Meaning of red herring

red' her'ring

Pronunciation: [key]
  1. a smoked herring.
  2. something intended to divert attention from the real problem or matter at hand; a misleading clue.
  3. Also calleda tentative prospectus circulated by the underwriters of a new issue of stocks or bonds that is pending approval by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission: so called because the front cover of such a prospectus must carry a special notice printed in red.
  4. any similar tentative financial prospectus, as one concerning a pending or proposed sale of cooperative or condominium apartments.
Random House Unabridged Dictionary, Copyright © 1997, by Random House, Inc., on Infoplease.