verb tan·ta·lize \ ˈtan-tə-ˌlīz \
Updated on: 22 Jan 2018

Definition of tantalize

tantalized; tantalizing
transitive verb
: to tease or torment by or as if by presenting something desirable to the view but continually keeping it out of reach
intransitive verb
: to cause one to be tantalized



tantalize was our Word of the Day on 04/06/2010. Hear the podcast!

Examples of tantalize in a Sentence

  1. She was tantalized by the possibility of earning a lot of money quickly.

Recent Examples of tantalize from the Web

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'tantalize.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

Did You Know?

Pity poor King Tantalus of Phrygia. The mythic monarch offended the ancient Greek gods. As punishment, he was plunged up to his chin in water in Hades, where he had to stand beneath overhanging boughs of a tree heavily laden with ripe, juicy fruit. But though he was always hungry and thirsty, Tantalus could neither drink the water nor eat the fruit. Anytime he reached for them, they would retreat from him. Our word tantalize is taken from the name of the eternally tormented king.

Origin and Etymology of tantalize


TANTALIZE Defined for English Language Learners



Definition of tantalize for English Language Learners

  • : to cause (someone) to feel interest or excitement about something that is very attractive, appealing, etc.

TANTALIZE Defined for Kids


verb tan·ta·lize \ ˈtan-tə-ˌlīz \

Definition of tantalize for Students

tantalized; tantalizing
: to tease or excite by or as if by showing, mentioning, or offering something desirable but keeping it out of reach
  • Annemarie always tried … to build up the suspense and tantalize her sister.
  • —Lois Lowry, Number the Stars

History for tantalize

There was once, so Greek mythology tells us, a king named Tantalus who was not a good man. He murdered his own son and served him as food to the gods. For this the king was punished by being made to stand underneath a fruit tree in water up to his chin. If he bent his head to drink, the water got lower and he could not reach it. If he lifted his head to bite into a fruit, the bough went higher and he could not reach it. He was made miserable by food and drink kept just out of reach. The word tantalize comes from the name of this mythical king.

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easily led, taught, or controlled

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