Definitions for white elephant

This page provides all possible meanings and translations of the word white elephant

Princeton's WordNet

  1. white elephant(noun)

    a valuable possession whose upkeep is excessively expensive

  2. white elephant(noun)

    albinic Indian elephant; rare and sometimes venerated in east Asia


  1. white elephant(Noun)

    An albino elephant.

  2. white elephant(Noun)

    An ornament etc that is unwanted or is a financial burden; an unprofitable investment.

  3. Origin: In Siam elephants were working animals. However, white (albino) elephants were considered sacred and therefore were not to be put to work. The owner was then left to feed the elephant but could get no work from it. It is said that the King of Siam used to make a present of a white elephant to courtiers he wanted to ruin.


  1. White elephant

    A white elephant is an idiom for a valuable but burdensome possession of which its owner cannot dispose and whose cost is out of proportion to its usefulness or worth. The term derives from the story that the kings of Siam were accustomed to make a present of one of these animals to courtiers who had rendered themselves obnoxious, in order to ruin the recipient by the cost of its maintenance. In modern usage, it is an object, scheme, business venture, facility, etc., considered to be without use or value. Albino elephants exist in nature, usually being a reddish-brown or pink color.

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