A white elephant

Definitions

  • Chambers's Twentieth Century Dictionary
    • A white elephant a gift which occasions the recipient more trouble than it is worth—a white elephant being a common gift of the kings of Siam to a courtier they wished to ruin
    • ***

Etymology

Chambers's Twentieth Century Dictionary
M. E. olifaunt—O. Fr. olifant—L. elephantum, elephas, -antis—Gr. elephas, acc. to some from Heb. eleph, aleph, an ox.

Usage

In literature:

You might just as well keep a white elephant in the stables.
"Vixen, Volume II." by M. E. Braddon
A music-hall could have twenty black cats in it and you'd turn them into a white elephant!
"The Bill-Toppers" by Andre Castaigne
The new bungalow proved after all to be a white elephant.
"India and the Indians" by Edward F. Elwin
Seriously speaking, it was rather a white elephant.
"The Book-Collector" by William Carew Hazlitt
They say the Government has got something very like a white elephant in that vast pile.
"The King's Post" by R. C. Tombs
I want to be de King of Fiam, and wide on a white elephant!
"Five Mice in a Mouse-trap" by Laura E. Richards
The big-bodied elephant is armed with a formidable black horn, forked at the end, which curves upward like the horn of a white rhinoceros.
"Harper's Young People, July 20, 1880" by Various
And there never was a bargain cheaply won that didn't prove a white elephant in time.
"The Gorgeous Girl" by Nalbro Bartley
A hard, solid, fine-grained substance of a fine white color; the tusk of an elephant.
"A Treatise on Anatomy, Physiology, and Hygiene (Revised Edition)" by Calvin Cutter
I will not sit down under the name of a giver of White Elephants.
"The Works of Robert Louis Stevenson - Swanston Edition Vol. 24 (of 25)" by Robert Louis Stevenson
They played for lacs of rupees on the points, and a territory on the rub; five to two, first game against the loser, in white elephants.
"Tom Burke Of "Ours", Volume I (of II)" by Charles James Lever
We'll have a 'White Elephant' sale.
"The Head Girl at the Gables" by Angela Brazil
You see, this boy rode on the elephant, behind Rajah, and he wore long black boots and a fine white suit.
"Careers of Danger and Daring" by Cleveland Moffett
The flag of Siam is a white elephant on a red ground.
"Encyclopaedia Britannica, 11th Edition, Volume 10, Slice 4" by Various
Buddha had a white elephant form.
"The New Gresham Encyclopedia" by Various
He began to realize what a white elephant he had raised up for himself.
"A Crime of the Under-seas" by Guy Boothby
Your last one, the White Elephant, was a failure!
"Sawdust & Spangles" by W. C. Coup
The proverbial present of a white elephant is paralleled in bird life by the gift of the cuckoo's egg.
"Wild Life in a Southern County" by Richard Jefferies
The property is a white elephant, eating up an enormous amount in taxes and maintenance.
"Dan Carter and the Haunted Castle" by Mildred A. Wirt
I would not be at all surprised to hear that he had made you a present of a little white elephant.
"Mostly Mary" by Mary Edward Feehan
***

In poetry:

I used to dream, long, long ago,
That the clouds were marvelous white elephants
Journeying in droves to a far-off sacred city
That always made the sunset with the reflection of its altar-fires.
"Disillusionment" by Clark Ashton Smith
My kites are huge like elephants, small like mice.
I fly them all in a flock, in spite of advice—
The best advice!
They go up in rainbow brilliance and snow-white storms,
In all shapes and forms.
"Kites" by William Rose Benet

In news:

Convention center's a white elephant .
Sochi Games a white elephant in the making.
Every trip to the town of Middleburg, VA, warrants a visit to a special place: The White Elephant.
Scott Fitzgerald story about a man born in the twilight of life and gradually regressing toward dawn that has been adapted into a two-ton, Oscar-season white elephant.
A white elephant is usually something novel that nobody knows what to do with.
Whether it's an office Christmas Party, party amongst friends or a family gift exchange tradition, there's almost always a white elephant gift involved.
Watch a short clip of Patrice O'Neals special on Comedy Central called "Elephant In The Room" and what he says about white women.
Today was the Hot 107.9 Holiday Luncheon and we were all asked to be a part of the "White Elephant" Gift Exchange.
The Boise Art Museum will become home to a ghostly herd of "White Elephants" this weekend.
Our Annual Holiday Bazaar features local vendors, jewelry, photography, children's items, a "white elephant" table and much more.
I think there's a little bit of last year being parked, and there's not that big white elephant that's down the track.
Skeptics predicted that Antara Polanco would become a white elephant, albeit a beautiful one.
Today was the Hot 107.9 Holiday Luncheon and we were all asked to be a part of the "White Elephant " Gift Exchange.
HOLLYWOOD - "Take It All," a game show hosted by Howie Mandel based on the holiday party game known as "White Elephant" or "Yankee Swap," will premiere at 9 pm Monday on NBC.
Even fewer people than usual are going to be paying much attention to the freeloading hobbyists at the National Board of Review, who today chose Martin Scorsese's white elephant of a kidflick "Hugo" as best picture of the year.
***