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

  • transitive v. To excite (another) by exposing something desirable while keeping it out of reach.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

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

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • transitive v. 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 The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

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

  • v. harass with persistent criticism or carping


From Latin Tantalus, Tantalus; see Tantalus.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
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. (Wiktionary)



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  • 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

  • Also see anonyponymous.

    November 18, 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

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

    February 4, 2009

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

    February 4, 2009