Definitions

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

  • n. Greek Mythology A king who for his crimes was condemned in Hades to stand in water that receded when he tried to drink, and with fruit hanging above him that receded when he reached for it.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • proper n. Mycteria, the genus of certain storks.
  • proper n. A Phrygian king who was condemned to remain in Tartarus, chin deep in water, with fruit-laden branches hanging above his head; whenever he tried to drink or eat, the water and fruit receded out of reach.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. A Phrygian king who was punished in the lower world by being placed in the midst of a lake whose waters reached to his chin but receded whenever he attempted to allay his thirst, while over his head hung branches laden with choice fruit which likewise receded whenever he stretched out his hand to grasp them.
  • n. A genus of wading birds comprising the wood ibises.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. [lowercase] A case containing decanters. It is locked so that the decanters are in plain sight, yet the contents cannot be removed without the owner's key.
  • n. The leading genus of Tantalinæ, now generally separated into two.

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

  • n. (Greek mythology) a wicked king and son of Zeus; condemned in Hades to stand in water that receded when he tried to drink and beneath fruit that receded when he reached for it

Etymologies

Latin, from Greek Tantalos; see telə- in Indo-European roots.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)

Examples

  • The name Tantalus, if slightly changed, offers two etymologies; either apo tes tou lithou talanteias, or apo tou talantaton einai, signifying at once the hanging of the stone over his head in the world below, and the misery which he brought upon his country.

    Cratylus

  • She, like Tantalus, is placed in a situation where the intellectual blessing she sighs for is within her view; but she is not permitted to attain it: she is conscious of possessing equally strong mental powers; but she is obliged to yield, as the weaker creature.

    Letter to the Women of England, on the Injustice of Mental Subordination

  • Among the myriad objects mounted in his Brooklyn loft is a kinetic artwork by his younger brother, Chris, called "Tantalus Mackerel."

    The Vixen Diaries

  • Did you ever hear the story of an ancient gentleman called Tantalus?

    Lysbeth, a Tale of the Dutch

  • Staneholme, or to take the fee for the dowager lands of Eweford, and dwell in state in the centre of the stone and lime, and reek, and lords and ladies of Edinburgh; in part because I can hold out no longer, nor bide another day in Tantalus, which is the book name for an ill place of fruitless longing and blighted hope.

    Girlhood and Womanhood The Story of some Fortunes and Misfortunes

  • The thirst of Tantalus, which is eternal and unquenchable -- the pain of Tityus, upon whose liver the vulture forever preys -- were here realized upon a gigantic scale.

    Cause and contrast : an essay on the American crisis,

  • Might it be, perhaps, that sepia drawing -- above the 'Tantalus' on the oak sideboard at the far end -- of a woman's face gazing out into the room?

    Complete Project Gutenberg John Galsworthy Works

  • That universe’s Kirk had come back, found the secret of his great weapon—an alien device called the Tantalus Field, useful for making people vanish abruptly—had been compromised; in fact, given to Spock.

    Dark Mirror

  • Also, as time went by, there arose a mountain house on Tantalus, to which the family could flee when the "sick wind" blew from the south.

    Chun Ah Chun

  • Hosts of guests had known the comfort and joy of her mountain house on Tantalus, and of her volcano house, her mauka (mountainward) house, and her makai (seaward) house on the big island of Hawaii.

    ON THE MAKALOA MAT

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  • "n. |lowercase| A case containing decanters. It is locked so that the decanters are in plain sight, yet the contents cannot be removed without the owner's key."
    --Cent. Dict.

    October 16, 2012

  • He abused the divine favour by revealing to mankind the secrets he had learned in heaven (Diod. Sic. iv. 74), or by killing his son Pelops (q.v.). and serving him up to the gods at table, in order to test their powers of observation (Ovid, Metam. vi. 401). Another story was that he stole nectar and ambrosia from heaven and gave them to men (Pindar, 01. i. 60). According to others, Pandareus stole a golden dog which guarded the temple of Zeus in Crete, and gave it to Tantalus to take care of. But, when Pandareus demanded the dog back, Tantalus denied that he had received it. Therefore Zeus turned Pandareus into a stone,. and flung down Tantalus with Mount Sipylus on the top of him (Antoninus Liberalis, 36). 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.

    February 21, 2012