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.

Know More
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 in Elephants

Related Questions

  • Q:

    How long is an elephant pregnant for?

    A:

    An elephant is pregnant for up to two years before giving birth, the longest gestation period of any mammal. Elephants are the largest living and largest-brained land animal in the world, and a long development is needed for elephants in the womb.

    Full Answer >
    Filed Under:
  • Q:

    Can an elephant jump?

    A:

    Elephants cannot jump and cannot perform gaits, such as the trot or gallop, in which all four feet are off the ground at some point. Their fastest gait is similar to a running walk, and they can reach speeds of 15 miles per hour for short distances.

    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:
  • Q:

    What is a baby elephant called?

    A:

    A baby elephant is called a calf. It weighs about 220 pounds at birth.

    Full Answer >
    Filed Under:

Explore