flotsam and jetsam

Idioms & Phrases

flotsam and jetsam

  1. Discarded odds and ends, as in Most of our things have been moved to the new house, but there's still some flotsam and jetsam to sort. [Mid-1800s]

  2. Destitute, homeless individuals, as in The mayor was concerned about the flotsam and jetsam of the inner city. [Second half of 1900s] Both words originated in 17th-century sailing terminology. Flotsam literally meant "wreckage or cargo that remains afloat after a ship has sunk." Jetsam meant "goods thrown overboard from a ship in danger of sinking in order to give it more buoyancy." Both literal meanings remain current, although the distinction between them is often forgotten.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.
Copyright © 1997. Published by Houghton Mifflin.
Cite This Source
Explore Dictionary.com
Previous Definition: floor
Next Definition: flow
Words Near: flotsam and jetsam
More from Thesaurus.com
Synonyms and Antonyms for flotsam and jetsam
More from Reference.com
Search for articles containing flotsam and jetsam
Dictionary.com Word FAQs

Dictionary.com presents 366 FAQs, incorporating some of the frequently asked questions from the past with newer queries.

Copyright © 2015 Dictionary.com, LLC. All rights reserved.
  • Please Login or Sign Up to use the Recent Searches feature