noun, plural Tan·ta·lus·es for 2.
- Classical Mythology. 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.
- (lowercase) Chiefly British. a stand or rack containing visible decanters, especially of wines or liquors, secured by a lock.
- British a case in which bottles may be locked with their contents tantalizingly visible
- Greek myth a king, the father of Pelops, punished in Hades for his misdeeds by having to stand in water that recedes when he tries to drink it and under fruit that moves away as he reaches for it
Greek Tantalos, king of Phrygia, perhaps literally “the Bearer” or “the Sufferer,” by dissimilation from *tal-talos, a reduplication of PIE root *tel-, *tol- “to bear, carry, support” (see extol). Cf. tantalize. A king in classical mythology who, as punishment for having offended the gods, was tortured with everlasting thirst and hunger in Hades. He stood up to his chin in water, but each time he bent to quench his thirst, the water receded. There were boughs heavy with fruit over his head, but each time he tried to pluck them, the wind blew them out of reach.