white-elephant

white elephant

noun
1.
a possession unwanted by the owner but difficult to dispose of: Our Victorian bric-a-brac and furniture were white elephants.
2.
a possession entailing great expense out of proportion to its usefulness or value to the owner: When he bought the mansion he didn't know it was going to be such a white elephant.
3.
an abnormally whitish or pale elephant, usually found in Thailand; an albino elephant.

Origin:
1850–55; from the perhaps apocryphal tale that the King of Siam would award a disagreeable courtier a white elephant, the upkeep of which would ruin the courtier

Dictionary.com Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
Cite This Source Link To white-elephant
Collins
World English Dictionary
white elephant
 
n
1.  a rare albino or pale grey variety of the Indian elephant, regarded as sacred in parts of S Asia
2.  a possession that is unwanted by its owner
3.  an elaborate venture, construction, etc, that proves useless
4.  a rare or valuable possession the upkeep of which is very expensive

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
Cite This Source
Etymonline
Word Origin & History

white elephant
1851, from supposed custom of the King of Siam in showing his disfavor of a courtier by giving him care of one of the sacred albino elephants, a high honor, but ruinously expensive.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
Cite This Source
American Heritage
Cultural Dictionary

white elephant definition


An unwanted or financially burdensome possession, or a project that turns out to be of limited value: “The new office building turned out to be a white elephant once the company decided to move its headquarters.”

The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
Cite This Source
Copyright © 2014 Dictionary.com, LLC. All rights reserved.
  • Please Login or Sign Up to use the Recent Searches feature