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Definition of TANTALUS
: a legendary king of Lydia condemned to stand up to the chin in a pool of water in Hades and beneath fruit-laden boughs only to have the water or fruit recede at each attempt to drink or eat
not capitalized: a locked cellarette with contents visible but not obtainable without a key
Origin of TANTALUS
Latin, from Greek Tantalos
First Known Use: 14th century
In Greek mythology, the king of Sipylus (or Phrygia). An intimate friend of the gods, he was allowed to dine at their table until he offended them by repeating their secrets on earth. Another version of the myth held that he killed his son Pelops and served him to the gods. In the underworld he was placed up to his neck in water, which flowed away every time he tried to drink, just as the branches overhead swung out of reach whenever he tried to pick the fruit from them.