Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • adj. Greek Mythology Of or relating to Sisyphus.
  • adj. Endlessly laborious or futile: "Their patients' lack of education and the high cost of medicine make health care a Sisyphean task” ( Frank Gibney, Jr.)

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • adj. Incessant or incessantly recurring, but futile.
  • adj. Relating to Sisyphus.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • adj. Relating to Sisyphus; incessantly recurring.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • Relating or pertaining to Sisyphus, in Greek mythology, a king of Corinth, whose punishment in Tartarus for his crimes consisted in rolling a huge stone to the top of a hill, whence it constantly rolled down again, thus rendering his labor incessant; hence, recurring unceasingly: as, to engage in a Sisyphean task.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • adj. both extremely effortful and futile
  • adj. of or relating to Sisyphus

Etymologies

From Latin Sisyphēius, from Greek Sisupheios, from Sisuphos, Sisyphus.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Sisyphus, from Ancient Greek Σίσυφος (Sisuphos). Sisyphus was a Greek mythological figure who was doomed to endlessly roll a boulder up a hill in Hades. (Wiktionary)

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  • From m-w.com word of the day:
    In Greek mythology, Sisyphus was a king who annoyed the gods with his trickery. As a consequence, he was condemned for eternity to roll a huge rock up a long, steep hill in the underworld, only to watch it roll back down. The story of Sisyphus is often told in conjunction with that of Tantalus, who was condemned to stand beneath fruit-laden boughs, up to his chin in water. Whenever he bent his head to drink, the water receded, and whenever he reached for the fruit, the branches moved beyond his grasp. Thus to "tantalize" is to tease or torment by offering something desirable but keeping it out of reach -- and something "Sisyphean" (or "Sisyphian," pronounced \sih-SIFF-ee-un\) demands unending, thankless, and ultimately unsuccessful efforts.

    September 13, 2010