red herring


General English


  • noun a preliminary prospectus, the first prospectus for a new share issue, produced to see the market reaction to the proposed issue, but without giving a price for the new shares. This is similar to the British ‘pathfinder prospectus’; called this because the first page has a notice printed in red which states that it is not a full offer.


  • A proposed contract term that is not critical, but is offered for the purpose of distracting the other party.


  • Whole herring cured in brine for several weeks then smoked until a mahogany colour. Must be desalted by soaking before eating. Usually used as part of a mixed hors d’oeuvres or as decoration for egg-based canapés.

Idiom of “red herring”

something that diverts or distracts attention from the main argument