. This question is specifically related to a humorous expression, not simply a general expression. I've voted to reopen it, but I would have honestly done so even if I hadn't provided my own answer. I actually upvoted both snipe hunt and fool's errand too. May 6, 2020 at 20:09

3 Answers 3


A fruitless search (looking for something that isn't or probably isn't there) described humorously is a wild goose chase.

From The Idioms:

  • wasting resource working on something that does not exist
  • spending time searching for something that is simply impossible to find
  • a foolish search for something that cannot be achieved
  • a chase for something that's beyond your reach

The convict escaped the police custody on the way to jail. Police is apparently on a wild goose chase after he vanished into woods.

It turns out that my brother took my car keys. I had been on a wild goose chase this whole morning searching them in the entire house.


How about fool's errand? From Cambridge:

fool's errand: an effort that is unlikely to be successful

From Google:

fool's errand: a task or activity that has no hope of success

The act of looking for something that probably isn't there, or the act of looking for a solution in a place where it is not likely to be found, is a fool's errand. And fool's engaged in tomfoolery are certainly humorous. :-)


Snipe hunt

  1. A practical joke in which the victim is sent on a hunt for a fictitious animal called a snipe. When I was in the Cub Scouts, the youngest members were always sent out on a snipe hunt by the counselors on the night of our first big campout.
  2. By extension, any hunt, search, or quest for something that is fictitious, non-existent, elusive, or illusory. The president has pledged to make universal healthcare a reality, but I think he's really just on a snipe hunt.

snipe hunt. (n.d.) Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. (2015). Retrieved May 6 2020 from https://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/snipe+hunt

  • Good answer, but the second example seems like a strange use of "snipe hunt" - a big aspect of the snipe hunt is that the hunter does not know that what they're looking for doesn't exist. Planning to make something a reality, when that thing is already known to not exist, doesn't sound like a snipe hunt to me. Universal health care actually does exist in certain countries, so this isn't a case of searching for something nonexistent. Something like "Scientists search for cold fusion" might be a better example of a snipe hunt, since we don't know if that's possible or not. May 6, 2020 at 20:10

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