flotsam

play
noun flot·sam \ˈflät-səm\

Definition of flotsam

  1. 1 :  floating wreckage of a ship or its cargo; broadly :  floating debris flotsam washed up by the tide

  2. 2a :  a floating population (as of emigrants or castaways) human flotsamb :  miscellaneous or unimportant material a notebook filled with flotsam and jetsamc :  debris, remains the village … built on the flotsam of war — Stan Sesser

flotsam was our Word of the Day on 11/11/2012. Hear the podcast!

Examples of flotsam in a sentence

  1. flotsam washed up on the shore

  2. the dispirited family picked through the flotsam of their possessions after the hurricane, looking for anything that could be salvaged

Did You Know?

English speakers started using "flotsam," "jetsam," and "lagan" as legal terms in the 16th and 17th centuries. (The earliest evidence of "flotsam" dates from around 1607.) The three words were used to establish claims of ownership to the three types of sea-borne, vessel-originated goods they named. Flotsam was anything from a shipwreck. (The word comes from Old French floter, meaning"to float.") Jetsam and lagan were items thrown overboard to lighten a ship. Lagan was distinguished from jetsam by having a buoy attached so the goods could be found if they sank. In the 19th century, when "flotsam" and "jetsam" took on extended meanings, they became synonyms, but they are still very often paired.

Origin and Etymology of flotsam

Anglo-French floteson, from floter to float, of Germanic origin; akin to Old English flotian to float, flota ship


First Known Use: circa 1607

Other Nautical Terms


FLOTSAM Defined for English Language Learners

flotsam

play
noun flot·sam \ˈflät-səm\

Definition of flotsam for English Language Learners

  • : floating pieces, parts, etc., from a ship that has been wrecked


Law Dictionary

flotsam

play
noun flot·sam \ˈflät-səm\

Legal Definition of flotsam

  1. :  floating wreckage of a ship or its cargo — compare jetsam



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