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

  • n. Wreckage or cargo that remains afloat after a ship has sunk.
  • n. Floating refuse or debris.
  • n. Discarded odds and ends.
  • n. Vagrant, usually destitute people.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. Debris floating in a river or sea, in particular fragments from a shipwreck.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. Goods lost by shipwreck, and floating on the sea; -- in distinction from jetsam or jetson.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. Such part of the wreck of a ship and its cargo as is found floating. See jetsam.

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

  • n. the floating wreckage of a ship


Anglo-Norman floteson, from Old French floter, to float, of Germanic origin.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Anglo-Norman floteson, from Old French flotaison ("a floating"), from floter ("to float"), of Germanic origin (See float.), + -aison, from Latin -atio (Wiktionary)


  • Rourke describes its dark banks well: its trolley-littered bed, its murky depths, its surface covered in flotsam and streaks of oily pollution.

    Not the Booker prize: The Canal by Lee Rourke

  • Frenchman — a trifle of flotsam from a mid-ocean wreck and landed to grow up among the farmer-sailormen of the coast of Maine.

    The Little Lady of the Big House, by Jack London

  • a Frenchman — a trifle of flotsam from a mid-ocean wreck and landed to grow up among the farmer-sailormen of the coast of Maine.


  • But missed in the economic floodwaters among the flotsam was the waterlogged performance of Wal-Mart.

    The Unraveling

  • There were deserters and rejects from the American army, one or two curious fragments of human flotsam from the Spanish Civil War, and the first American negro Raymond had known, a huge, clever man, rumoured to be a lawyer from West Virginia.

    Overlord D-Day And The Battle for Normandy

  • Our flotsam was a trick of the fading light on the sea, just where Broken Rocks raised the swell a little; but in the exquisite, the almost menacing, calm of the evening, we leaned on our oars and watched for a while.

    A Poor Man's House

  • In addition to this flotsam, which is found in large masses in every big city, the militia which I mentioned consists of many adherents of an international European republic.

    The German Classics of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries, Volume 10 Prince Otto Von Bismarck, Count Helmuth Von Moltke, Ferdinand Lassalle

  • Completed a year before the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, they were initially meant to be read as looming, industrial presences, and also as a sardonic comment on just what kind of flotsam and jetsam is washing up from the Pacific these days.

    John Seed: Don't Fear These Oil Rigs: They are Just Works of Art

  • The succeeding poets are but survivors as by the ark, and, like the ancient dove, they gather and weave into garlands only the "flotsam" of beauty which floats on the bosom of the Shakespearean flood.

    Gov. Bob. Taylor's Tales

  • The United States agent had long ago moved to Lake Superior, and the deserted residence, having only a mythical owner, left without repairs year after year, and under a cloud of confusion as regarded taxes, titles, and boundaries, became a kind of flotsam property, used by various persons, but belonging legally to no one.

    Castle Nowhere


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