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

  • transitive verb To excite by exposing something desirable that remains or is made difficult or impossible to obtain.
  • transitive verb To be strongly attractive to; excite the senses or desire of.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • To tease or torment by presenting something desirable to the view, and frustrating expectation by keeping it out of reach; excite expectations or hopes or fears in (a person) which will not be realized; tease; torment; vex. Also spelled tantalise.

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

  • transitive verb To tease or torment by presenting some good to the view and exciting desire, but continually frustrating the expectations by keeping that good out of reach; to tease; to torment.

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

  • verb transitive to tease (someone) by offering something desirable but keeping it out of reach
  • verb transitive to bait (someone) by showing something desirable but leaving them unsatisfied

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

  • verb harass with persistent criticism or carping


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

[From Latin Tantalus, Tantalus; see Tantalus.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Tantalus (Τάνταλος) in Greek mythology, who was condemned to Tartarus in the underworld. There, he had to stand for eternity in water that receded from him when he stooped to drink, beneath fruit trees whose branches were always out of reach.


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  • rolig, why is this on your surprisingly eponymous list?

    February 4, 2009

  • Click the little "OE" icon above and be enlightened!

    February 4, 2009

  • The short yet circuitous answer is: because some people are surprised to learn that this is an eponym.

    The word comes from the Greek myth about Tantalus, whom the gods punished by tantalizing him for all eternity.

    February 4, 2009

  • Also see anonyponymous.

    November 18, 2009

  • Oroboros, for anyone who loves etymology and morphology, that word is like fingernails on a blackboard. What is -nypo- supposed to mean?

    November 18, 2009