The phrase white elephant might be heard often during an English conversation. If you have heard this term being used, you have probably thought about its meaning. We are going to take a look at the meaning of this term as well as looking at some examples of how it can be used in both conversations and in sentences. We will also be researching the history of the phrase to find out where it first appeared.
White Elephant Meaning
The meaning of the term white elephant refers to an item which is unwanted but cannot be easily disposed of. The term goes on to refer to a type of stall at things like church and school fetes in which bric a brac is sold.
Origin of the term
The origin of the term white elephant can be found in Asia, where many years ago a white elephant, also known as an albino, would be given to people as a gift from someone they had angered. The cost of keeping the white elephant would be so troublesome and expensive that the owner would end up broke.
“White Elephant” Examples
Examples in Sentences
We are now going to have a look at some examples of how the term white elephant might be used in a statement.
The first example is one being said by one friend to another.
- I have this car, it won’t run, it needs so much spending on it, it’s just a white elephant.
This next example sentence is being stated by someone advertising a charity event.
- There will be a tombola, live music and a white elephant stall selling bits and pieces that people don’t really want or need.
There are a variety of conversations in which you can expect to see the idiom white elephant being used. We will now take a look at some examples of conversations in which the phrase might be heard.
The first is a conversation between two property developers.
- Person 1: “I hear you brought another house.”
- Person 2: “I did, but I shouldn’t have done.”
- Person 1: “Why do you say that?”
- Person 2: “t’s falling down, nobody could live in it and it would cost too much to renovate. It’s nothing more than a white elephant.”
This next conversation is taking place between two friends in a dress shop.
- Person 1: “I love this dress.”
- Person 2: “You may do but you would never wear it.”
- Person 1: “No, I don’t think there would ever be a reason too and I couldn’t give it away as nobody else would want it.”
- Person 2: Exactly, there’s no use in having a white elephant sitting in your closet.”
- The new office block has become an expensive white elephant.
- What do you do with a huge white elephant like that?
- This radio is really a white elephant to me.
- There’s this picturesque white elephant development on the Costa del Sol, apparently going for a song.
Other Ways to Say the Idiom
There could be other ways in which to express the meaning of the term white elephant, let’s take a look at some other things you could say which mean the same thing.
- Dud item
- Useless thing
- Bad investment