(The). A way to India from Europe round the north extremit of Asia. It had been often attempted even in the 16th century Hence Beaumont and Fletcher.
That everlasting cassock, that has worn As many servants out as the North-east Passage Has consumed sailors.
The Tamer Tamed, ii. 2
Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894