red herring

|Updated on: 3 Aug 2018

Definition of red herring

1 : a herring cured by salting and slow smoking to a dark brown color
[from the practice of drawing a red herring across a trail to confuse hunting dogs]
: something that distracts attention from the real issue

red herring was our Word of the Day on 10/03/2008. Hear the podcast!

Examples of red herring in a Sentence

  1. The argument is a red herring. It actually has nothing to do with the issue.

  2. The plot of the mystery was full of red herrings.

Recent Examples of red herring from the Web

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'red herring.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Did You Know?

Believe it or not, red herring has as much to do with hunting dogs as with brightly colored fish. Here's how: A herring is a soft-finned bony fish. People who like to eat herring have long preserved them by salting and slowly smoking them. That process makes a herring turn red or dark brown - and gives them a very strong smell. Dogs love to sniff such smelly treats, a fact that makes the fish a perfect diversion for anyone trying to distract hunting dogs from the trail of their quarry. The practice of using preserved fish to confuse hunting dogs led to the use of the term red herring for anything that diverts attention from the issue at hand.

First Known Use of red herring

15th century

in the meaning defined at sense 1

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Financial Definition of RED HERRING

red herring

What It Is

A red herring is a registration statement filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) by a company that intends to make a public equity offering. The red herring is a rough draft of the company's prospectus and includes a description of the company's business, financial condition, strategy, management, litigation and risk factors.

How It Works

A red herring receives its name from the prominent disclosure statement in red letters stating that the company is not attempting to sell its securities prior to the SEC's approval.

Information within a red herring changes either because the SEC requires it or the issuer chooses to alter or add to the existing disclosure. After the SEC approves the document, the red herring becomes the final prospectus and can be used to solicit orders from investors.The definition of red herring on InvestingAnswers

Why It Matters

Underwriters often use red herrings to gauge interest in their offerings. They are often the first look investors get at a new issuer.

RED HERRING Defined for English Language Learners

red herring

Definition of red herring for English Language Learners

  • : something unimportant that is used to stop people from noticing or thinking about something important

Law Dictionary

red herring

noun red her·ring \ ˌred-ˈher-iŋ \

legal Definition of red herring

: a preliminary prospectus (as for the sale of securities) that is not yet approved by the appropriate body (as the Securities and Exchange Commission)

Origin and Etymology of red herring

red herring something that distracts attention from the main issue, diversion

Learn More about red herring

  1. Spanish Central: Translation of red herring

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