Tilt-at-windmills meaning

(intransitive) To attack imaginary enemies.
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(intransitive, idiomatic) To go on a wild-goose chase; to persistently engage in a futile activity.
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Origin of tilt-at-windmills

  • From a passage in the novel Don Quixote where the eponymous character tilts at (i.e. joust at) windmills that he has mistaken for giants
    From Wiktionary