white elephant

noun

Definition of white elephant

  1. 1 :  an Asian elephant of a pale color that is sometimes venerated in India, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Myanmar

  2. 2a :  a property requiring much care and expense and yielding little profitb :  an object no longer of value to its owner but of value to othersc :  something of little or no value

white elephant was our Word of the Day on 02/19/2013. Hear the podcast!

Did You Know?

The real white elephant (the kind with a trunk) is a pale pachyderm that has long been an object of veneration in India, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Myanmar. Too revered to be a beast of burden, the white elephant earned a reputation as a burdensome beast, one that required constant care and feeding but never brought a single cent (or paisa or satang or pya) to its owner. One story has it that the kings of Siam (the old name for Thailand) gave white elephants as gifts to those they wished to ruin, hoping that the cost of maintaining the voracious but sacred mammal would drive its new owner to the poorhouse.

First Known Use of white elephant

15th century


WHITE ELEPHANT Defined for English Language Learners

white elephant

noun

Definition of white elephant for English Language Learners

  • : something that requires a lot of care and money and that gives little profit or enjoyment


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