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See also: Tantalus



From Latin Tantalus, from Ancient Greek Τανταλος (Tantalos, Tantalus), a Phrygian king in Greek mythology who was condemned to stand in a pool of water which receded every time he tried to drink, and with overhanging branches of fruit which pulled back whenever he tried to eat.



tantalus (plural tantaluses)

  1. A stork of the genus Mycteria (formerly Tantalus), especially the American wood ibis, Mycteria americana.
  2. A stand in which to lock up drink decanters while keeping them visible.
    • 1904, Arthur Conan Doyle, The Adventure of Black Peter (Norton 2005, p.984)
      Yes, there was a tantalus containing brandy and whisky on the sea-chest.
    • 1920, Herman Cyril McNeile, Bulldog Drummond Chapter 1
      "A small boy, sir. Said I was to be sure and see you got it most particular." He unlocked a cupboard near the window and produced a tantalus. "Whisky, sir, or cocktail?"
    • 1960, John Betjeman, Summoned by Bells (John Murray 1960, p.10)
      And stockrooms heavy with the Tantalus/ on which the family fortune has been made
  3. Something of an evasive or retreating nature, something consistently out of reach; a tantalising thing.
    • 1953, Ian Fleming, Casino Royale (Penguin Classics 2004, p.149)
      Over all, there brooded the shadow of his injuries and the tantalus of their slow healing.

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