The English phrase: “To be on the wrong track” is in German: “Auf dem Holzweg sein”. Literally translated it means: “to be on a wooden path”.
This expression means that someone assumes the wrong thing, is incorrect about something, is thinking about something in the wrong way. It also means the someone follows the wrong goal or tries to reach a goal in the wrong way.
If you think that Jim will pass this test you are on the wrong track. He didn’t study at all. = Falls du denkst, dass Jim die Prüfung besteht, bist du auf dem Holzweg. Er hat überhaupt nicht gelernt.
25+43 isn’t 69. You are on the wrong track. Recalculate! = 25+43 ist nicht 69. Du bist auf dem Holzweg. Rechne mal nach!
She thought this man loved her. But she was totally on the wrong track. He only liked her for her money. = Sie dachte, dass dieser Mann sie liebte. Aber sie war total auf dem Holzweg. Er mochte sie nur wegen ihres Geldes.
Historically, this German expression goes back to the early ages of the German language. It was first used in the 13th century. Back then, it described paths / roads that lumberjacks used to transport the cut wood out of forests. People who used those paths / roads often ended up in the wrong location. By the 15 th century the literal meaning had turned into the phrase as we know it today. Even Martin Luther used this phrase multiple times in his famous Colloquia Mensalia.