Definition of flotsam in US English:



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

    Compare with jetsam
    • ‘On the beach, icebergs are washed up like flotsam.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘The tidal shoreline swamps of Piscataway Creek and the shore of Potomac River often have much large woody debris and flotsam from floods.’
    • ‘The first day was clear of contacts, but we saw a lot of flotsam, tree trunks, containers washed off ships, etc.’
    • ‘Howard's mind clung to her voice as a drowning man clings to a piece of flotsam from a ship-wreck.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’’
    • ‘It has the habit of swimming in small shoals around patches of flotsam, or floating logs, and is attracted by rafts or drifting boats.’
    • ‘They particularly like buoys, pilings, wrecks, anchored boats, flotsam, etc., and will sometimes congregate around these objects.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘The dive-site looks a tip as well, because blocks of granite of various sizes line the shore, along with flotsam and junk.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Insects and worms hitchhike the ocean on bits of flotsam, coming ashore wherever the winds and currents take them.’
    • ‘But being seen in the shimmering waters, when you're but a speck of flotsam to a passing ship, was never a sure bet.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Memories were surfacing in his mind, like flotsam from a shipwreck, drawn upwards from the deep.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘I never thought I would care about the difference between creek and brook, sea-marks and flotsam, guzzles and gutters.’
    wreckage, lost cargo, floating remains
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    1. 1.1 People or things that have been rejected and are regarded as worthless.
      ‘the room was cleared of boxes and other flotsam’
      • ‘The hideous roses were flotsam and she was cast away on a tide of detritus.’
      • ‘I'm back to work tomorrow, at my clinic dealing with whatever post-long-weekend flotsam washes up in my walk-in box.’
      • ‘According to these proposals, ‘genuine’ asylum seekers, it seems, are simply flotsam washed up by the tidal wave of persecution.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Outside, a man is pushing a battered shopping cart filled with flotsam from the road: crumpled cans, a discarded flask, a pillow.’
      • ‘The federation is a worthless body of flotsam - we should invite the university to take over: it can't possibly do any worse.’
      • ‘In fact, among all the detritus, flotsam, and muck, this movie could serve as a strategically tossed life preserver.’
      • ‘What flotsam does this send floating through the mind, just below the surface?’
      • ‘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.’
      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.

      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘They consider the flotsam and jetsam of his life including his confessed ‘morbid sensitivity to the opinion of others’.’
      • ‘For mainstream media, the plentiful underachievers are customarily the rough equivalent of flotsam and jetsam.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘She was whirled off with the rest of the flotsam and jetsam.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘This is just flotsam and jetsam on the big scheme of things.’
      • ‘But, as I walk through here, the mud that is caked and the flotsam and jetsam.’
      • ‘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?’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      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’.