Finding a needle in a haystack is a common phrase that means something is difficult to find.
Example: I lost the remote control for the TV somewhere in the living room and I can’t find it anywhere. It’s like looking for a needle in a haystack! Well, I guess I’ll be stuck on the golfing channel for a while longer.
In other words, he’s having a hard time finding the TV remote.
Synonyms/Related: hard to find, a wild goose chase
The Origin Of ‘Needle In a Haystack’
The origin of the phrase needle in a haystack is at least over 480 years old. For example, Thomas More is said to have used a variant form of it in a work of his in the year 1532:
“To go looking for a needle in a meadow.”
As for the saying with its exact wording that it has today, the earliest known appearance I could find of it in print is from a book titled The Complete Works of Washington Irving, published in 1834:
“If I want to find any particular article, it is, in the language of an humble but expressive saying, — ‘looking for a needle in a haystack.’ “
How Hard Is It to Find a Needle That’s Lost In a Haystack?
Everyone has lost their car keys or a TV remote at least once, right? And even though you search every nook and cranny for it, you just can’t seem to find them anywhere. Searching for those lost items is like looking for a needle in a haystack, as the saying goes. But how hard is that to do, really?
On a show called MythBusters (they test certain myths to see whether they are confirmed, plausible, or false), this old saying found its way onto the show, and do you know what happened next?
Well, haystacks are big, so finding a tiny needle in one is really hard to do, especially if we’re only using our hands to sift through the hay. So, instead of doing that, they did it like this: There were two teams and each team made a contraption that would help them locate the needle. The result? Even with these contraptions, it still took around 6 hours or so to finish. So in conclusion, if you ever lose a needle in a big pile of straw, it’s not worth the time to search for it. Just… go get another one.
Tip: Did you like reading about this saying? If so, we actually have a list of popular phrases you can look through. You can learn the meaning of hundreds of them.
- Dennis didn’t like his current apartment. He wanted one that was cheaper and preferably have it be located in the middle of the city. So far, finding one that meets these requirements has been like looking for a needle in a haystack.