white elephant love


from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun A rare whitish or light-gray form of the Asian elephant, often considered sacred in parts of South and Southeast Asia.
  • noun A possession that provides few benefits and is an inconvenience or a financial burden to maintain.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • Slang Something requiring much care and expense to maintain and yielding little profit, and often difficult to sell; any burdensome possession.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • noun An albino elephant.
  • noun idiomatic An possession that is unwanted or is a financial burden; an unprofitable investment.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • noun a valuable possession whose upkeep is excessively expensive
  • noun albinic Indian elephant; rare and sometimes venerated in east Asia


from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[Sense 2, in reference to a story that when the kings of Siam wished to ruin an offending courtier, they would give him a white elephant, which the courtier then had to maintain at great expense.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

In Siam elephants were working animals. However, white (albino) elephants were considered sacred and therefore were not to be put to work. The owner was then left to feed the elephant but could get no work from it. It is said that the King of Siam used to make a present of a white elephant to courtiers he wanted to ruin.


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  • The story is that albino elephants were sacred in Siam, and property of the king. The king gave them to people whom he wanted to ruin financially: the person had to feed and take care of the animal, but could not realize any financial gain from it. Or so I heard.

    So a white elephant is something of value that is hard to get rid of.

    June 26, 2007