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The meaning and origin of the expression: Fools' gold

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Fools' gold

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Meaning

The name given to iron pyrites, which looks a little like gold but is worthless.

Origin

fools' goldMartin Frobisher returned to England from a voyage to find the North West Passage in 1576 with a cargo of this supposed 'gold mineral'.

The term has come to denote any apparent treasure trove that turns out to be worthless. The first reference I can find is an apparently ironic use in a headline in The Atlanta Constitution, June 1888:

Fools' Gold
The Search for Captain Kidd's Buried Wealth...
A party of men digging in a Connecticut cave - ploughing up New Jersey ground in the fruitless search.

That headline would suggest that the term was already known to the paper's audience, but I can find no citation of it prior to 1888.