Share this entry

jetsam Syllabification: jet·sam
Pronunciation: /ˈjetsəm/

Definition of jetsam in English:


Unwanted material or goods that have been thrown overboard from a ship and washed ashore, especially material that has been discarded to lighten the vessel. Compare with flotsam.
Example sentences
  • Flotsam and jetsam drifted from the yacht, some having already washed ashore.
  • Liberation simply travels, picking up junk and jetsam along the way, discarding it somewhere downstream, and rambling on.
  • I love how when you look up flotsam in the dictionary it says jetsam.


Late 16th century (as jetson): contraction of jettison.

  • flotsam from early 17th century:

    This legal term for wreckage found floating on the sea or washed up on the beach, comes ultimately from French, from the verb floter ‘to float’. Flotsam and jetsam is useless or discarded objects. Jetsam came originally from jettison (Late Middle English), a term for the deliberate throwing of goods overboard to lighten a ship in distress, which came ultimately from the Latin verb jactare ‘to throw’. In the 16th century it was shortened to give us first the spelling jetson and then our modern word jetsam. There are strict legal distinctions made between what you can do with flotsam and with jetsam.

Words that rhyme with jetsam

Wrexham • sensum • Epsom

Definition of jetsam in:

Share this entry


What do you find interesting about this word or phrase?

Comments that don't adhere to our Community Guidelines may be moderated or removed.

Get more from Oxford Dictionaries

Subscribe to remove ads and access premium resources

Word of the day fortissimo
Pronunciation: fôrˈtisəˌmō
(especially as a direction) very loud or loudly