In maritime law, there are four types of marine debris: flotsam (floating goods that were not deliberately thrown overboard), jetsam (floating goods that were intentionally discarded), lagan (sunken goods that are tied to a floating object), and derelict (unrecoverable sunken goods). Of those, flotsam and jetsam have been repurposed by the public as an irreversible binomial that means "discarded or useless objects" in general. The words are essentially equivalent to float and jettison: flotsam comes from Old French flotaison (or "floating"), which traces to Frankish flotan, meaning "swim", Proto-Germanic flutona, and Proto-Indo-European plow, "to flow"; and jetsam is from Old French getaison ("throwing"), which in turn probably derives from the Latin verb iactare, meaning "to throw".
Hello! I'm Adam Aleksic. This year, I graduated from Harvard University with a degree in Government and Linguistics. There, I co-founded the Harvard Undergraduate Linguistics Society and wrote a thesis on Serbo-Croatian language policy, magna cum laude. In addition to etymology, I also really enjoy philosophy, trivia, vexillology, geography, board games, conlanging, art history, and law.