Q:

What is a "white elephant"?

A:

Quick Answer

According to the Oxford Dictionaries, a "white elephant" is a possession that is expensive and hard to maintain but also difficult to get rid of. For example, it may be used in reference to a house or car that requires a lot of upkeep and cannot be sold because no potential buyers can be found.

Continue Reading
What is a "white elephant"?
Credit: John Borthwick Lonely Planet Images Getty Images

Full Answer

The origin of the phrase comes from a story about the kings of Siam, who would give live white elephants to members of the court they disliked in order to ruin them with the cost of keeping the animal. In actuality, white elephants were a sign of power and prestige in the counties of Southeast Asia. They were owned by monarchs who ruled justly and maintained a peaceful and prosperous kingdom.

In the United States, white elephant gift exchanges are a popular holiday practice. According to Better Homes and Gardens magazine, the participants in the exchange brings an item from home that they no longer use or need to serve as a gift. The presents are exchanged between all participants, who can then swap gifts in an attempt to get exactly the present they want. The game hinges on participants bringing unusual items that other players may find valuable or desirable.

Learn more about Elephants

Related Questions

  • Q:

    How much does the average African elephant weigh?

    A:

    The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) gives the average weight of an African elephant as 6 tons. The typical weight of an African elephant varies according to the animal's gender and age.

    Full Answer >
    Filed Under:
  • Q:

    How much do elephant tusks weigh?

    A:

    A tusk from an adult male elephant weighs between 100 and 175 pounds, according to SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment, while a tusk from an adult female elephant weighs between 40 and 44 pounds. The heaviest tusk ever recorded weighed in at 220 pounds.

    Full Answer >
    Filed Under:
  • Q:

    What is a male elephant called?

    A:

    The male elephant is known as a bull, while the female elephant is called a cow. For the baby elephant, the appropriate term is a calf. A group of elephants is termed a herd or a parade.

    Full Answer >
    Filed Under:
  • Q:

    What eats an elephant?

    A:

    Elephants lack natural predators in nature, largely as a result of their size. They are too big for most would-be predators to take down safely and eat. Humans are the primary predator of elephants, as people still hunt elephants for their ivory, meat and bones.

    Full Answer >
    Filed Under:

Explore