Word for Wednesday: Tantalise

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Our Word for Wednesday theme for June is words that derive from Greek mythology. So far we’ve looked at the words atlas, chaos, mentor, and narcissist; our final word for June is tantalise.

If you tantalise someone, it means you torment or tease them with something they want but can’t get. 

Here is tantalise used in some example sentences:

  • The blue skies tantalised us, but it was still very cold outside. 
  • She held the treat just out of reach to tantalise the puppy before finally giving it to him.
  • We were tantalised by the computer in the shop window but we knew we couldn’t afford it.

The word gets its name from Tantalus who, as a punishment from the King of Gods Zeus, was made to stand in a pool of water beneath a low-branched, fruit-laden tree. 

Whenever Tantalus reached to bite the fruit, he found that it had been pulled just out of his reach, and whenever he bent to drink, the water receded so that he was unable to sip it. 

In some versions of the story, Tantalus was punished for sacrificing his son Pelops and offering him up in a banquet to the gods, while in other versions Tantalus was punished for denying that he knew about a stolen golden dog which had been given to him for safekeeping.

Tantalise has been used in English since the 1590s. 

29 Jun 2022
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