the part of the wreckage of a ship and its cargo found floating on the water. Compare jetsam, lagan.
material or refuse floating on water.
useless or unimportant items; odds and ends.
a vagrant, penniless population: the flotsam of the city slums in medieval Europe.
Also called flotsam and jetsam (for defs 3, 4).

1600–10; < Anglo-French floteson, derivative of floter to float < Old English flotian

flotsam, jetsam.
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World English Dictionary
flotsam (ˈflɒtsəm)
1.  jetsam Compare lagan wreckage from a ship found floating
2.  useless or discarded objects; odds and ends (esp in the phrase flotsam and jetsam)
3.  vagrants
[C16: from Anglo-French floteson, from floter to float]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
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Word Origin & History

c.1600, from Anglo-Fr. floteson, from O.Fr. flotaison "a floating," from floter "to float" (of Gmc. origin) + -aison, from L. -ation(em). Spelled flotsen till mid-19c. when it altered, perhaps under influence of many English words in -some. In British law, flotsam are goods found floating on the sea
as a consequence of a shipwreck or action of wind or waves; jetsam are things cast out of a ship in danger of being wrecked, and afterward washed ashore, or things cast ashore by the sailors. Whatever sinks is lagan.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Example sentences
The world's oceans are filling with bottles, wrappers and other flotsam.
Those are always more common than violent crimes, and therefore more likely to
  enter the flotsam of daily conversation.
The flotsam and jetsam would go to the highest bidder.
The motions of this visible material reveal that it is mere flotsam on an
  unseen sea of unknown material.
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