Word of the Day : November 11, 2012


noun FLAHT-sum


1 : floating wreckage of a ship or its cargo; broadly : floating debris

2 a : miscellaneous or unimportant material

b : debris, remains

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.


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

Name That Synonym

Fill in the blanks to create a synonym of "flotsam" in its "debris" sense: dtiu. The answer is ...


More Words of the Day

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!