white elephant


Also found in: Thesaurus, Medical, Legal, Financial, Idioms, Encyclopedia, Wikipedia.

white elephant

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

[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.]

white elephant

n
1. (Animals) a rare albino or pale grey variety of the Indian elephant, regarded as sacred in parts of S Asia
2. a possession that is unwanted by its owner
3. an elaborate venture, construction, etc, that proves useless
4. a rare or valuable possession the upkeep of which is very expensive

white′ el′ephant


n.
1. a possession unwanted by the owner but difficult to dispose of.
2. a possession entailing great expense out of proportion to its value to the owner.
3. an albino Indian elephant.
[1850–55; from the tale that the King of Siam would award a disagreeable courtier a white elephant, the upkeep of which would ruin the courtier]

white elephant

- The name of this animal, which has an enormous appetite, has come to mean "useless, expensive possession"—or a possession that is more trouble than it is worth.
See also related terms for possession.
ThesaurusAntonymsRelated WordsSynonymsLegend:
Switch to new thesaurus
Noun1.white elephant - a valuable possession whose upkeep is excessively expensive
possession - anything owned or possessed
2.white elephant - albinic Indian elephant; rare and sometimes venerated in east Asia
Elephas maximus, Indian elephant - Asian elephant having smaller ears and tusks primarily in the male
Translations

white elephant

n (fam) → cattedrale f nel deserto
References in classic literature ?
All down the line I had kept an eye for suspicious characters with an eye upon me; but even my self-consciousness failed to discover one; and I reached my haven of peace, and of fresh fell air, feeling, I suppose, much like any other fool who has spent his money upon a white elephant.
He ran his finger over them, and when he came to Siam he contemplated with great attention the red field and the white elephant.
And I will not say what my first act was when I found myself alone with my white elephant in the middle of the room; enough that the siphon was still doing its work when the glass slipped through my fingers to the floor.
Where is it you are off to, and why are you taking this herd of white elephants with you?
Then, follow white elephants caparisoned in countless gorgeous colours, and infinite in number and attendants.
30am to 12pm, will include a raffle, tombola, white elephant, cakes, books and plant stall.
For years, this white elephant has been a drain on the public treasury, losing $1 million a year just in operating costs, plus $30 million in annual debt financing for the initial construction.
But to dump such a white elephant on Wirral would simply add insult to injury.
I am sorry to have to break this to you Mr Morgan, but the overwhelming majority of Welsh people would rather see the Welsh assembly building turned into a multi-storey car park or a retirement home for disillusioned politicians, instead of being the biggest white elephant in Welsh political history.
In Buddhist-dominated Thailand, elephants are venerated and the white elephant is the rarest of all.
But this is not any old elephant, it's a rare white elephant that is one of the most highly regarded animals in the country.
Everyone questioned our logic and senses for taking on a project in an unproven market that had become a white elephant and languished for much of the late '80's to mid-90's," said Adam Foster, Insignia/ESG's Managing Director.