- an albino elephant
Origin of white elephantfrom the story that kings of Siam, owners of all the white elephants, would punish a courtier by giving him such an elephant, knowing that the cost of maintenance would be financially ruinous something from which little profit or use is derived; esp., such a possession maintained at much expense
- any object no longer desired by its owner, but of possible value to others
A family home that you feel you have to keep but that is very expensive to maintain is an example of a white elephant.
- A rare whitish or light-gray form of the Asian elephant, often considered sacred in parts of South and Southeast Asia.
- A possession that provides few benefits and is an inconvenience or a financial burden to maintain.
Origin of white elephantSense 2, in reference to a story that when the kings of Siam wished to ruin an offending courtier, they would give him a white elephant, which the courtier then had to maintain at great expense
(plural white elephants)
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.