Flotsam and jetsam


      • random or miscellaneous items or people
        Referring to objects or individuals that are unimportant, unwanted, or of little value or significance

      • survival or perseverance despite difficult circumstances
        Describing a person or group who has managed to endure or overcome a challenging situation or obstacle

    Examples of Flotsam and jetsam

    • The beach was littered with flotsam and jetsam after the storm.

      After a heavy storm, the shoreline was found to be covered in debris that had been carried in by the waves. Some of it, like broken branches, had floated on the water's surface (flotsam), while other items, like sacks of grain or metal parts from boats, had been deliberately cast overboard (jetsam) to prevent them from sinking the vessel.

    • She felt like she was holding onto flotsam and jetsam in her personal life.

      This metaphorical expression is used to describe someone who feels that their circumstances are uncertain, unpredictable, and unreliable. They might have friends or relationships that seem to be hanging by a thread, and they might be holding onto these connections (flotsam and jetsam) for support, even if those relationships are not particularly strong or dependable.

    • The authorities discovered a large amount of flotsam and jetsam washed up on the shore, but they were unable to determine where it came from.

      In this example, flotsam and jetsam refers more broadly to any debris or litter that is found floating or stranded on the land or in the water. Here, the authorities are indicating that they have found both natural and man-made objects that had been floating or have become stranded, but they could not determine the origin of these items.

    • The report revealed that most of the person's wealth was made up of flotsam and jetsam.

      This statement implies that the subject's wealth is questionable or uncertain. It suggests that their wealth is not based on solid, reliable sources but rather on items that were either accidentally or deliberately cast aside (flotsam and jetsam) as a consequence of their actions. In other words, the person's wealth might not be as valuable or reliable as they claim it to be.

    • The beach was littered with flotsam and jetsam after the storm.

      Flotsam refers to any object that floats on water as a result of being discarded or lost at sea. Jetsam, on the other hand, is a deliberate throwing overboard of cargo to lighten the load of a sinking ship. In this example, the storm has caused objects to float into shore, some of which may be flotsam from ships that have sunk, while others may be jetsam deliberately thrown overboard.

    • She had to sift through the flotsam and jetsam of her mind to find the answers she was looking for.

      In this context, flotsam and jetsam are used metaphorically to describe the cluttered thoughts and memories that fill someone's mind. Just as the beach is filled with objects after a storm, her mind is filled with a jumble of ideas and experiences that she must sort through to find what she needs.

    • The fishing village was built on a foundation of flotsam and jetsam, with generations of fishermen salvaging what they could from the sea.

      In this example, flotsam and jetsam are used literally to describe the materials that the villagers have used to build their homes and businesses. The sea has thrown up a variety of useful objects, which the villagers have collected and repurposed to suit their needs.

    • The tide had carried away his dreams, leaving him with nothing but flotsam and jetsam in its wake.

      In this metaphorical use of flotsam and jetsam, the tide is used as a symbol of time and the passage of life. The narrator's dreams and aspirations have been carried away by the tide of time, leaving him with only the remnants of what he once had. Flotsam and jetsam represent the meaningless or worthless debris left behind by the tide, a reminder of what has been lost.


    The idiom "flotsam and jetsam" can have two main meanings. The first one refers to random or miscellaneous items or people that are considered unimportant or unwanted. This can be used in a negative way to dismiss something as trivial or insignificant. The second meaning suggests the idea of survival or perseverance despite difficult circumstances. In this context, the idiom can be used to describe a person or group who has managed to overcome a challenging situation or obstacle.

    Origin of "Flotsam and jetsam"

    The idiom "flotsam and jetsam" originates from the maritime industry. Flotsam refers to debris or wreckage found floating on the surface of the sea, while jetsam refers to items intentionally thrown overboard from a ship. These items would often wash up on shore and were considered of little value or significance. Over time, the term evolved to also refer to people or things that are considered unimportant or unwanted.

    The first recorded use of the idiom in literature was in Shakespeare's play The Tempest, where it was used to refer to the shipwrecked characters and their belongings. In modern usage, the idiom is often used figuratively to describe people or things that are deemed insignificant or unwanted. It can also be used to convey a sense of survival or resilience in difficult situations, drawing on the idea of flotsam and jetsam floating and enduring despite the harsh conditions of the sea.