white elephant love

Definitions

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

  • n. A rare, expensive possession that is a financial burden to maintain.
  • n. Something of dubious or limited value.
  • n. An article, ornament, or household utensil no longer wanted by its owner.
  • n. An endeavor or venture that proves to be a conspicuous failure.
  • n. A rare whitish or light-gray form of the Asian elephant, often regarded with special veneration in regions of southeast Asia and India.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

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

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Something requiring much care and expense to maintain and yielding little profit, and often difficult to sell; any burdensome possession.
  • adj. see white elephant in the vocabulary.

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

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

Etymologies

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. (Wiktionary)

Examples

Sorry, no example sentences found.

Wordnik is becoming a not-for-profit! Read our announcement here.

Comments

Log in or sign up to get involved in the conversation. It's quick and easy.

  • 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