Definition of flotsam in English:



  • 1[mass noun] The wreckage of a ship or its cargo found floating on or washed up by the sea.

    Compare with jetsam
    • ‘It has the habit of swimming in small shoals around patches of flotsam, or floating logs, and is attracted by rafts or drifting boats.’
    • ‘Memories were surfacing in his mind, like flotsam from a shipwreck, drawn upwards from the deep.’
    • ‘But unknown to Iphigenia, he was no ordinary fisherman, but a sea wizard, one who lived from the flotsam which washed up upon the beaches and shores of the world.’
    • ‘Any other ship - any other dead ship - would have joined the rest of the flotsam and debris that formed the Pendulum Nebula, and been moved around by the whims of solar winds.’
    • ‘But being seen in the shimmering waters, when you're but a speck of flotsam to a passing ship, was never a sure bet.’
    • ‘The first day was clear of contacts, but we saw a lot of flotsam, tree trunks, containers washed off ships, etc.’
    • ‘The Federal Government is considering several measures to reduce the flotilla of flotsam that's clogging seas around northern Australia, the vast bulk of it coming from countries to our North.’
    • ‘The dive-site looks a tip as well, because blocks of granite of various sizes line the shore, along with flotsam and junk.’
    • ‘On the beach, icebergs are washed up like flotsam.’
    • ‘You can well imagine the reports from Normandy: the reporter would have his back to the sea so the camera caught the wreckage, the metal flotsam, the blasted craft and bobbing bodies.’
    • ‘Mr Boardman said: ‘I was out walking with my wife and dog when we happened across a little cove and we found the creature in the flotsam that had been washed up.’’
    • ‘The tidal shoreline swamps of Piscataway Creek and the shore of Potomac River often have much large woody debris and flotsam from floods.’
    • ‘Insects and worms hitchhike the ocean on bits of flotsam, coming ashore wherever the winds and currents take them.’
    • ‘One of the most admirable aspects of sailing and yacht racing is that, using only Nature's powers - the wind and the tide - a sailing craft leaves no flotsam and jetsom in its wake, only pristine waters.’
    • ‘Now the region was strewn with floating wreckage, the sort of flotsam that cried out to any Sentient that battle had raged across the Void a scant time previous.’
    • ‘Howard's mind clung to her voice as a drowning man clings to a piece of flotsam from a ship-wreck.’
    • ‘They particularly like buoys, pilings, wrecks, anchored boats, flotsam, etc., and will sometimes congregate around these objects.’
    • ‘I never thought I would care about the difference between creek and brook, sea-marks and flotsam, guzzles and gutters.’
    • ‘It's finding a shell or bit of interesting flotsam washed up during the last high tide or a few oysters that can be opened and washed down with a glass of wine back home.’
    • ‘Inggs has for some time been collecting detritus and flotsam from an area a short distance from Cape Town where he spends a lot of time.’
    wreckage, lost cargo, floating remains
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    1. 1.1People or things that have been rejected or discarded as worthless.
      ‘the room was cleared of boxes and other flotsam’
      • ‘Obviously, with every man and his dog being able to update the pages of such a site, there was always a very real risk that idiots would try to fill it with disinformation, advertising and other worthless flotsam.’
      • ‘I'm back to work tomorrow, at my clinic dealing with whatever post-long-weekend flotsam washes up in my walk-in box.’
      • ‘Yet even on the edge of the Atlantic, in a city long dominated by Irish and Italians, I feel like a civilised anachronism, a sophisticated piece of flotsam on the tide of history.’
      • ‘According to these proposals, ‘genuine’ asylum seekers, it seems, are simply flotsam washed up by the tidal wave of persecution.’
      • ‘The federation is a worthless body of flotsam - we should invite the university to take over: it can't possibly do any worse.’
      • ‘What flotsam does this send floating through the mind, just below the surface?’
      • ‘The hideous roses were flotsam and she was cast away on a tide of detritus.’
      • ‘Outside, a man is pushing a battered shopping cart filled with flotsam from the road: crumpled cans, a discarded flask, a pillow.’
      • ‘In fact, among all the detritus, flotsam, and muck, this movie could serve as a strategically tossed life preserver.’
      rubbish, debris, detritus, waste, waste matter, discarded matter, dross, refuse, remains, scrap, lumber, odds and ends
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  • flotsam and jetsam

    • Useless or discarded objects.

      • ‘She was whirled off with the rest of the flotsam and jetsam.’
      • ‘I certainly don't have the time to write such mundanities or the stomach for having the flotsam and jetsam of my life zapping around the globe, courtesy of the Web.’
      • ‘Through these cells - some for men, some for women, some for young offenders - come all the flotsam and jetsam of humanity who have found themselves on the wrong side of the law.’
      • ‘The kitchen, home to the four soups and a fair number of guests, bore the brunt of the mess, and after I'd emptied the rest of the party's flotsam and jetsam into there too I had quite a job on my hands.’
      • ‘Also they have a notoriously low profile making them hard to discern from the other random flotsam and jetsam on the beach till a couple ton of them get a good head start on decomposing.’
      • ‘But, as I walk through here, the mud that is caked and the flotsam and jetsam.’
      • ‘And his audiences react in this way because MacLennan's ideas sometimes seem a mishmash, an arbitrary collection of the lost and found, flotsam and jetsam.’
      • ‘If you focus on anything - anything at all, any detail of the flotsam and jetsam of your everyday surroundings, just randomly wandering around, you collect jewels.’
      • ‘It seems the ranks of Europe's elite cannot fathom that the continent's flotsam and jetsam of centuries past made it to American shores and created a country of unmatched wealth, opportunity and power.’
      • ‘For all the flotsam and jetsam of colourful costumes and props and clownishness, this production lacks the emotional and mythic dimensions of Beaumont's vision.’
      • ‘I refuse to accept the idea that man is mere flotsam and jetsam in the river of life unable to influence the unfolding events which surround him.’
      • ‘Had they built upon the support demonstrated in the first Lok Sabha would they have been reduced to backroom boys manoeuvring to build a ship with the flotsam and jetsam of Indian politics?’
      • ‘They were modernist, Marxist and anti-Stalinist, despised by communists and ignored by conservatives, the international flotsam and jetsam of the Age of Ideology.’
      • ‘In Godfrey and Watt's other gallery in Westminster Arcade, Emma Dunbar is exhibiting a small group of paintings inspired by the seaside, birds, boats and the flotsam and jetsam of harbours.’
      • ‘Typical examples of materials found include visitor waste, flotsam and jetsam, off-shore fishing waste and articles such as cotton buds and materials washed down toilets.’
      • ‘Harmonization was one of those words I thought I'd seen the end of, but here it is again, surfacing among the flotsam and jetsam at City Hall.’
      • ‘For mainstream media, the plentiful underachievers are customarily the rough equivalent of flotsam and jetsam.’
      • ‘This is just flotsam and jetsam on the big scheme of things.’
      • ‘Consisting entirely of discovered letters, lists, angry diatribes and photographs, each issue of Found presents a glimpse into the oft-wondrous flotsam and jetsam of human existence.’
      • ‘They consider the flotsam and jetsam of his life including his confessed ‘morbid sensitivity to the opinion of others’.’
      debris, waste, waste matter, discarded matter, refuse, rubbish, litter, scrap, flotsam and jetsam, lumber, rubble, wreckage
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Early 17th century: from Anglo-Norman French floteson, from floter to float.