Mare's nest


      • a surprising discovery that turns out to be worthless or nonexistent
        To describe a situation or discovery that initially seems impressive or important, but ultimately proves to be disappointing or insignificant

      • a confused or chaotic situation
        To describe a disorganized or chaotic situation, often with the implication that it is difficult to make sense of or resolve

    Examples of Mare's nest

    • The detective spent hours sifting through the evidence, but all he found was a mare's nest of false leads.

      A mare's nest is a false or misleading appearance, often in a mass of tangled or confused materials. In this example, the detective has been searching for clues, but all he's found are confusing or misleading items, leading him nowhere in his investigation.

    • After reading through the company's financial reports, the analysts declared it a mare's nest of red herrings and contradictions.

      While a mare's nest involves a mass of confusing materials, a red herring is an irrelevant or misleading clue that leads investigators astray. In this case, the analysts have found both a mare's nest of false leads and red herrings in the company's financial reports.

    • The politician's response to the scandal was a mare's nest of vague statements and evasive answers.

      When someone is caught in a scandal, they may try to obscure the truth with confusing or evasive statements. In this example, the politician's response to the scandal has created a mare's nest of unclear and misleading statements.

    • The archaeologist waded through the ruins of the ancient city, but all he found was a mare's nest of broken pottery and debris.

      When exploring a ruined site, archaeologists often encounter a mass of broken or confusing material. In this example, the archaeologist has found a mare's nest of broken pottery and debris as he explores the ruins of an ancient city.

    • The detective spent hours digging through the evidence, but all they found was a mare's nest of false leads and dead ends.

      In this example, "mare's nest" is used to describe a situation that appears to be complex and significant but in fact turns out to be a confusing and fruitless mess. Here, the detective is frustrated by the fact that their investigation has led them down a series of misleading paths instead of bringing them closer to solving the case.

    • The politician's campaign was a mare's nest of half-baked ideas and empty promises.

      This example shows how "mare's nest" can be used to critique an idea or situation that seems plausible at first but upon closer inspection is found to be unsound and lacking in substance. In this case, the politician's campaign is criticized for presenting overly simplistic solutions and unrealistic commitments to voters.

    • The artist spent days trying to unravel the complicated threads of the sculpture, but all they found was a mare's nest of knots and tangles.

      This example demonstrates how "mare's nest" can be applied to a creative process, highlighting the difficulty and frustration that can arise when trying to untangle a complex problem or idea. Here, the artist is struggling to untangle the various threads and knots that have become knotted together in the sculpture, highlighting the intricate and sometimes overwhelming nature of the creative process.

    • The scientist spent months analyzing the data, but all they found was a mare's nest of contradictory results and inconsistencies.

      This final example shows how "mare's nest" can be used to describe a scientific investigation that has yielded confusing and contradictory results instead of clear and concise findings. Here, the scientist is dealing with a situation that is confusing and challenging, highlighting the complications and uncertainties that can arise in scientific inquiry.


    The idiom "mare's nest" can be used to convey both the idea of a surprising discovery that turns out to be worthless or nonexistent, as well as a confused or chaotic situation. It is often used to emphasize the disappointment or confusion experienced in such situations, and can be a colorful way to express these feelings in conversation or writing.

    Origin of "Mare's nest"

    The origin of the idiom "mare's nest" can be traced back to the belief in medieval times that mares (female horses) would build nests to protect their foals. Since horses do not actually build nests, the concept of a "mare's nest" was seen as something that was non-existent or impossible. Over time, the phrase came to be used figuratively to describe any surprising discovery that turned out to be worthless or nonexistent.

    The idiom has also been used to describe a confused or chaotic situation, possibly drawing on the image of a non-existent mare's nest as a symbol of disorder and confusion. The phrase has persisted over the years and is still used in modern English to convey the idea of a disappointing discovery or a disorganized situation.