Users of web search engines are increasingly worried that their query activities may expose what topics they are interested in, and in turn, compromise their privacy. It would be desirable for a search engine to protect the true query intention for users without compromising the precision-recall performance. In this paper, we propose a client-based approach to address this problem. The basic idea is to issue plausible but innocuous pseudo queries together with a user query, so as to mask the user intention. First, we present a privacy model which formulates plausibility and innocuousness, and then the requirements which should be satisfied to ensure that the user intention is protected against a search engine effectively. Second, based on a semantic reference space derived from Wikipedia, we propose an approach to construct a group of pseudo queries that exhibit similar characteristic distribution as a given user query, but point to irrelevant topics, so as to meet the security requirements defined by the privacy model. Finally, we conduct extensive experimental evaluations to demonstrate the practicality and effectiveness of our approach. Copyright © 2015 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.