Fool's errand


      • fruitless or pointless task
        Describes a task or activity that is bound to fail or has no chance of success, often due to being based on false assumptions or misguided efforts.

      • deceptive or misleading task
        Refers to a task that appears to have a purpose or goal, but is actually a trick or trap set by someone else to deceive or manipulate the person doing it.

      • waste of time and effort
        Implies that a task or activity is not worth pursuing as it will not bring any valuable results or rewards, and therefore is a waste of time and effort.

    Examples of Fool's errand

    • Trying to find a new parking spot during peak hours in the downtown area is a fool's errand.

      This idiom is used to describe a task or undertaking that is pointless or seemingly impossible in light of its circumstances. In this example, searching for a parking space in a crowded downtown area is futile, as there are few available spots and many other motorists are also searching.

    • Asking a librarian to help find a specific book that you already know the title and author of is a fool's errand.

      This idiom is used to describe a task that involves needlessly seeking out assistance when it is not required. In this case, seeking assistance from a librarian to locate a book with a known title and author is unnecessary because the task can be accomplished easily by the person in question.

    • Spending hours searching for a misplaced pen in a cluttered office is a fool's errand when there are dozens of identical pens sitting in a nearby drawer.

      This idiom is used to describe a task that is overly time-consuming or resource-intensive, especially when an easier or more efficient solution is readily available. In this case, wasting time searching for a missing pen when a replacement pen is easily accessible in a nearby drawer is foolish and inefficient.

    • Chasing after a runaway ball in a game of tennis or badminton is a fool's errand if the player is not in a strategic position to return the shot successfully.

      This idiom is used to highlight a scenario in which a player is attempting to complete a task that is ultimately futile or impossible given the circumstances. In this example, pursuing a ball in a position where it is unlikely that the player can make a successful return would be a wasted effort.

    • John spent hours searching for his misplaced keys in the dark, dimly lit corner of his cluttered basement. His wife rolled her eyes and sighed, "Looking for your keys in this mess is a fool's errand, dear."

      In this example, "fool's errand" is used to describe an unnecessary and fruitless task that is unlikely to succeed. In this case, it is searching for lost keys in a disorganized and poorly lit space.

    • The senator was determined to pass a bill that would allocate funds for a new bridge in his district, despite overwhelming opposition from environmental groups and local landowners. His opponents jeered, "Trying to push this bridge through is a fool's errand!"

      Here, "fool's errand" is employed as a metaphor for a futile and unrealistic pursuit, in this case, attempting to pass a bill that has little chance of succeeding in the face of strong opposition.

    • The CEO assigned a team of executives to investigate a minor infraction from a junior staff member, claiming that it would provide valuable insights into the company's operations. The team grumbled, "Investigating such a trivial issue is a fool's errand. We have far more pressing matters to attend to."

      In this example, "fool's errand" is used to illustrate a task that is disproportionately time-consuming and resource-intensive given the potential reward or impact.

    • The archaeologist spent years excavating a site in the deep Amazon rainforest, only to discover a few fragments of pottery and some animal bones. His peers shrugged, "Chasing after the elusive remains of ancient civilizations in the middle of the jungle is a fool's errand."

      Here, "fool's errand" is employed to convey an unproductive and perhaps dangerous pursuit, in this case, hunting for archaeological artifacts in a hard-to-reach and challenging location.


    The idiom "fool's errand" is often used to describe a task or activity that is considered to be a waste of time, effort, or resources. It can be used in a variety of situations, from warning someone against engaging in a particular task to expressing frustration or disappointment about a task that did not yield any positive results.

    The first meaning of the idiom suggests that the task is destined to fail due to its inherent flaws or unrealistic expectations. This can be seen in situations where someone is pursuing a goal that is impossible to achieve or putting in effort towards a task that is not well thought out. The second meaning highlights the deceptive nature of the task, suggesting that it may appear to have a purpose or goal, but is actually a trick or trap set by someone else. This could be used in situations where someone is being manipulated or taken advantage of by others. The final meaning emphasizes the idea that the task is not worth pursuing, as it will not bring any valuable results or rewards. This could be used to describe a task that is considered to be pointless or insignificant.

    Origin of "Fool's errand"

    The origin of the idiom "fool's errand" can be traced back to medieval times. In the Middle Ages, it was common for lords to send their servants on impossible tasks or errands as a form of entertainment. These tasks were often pointless and designed to mock the servants' lack of intelligence or common sense. As time went on, the term "fool's errand" became associated with any task or activity that was considered to be foolish or futile.

    The first recorded use of the idiom in its current form was in the 16th century, in a book by English poet and playwright John Heywood. In his work, he wrote, "It is a foolish thing to take a fool's errand." This usage suggests that even back then, the idiom was used to caution against engaging in pointless tasks.

    Over time, the idiom has evolved to encompass a broader range of meanings, including deceptive and wasteful tasks. It has also become a commonly used phrase in everyday language, often used to express frustration or disappointment about a task that did not turn out as expected.