Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • adjective Of or relating to Sisyphus.
  • adjective Endlessly laborious or futile.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • 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 the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • adjective Relating to Sisyphus; incessantly recurring.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

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

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

  • adjective both extremely effortful and futile
  • adjective of or relating to Sisyphus

Etymologies

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

[From Latin Sisyphēius, from Greek Sisupheios, from Sisuphos, Sisyphus.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

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.

Examples

  • Today, the word Sisyphean is used to describe a labor without goal, purpose, or reward.

    Babes with a Beatitude

  • Editorial Anonymous: On the Effort Meter, This Manuscript Is Reading 'Sisyphean'

    On the Effort Meter, This Manuscript Is Reading 'Sisyphean'

  • On the Effort Meter, This Manuscript Is Reading 'Sisyphean'

    Archive 2010-02-01

  • On the Effort Meter, This Manuscript Is Reading 'Sisyphean'

    On the Effort Meter, This Manuscript Is Reading 'Sisyphean'

  • After many years of this Sisyphean activity, I was accostedlast month (in my post-Christmas clear out mode) in the Princess Alice Hospice shop in Kingston, when dropping off a bag of (what I thought to be) a rather saleable suit, some books, a pair of shoes and some outgrown children's cardigans.

    Princess Alice Hospice

  • After many years of this Sisyphean activity, I was accostedlast month (in my post-Christmas clear out mode) in the Princess Alice Hospice shop in Kingston, when dropping off a bag of (what I thought to be) a rather saleable suit, some books, a pair of shoes and some outgrown children's cardigans.

    February 2009

  • Substituting Herculean for Sisyphean will result in the correct Grecian adjective.

    Matthew Yglesias » Centrally Planned Suburbia

  • After many years of this Sisyphean activity, I was accostedlast month (in my post-Christmas clear out mode) in the Princess Alice Hospice shop in Kingston, when dropping off a bag of (what I thought to be) a rather saleable suit, some books, a pair of shoes and some outgrown children's cardigans.

    Princess Alice Hospice

  • No, it would be a Sisyphean task only if the bricks reassembled themselves into the shape of a garage after they were taken down ….

    Matthew Yglesias » Centrally Planned Suburbia

  • No, it would be a Sisyphean task only if the bricks reassembled themselves into the shape of a garage after they were taken down ….

    Matthew Yglesias » Centrally Planned Suburbia

Comments

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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