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[jet-suh m] /ˈdʒɛt səm/
goods cast overboard deliberately, as to lighten a vessel or improve its stability in an emergency, which sink where jettisoned or are washed ashore.
Also, jetsom.
Compare flotsam, lagan.
1560-70; alteration of jetson, syncopated variant of jettison
Can be confused
flotsam, jetsam. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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Examples from the web for jetsam
  • They were good enough to be ranked in preseason polls, but not any higher than the flotsam and jetsam of post-season candidates.
  • The difficulty, rather, is spotting signs of it in the jetsam of subatomic debris these machines produce.
  • The flotsam and jetsam would go to the highest bidder.
  • Now they have to compete with urban gulls used to feeding off the flotsam and jetsam of city life.
  • Rather, it is spotting it in the jetsam of subatomic collisions.
  • Then it adds a roof, inlaid with feathers, quills and other pieces of decorative flotsam and jetsam.
  • Be prepared to encounter bits of flotsam and jetsam.
  • The flotsam and jetsam are mere shreds and fragments of wasted lives.
  • There was usually a certain amount of flotsam and jetsam.
  • Some of the impact's jetsam must have wound up in that band, where it could decently clump.
British Dictionary definitions for jetsam


that portion of the equipment or cargo of a vessel thrown overboard to lighten her, as during a storm Compare flotsam (sense 1), lagan
another word for flotsam (sense 2)
Word Origin
C16: shortened from jettison
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for jetsam

1560s, jottsome "act of throwing goods overboard to lighten a ship," alteration and contraction of Middle English jetteson, from Anglo-French getteson, Old French getaison "a throwing" (see jettison). Intermediate forms were jetson, jetsome; the form perhaps was deformed by influence of flotsam. From 1590s as "goods thrown overboard;" figurative use by 1861. For distinction of meaning, see flotsam.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Idioms and Phrases with jetsam


The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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