Red-herring Definition

noun
A smoked herring.
Webster's New World
Something used to divert attention from the basic issue.
Webster's New World
A preliminary prospectus, subject to amendment, for an issue of securities.
Webster's New World
A topic that may or may not have general significance, factual or legal, but that is of absolutely no relevance to the question or matter at hand.
Webster's New World Law
The definition of a red herring is something intended to distract you or throw you off the track from the truth.
When a murderer plants a knife in someone else's home to try to throw the police off track, the knife is an example of a red herring.
YourDictionary
Synonyms:
preliminary prospectussmoked-herring
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Other Word Forms of Red-herring

Noun

Singular:
red-herring
Plural:
red-herrings

Origin of Red-herring

  • It originated from a news story by English journalist William Cobbett, c. 1805, in which he claimed that as a boy he used a red herring (a cured and salted herring) to mislead hounds following a trail; the story served as an extended metaphor for the London press, which had earned Cobbett's ire by publishing false news accounts regarding Napoleon.

    From Wiktionary

  • Until 2008, the accepted etymology of the idiom was that red herring were used to train dogs to track scents. This has proven to be a false etymology.

    From Wiktionary

  • Sense 2, probably from the use of smoked herrings to lay scent trails for hounds to follow

    From American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition

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