Tilting at windmills

Tilting at windmills

Tilting at windmills is an English idiom which means attacking imaginary enemies, or fighting otherwise-unwinnable battles. The word “tilt,” here, comes from jousting.

This idiomatic phrase originated in the novel "Don Quixote", and is often used today in reference to persistent engagement in a futile activity. At one point in the novel, Don Quixote fights windmills that he imagines to be giants. Quixote sees the windmill blades as the giant's arms, for instance. Here is the relevant portion of the novel:

Just then they came in sight of thirty or forty windmills that rise from that plain. And no sooner did Don Quixote see them that he said to his squire, "Fortune is guiding our affairs better than we ourselves could have wished. Do you see over yonder, friend Sancho, thirty or forty hulking giants? I intend to do battle with them and slay them. With their spoils we shall begin to be rich for this is a righteous war and the removal of so foul a brood from off the face of the earth is a service God will bless."

"What giants?" asked Sancho Panza.

"Those you see over there," replied his master, "with their long arms. Some of them have arms well nigh two leagues in length."

"Take care, sir," cried Sancho. "Those over there are not giants but windmills. Those things that seem to be their arms are sails which, when they are whirled around by the wind, turn the millstone."

References

*cite web | url = http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/tilting-at-windmills.html | title = Tilting at windmills | publisher = The Phrasefinder | accessdate = 2007-11-17


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Look at other dictionaries:

  • tilting at windmills — Meaning Attacking imaginary enemies. Origin Like Don Quixotte …   Meaning and origin of phrases

  • Tilting at windmills (disambiguation) — Tilting at windmills is an English idiom which means attacking imaginary enemies , originating from the novel Don Quixote . Tilting at windmills may also refer to:An album: * Tilting at Windmills (Consafos album), a 2005 album by Consafos *… …   Wikipedia

  • Tilting at Windmills (Consafos album) — Infobox Album Name = Tilting at Windmills Type = studio Artist = Consafos Released = April 19, 2005 Recorded = Genre = Length = Label = Greyday Productions Producer = Reviews = Last album = This album = Next album = Tilting at Windmills is the… …   Wikipedia

  • be tilting at windmills — phrase to be wasting time dealing with problems that do not really exist Thesaurus: to waste time, or to pass time doing unimportant thingssynonym Main entry: tilt …   Useful english dictionary

  • be tilting at windmills — to be wasting time dealing with problems that do not really exist …   English dictionary

  • tilt at windmills — phrasal Etymology: so called fr. the episode in Don Quijote de la Mancha in which Don Quixote battles with a windmill, thinking it a giant more at don quixote : to fight imaginary enemies or illusory evils even though this rebellion may be a… …   Useful english dictionary

  • tilt at windmills — {v. phr.}, {literary} To do battle with an imaginary foe (after Cervantes Don Quixote). * /John is a nice guy but when it comes to departmental meetings he wastes everybody s time by constantly tilting at windmills./ …   Dictionary of American idioms

  • tilt at windmills — {v. phr.}, {literary} To do battle with an imaginary foe (after Cervantes Don Quixote). * /John is a nice guy but when it comes to departmental meetings he wastes everybody s time by constantly tilting at windmills./ …   Dictionary of American idioms

  • tilt at windmills — ► tilt at windmills attack imaginary enemies. [ORIGIN: with allusion to the story of Don Quixote tilting at windmills, believing they were giants.] Main Entry: ↑tilt …   English terms dictionary

  • tilt\ at\ windmills — v. phr. literary To do battle with an imaginary foe (after Cervantes Don Quixote). John is a nice guy but when it comes to departmental meetings he wastes everybody s time by constantly tilting at windmills …   Словарь американских идиом


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