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See also: Tantalus



From Latin Tantalus, from Ancient Greek Τάνταλος (Tántalos, 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 stork, 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, chapter 1, in Bulldog Drummond:
      “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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