1 : floating wreckage of a ship or its cargo; broadly : floating debris
2 a : miscellaneous or unimportant material
b : debris, remains
The young couple's apartment was adorned with the flotsam and jetsam of thrift stores and yard sales.
"A current moves at its own pace and pushes along whatever flotsam it carries on the surface and below in a stream awash in chaos and chance." - From an article by Dave Golowenski in The Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch, October 7, 2012
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.
Test Your Vocabulary with M-W Quizzes
Name That Synonym
Fill in the blanks to create a synonym of "flotsam" in its "debris" sense: dtiu. The answer is ...