[16] The verb tantalize was inspired by the sad story of Tantalus, a mythical king of Phrygia in the ancient world. He had displeased the gods in some way (versions differ as to how, the commonest being that he had stolen their food), and as a punishment he was condemned to stand for ever in water up to his chin, while overhead hung boughs laden with fruit: whenever he stooped to drink, the water disappeared, and when he tried to reach the fruit, the wind blew it away. The term tantalus, coined in the 19th century for a lockable decanter stand whose contents can be seen but not got at, preserves the same idea.
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   The word used for teasing or frustrating someone (by offering something they can't have) derives from the name of Tantalus, the king in Greek mythology who was punished by having to stand in water that went down when he tried to drink it and under fruit that moved away when he tried to pick it.

The Hutchinson dictionary of word origins. 2013.

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(by exciting hopes and refusing to gratify them), , , , , , ,

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Tantalize — Tan ta*lize, v. t. [imp. & p. p. {Tantalized}; p. pr. & vb. n. {Tantalizing}.] [From {Tantalus}: cf. F. tantaliser.] To tease or torment by presenting some good to the view and exciting desire, but continually frustrating the expectations by… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • tantalize — index bait (lure), interest, lure Burton s Legal Thesaurus. William C. Burton. 2006 …   Law dictionary

  • tantalize — (v.) 1590s, from L. TANTALUS (Cf. Tantalus), from Gk. Tantalos, king of Phrygia, son of Zeus, punished in the afterlife (for an offense variously given) by being made to stand in a river up to his chin, under branches laden with fruit, all of… …   Etymology dictionary

  • tantalize — (Amer.) tan·ta·lize || tæntÉ™laɪz v. tease, provoke or tease by presenting something as available and then withholding it; expose someone to something inaccessible; annoy; criticize (also tantalise) …   English contemporary dictionary

  • tantalize — tease, harass, harry, *worry, annoy, plague, pester Analogous words: vex, *annoy, irk, bother: torment, torture, try, *afflict: *bait, badger Antonyms: satisfy …   New Dictionary of Synonyms

  • tantalize — means more than just ‘tease or torment’, as is shown by the word s origins in the treatment meted out to the legendary Phrygian king Tantalus, who was forced to stand in water which receded when he tried to drink and under branches that drew back …   Modern English usage

  • tantalize — [v] provoke, tease annoy, badger, baffle, bait, bedevil, beleaguer, charm, entice, fascinate, frustrate, gnaw, harass, harry, keep hanging*, lead on, make mouth water*, pester, plague, taunt, thwart, titillate, torment, torture, worry; concepts 7 …   New thesaurus

  • tantalize — (also tantalise) ► VERB ▪ torment or tease with the sight or promise of something that is unobtainable or withheld. DERIVATIVES tantalization noun tantalizing adjective. ORIGIN from Tantalus in Greek mythology, who was punished for his crimes by… …   English terms dictionary

  • tantalize — [tan′tə līz΄] vt. tantalized, tantalizing [< TANTALUS + IZE] to tease or disappoint by promising or showing something desirable and then withholding it tantalization n. tantalizer n …   English World dictionary

  • tantalize — UK [ˈtæntəlaɪz] / US [ˈtænt(ə)lˌaɪz] verb [transitive] Word forms tantalize : present tense I/you/we/they tantalize he/she/it tantalizes present participle tantalizing past tense tantalized past participle tantalized to make someone feel excited… …   English dictionary

  • tantalize — See tantalize, harass …   Dictionary of problem words and expressions

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