c. 1200, "wild, uninhabited, or uncultivated place," with -ness + Old English wild-deor "wild animal, wild deer;" see wild (adj.) + deer (n.). Similar formation in Dutch wildernis, German Wildernis, though the usual form there is Wildnis.
he led the Democratic party back from the wilderness
a wilderness of masts in the harbor
the duties of citizenship are lost sight of in the wilderness of interests of individuals and groups
it was a wilderness preserved for the hawks and mountaineers
wild goose chase