white elephant


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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:
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 ?
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.
Then, follow white elephants caparisoned in countless gorgeous colours, and infinite in number and attendants.