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Alternative forms[edit]


From Sisyphus, from Ancient Greek Σίσυφος (Sísuphos). Sisyphus was a Greek mythological figure who was doomed to endlessly roll a boulder up a hill in Hades, only to have it roll back down again.


  • enPR: sīs'əfēʹən, IPA(key): /ˌsɪsəˈfiːən/
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Sisyphean (not comparable)

  1. Incessant or incessantly recurring, but futile.
    Synonyms: like herding cats, like painting the Forth Bridge
    Sisyphean task
    Sisyphean labors
    • 1906, Mary Higgs, Glimpses into the Abyss[1]:
      Four bucketsful of water—one for each cell—seven for the long passage, two for lavatory and w.c.'s, brasses to clean, paint to dust. It seemed a Sisyphean task, no sooner ended than a new one was exacted.
    • 2013 August 10, “A new prescription”, in The Economist[2], volume 408, number 8848:
      As the world's drug habit shows, governments are failing in their quest to monitor every London window-box and Andean hillside for banned plants. But even that Sisyphean task looks easy next to the fight against synthetic drugs. No sooner has a drug been blacklisted than chemists adjust their recipe and start churning out a subtly different one.
    • 2022 March 8, Lauren Smiley, “‘I’m the Operator’: The Aftermath of a Self-Driving Tragedy”, in Wired[3]:
      But whoever does the policing, whether a supervisor or an operator, faces a Sisyphean battle against a well-documented phenomenon: something called automation complacency. When you automate any part of a task, the human overseer starts to trust that the machine has it handled and stops paying attention.
  2. (Greek mythology) Relating to Sisyphus.