Flotsam and Jetsam: What Is the Meaning of this Useful Term?

Last Updated on March 23, 2020

If you have ever heard someone use the term ‘flotsam and jetsam’ you may have wondered what they are talking about. We are going to take a look at the meaning of this saying and where it came from. We will also look at how the term can be used in every day conversation.

Flotsam and Jetsam

Flotsam and Jetsam Meaning

The term ‘flotsam and jetsam’ refers to a group of random items which are found together.

Origin of this idiom

This term relates to the wreckage of a ship, where all the pieces are strewn randomly in the ocean. Flotsam is a word that comes from the French word ‘floter’ meaning to float, and so refers to debris that is floating on the surface. Jetsam is a word that describes items which were purposefully thrown from the ship during its sinking.

“Flotsam and Jetsam” Examples

Examples in Statements

Here is a statement made to describe some items found on the floor.

  • ‘My kids made a real mess in the living room, there were toys, bits of food and a whole load of flotsam and jetsam strewn all over the carpet.’

This is a statement made to show a mess in the workplace.

  • ‘Ann’s desk is always covered in a great amount of flotsam and jetsam.’

Other examples:

  • The beaches are wide and filled with interesting flotsam and jetsam.
  • Camps were set up to shelter the flotsam and jetsam of the war.
  • He would walk along the beach collecting the flotsam and jetsam that had been washed ashore.
  • On its Gulf side, the collection of flotsam and jetsam could still be found.

Conversation Examples

If you are curious to know how the term ‘flotsam and jetsam’ can work in a conversation, here are some examples of how it might sound.

The first example shows a conversation about a room which contains a lot of random items making it difficult to find the required item.

  • Person 1: “Can you go in the kitchen and find my mobile phone charger please?”
  • Person 2: “I will but there’s so much flotsam and jetsam in there, it’ll be hard to find anything.”

This conversation uses the term to describe a garage which needs cleaning.

  • Person 1: “I was in the garage yesterday, we really need to sort it out in there.”
  • Person 2: “Why, what is in there?”
  • Person 1: “Bicycles, car part and a whole host of other flotsam and jetsam that we don’t need anymore.”

Other Ways to Say the Phrase

There are many other ways in which you can express the meaning of the interesting idiomatic expression ‘flotsam and jetsam.’

Here are some examples of ways to say it using different wording.

  • Bits an bobs
  • Bits and pieces
  • Odds and ends

Flotsam and Jetsam | Picture

Flotsam and Jetsam Pin

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