Sisyphean

adjective
Sis·​y·​phe·​an | \ ˌsi-sə-ˈfē-ən How to pronounce Sisyphean (audio) \
variants: or less commonly Sisyphian \ si-​ˈsi-​fē-​ən How to pronounce Sisyphean (audio) \

Definition of Sisyphean

: of, relating to, or suggestive of the labors of Sisyphus specifically : requiring continual and often ineffective effort a Sisyphean task

Did you know?

In Greek mythology, Sisyphus was a king who annoyed the gods with his trickery. As a consequence, he was condemned for eternity to roll a huge rock up a long, steep hill in the underworld, only to watch it roll back down. The story of Sisyphus is often told in conjunction with that of Tantalus, who was condemned to stand beneath fruit-laden boughs, up to his chin in water. Whenever he bent his head to drink, the water receded, and whenever he reached for the fruit, the branches moved beyond his grasp. Thus to tantalize is to tease or torment by offering something desirable but keeping it out of reach—and something Sisyphean (or Sisyphian, pronounced \sih-SIFF-ee-un\) demands unending, thankless, and ultimately unsuccessful efforts.

First Known Use of Sisyphean

1635, in the meaning defined above

Learn More About Sisyphean

Time Traveler for Sisyphean

Time Traveler

The first known use of Sisyphean was in 1635

See more words from the same year

Listen to Our Podcast About Sisyphean

Dictionary Entries Near Sisyphean

sisymbrium

Sisyphean

Sisyphus

See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for Sisyphean

Cite this Entry

“Sisyphean.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/Sisyphean. Accessed 12 Aug. 2022.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

WORD OF THE DAY

Test Your Vocabulary

The Great British Vocabulary Quiz

  • union jack speech bubble
  • Named after Sir Robert Peel, what are British police called?
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!