This website uses cookies to provide a rich user experience. Please consult our Cookie Policy to learn about what cookies this website uses, or to control the cookies you receive. You need do nothing if you are happy to receive cookies.
Look and Learn History Picture Library License images from £2.99

Tantalise: Curious Words

Posted in Interesting Words on Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Click on any image for details about licensing for commercial or personal use.

This edited article about the word ‘tantalise’ originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 922 published on 22 September 1979.

Is there anything quite as tantalising as walking past a fish and chip shop and smelling the aroma of freshly-fried fish? Especially when your pockets are empty – and your stomach is, too.

Tantalus, the Greek mythological character who gave us the English word “Tantalise” knew all about that feeling of wanting something that remains firmly out of reach. For betraying the secrets of the gods to ordinary men, he was sentenced to a terrible punishment in the underworld.

King Tantalus is punished by the Gods unable to reach the delicious fruits above him

King Tantalus is punished by the Gods unable to reach the delicious fruits above him

The gods’ verdict was that he should stand with water all around him, with branches festooned with luscious fruit dangling just above his head.

If he tried to drink the water, it receded; if he tried to eat the fruit, it withdrew from his grasp.

Tantalus’ awful fate was the origin of the word “tantalise”, which means to torment somebody by tempting them with something which they cannot have.

Click on a picture to find out more about licensing images for commercial or personal/educational use. We are also able to license textual material. Please contact us for details.

Leave a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.