tan·​ta·​lize ˈtan-tə-ˌlīz How to pronounce tantalize (audio)
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
tantalizer noun

Did you know?

Pity poor King Tantalus of Lydia. The mythic monarch offended the ancient Greek gods. As punishment, according to Homer's Odyssey, 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 moved to get them, they would retreat from his reach. Our word tantalize is taken from the name of the eternally tormented king.

Examples of tantalize in a Sentence

She was tantalized by the possibility of earning a lot of money quickly.
Recent Examples on the Web Instead of tantalizing drama or deep mysteries that take entire seasons to unravel, Seinfeld focused on the daily lives of a group of friends in Manhattan. Keith Langston, Peoplemag, 23 Nov. 2023 Over the past couple days, the Australian singer tantalized fans on social media, posting a clip of the video featuring a shirtless Ross Lynch (of Disney Channel fame) giving his best Abercrombie model impression, and close-ups of an unknown woman. Hannah Jackson, Vogue, 13 Oct. 2023 The alluring scents of citrus and chocolate mint, painstakingly prepared with only natural ingredients, will tantalize your senses. Amber Smith, Discover Magazine, 31 July 2023 The blank spaces on the map, those zones of myth and fable, were driven back by the return of travelers who now tantalized their former neighbors with tales of wonder, majesty and inspiration, alongside those of horror, atrocity and terror. Nicholas Morton, Smithsonian Magazine, 28 July 2023 Contrary to Wagner and her team’s conclusions, other experts say one of those interpretations remains the tantalizing possibility of SIDM, which may be interacting with itself below our current detection limits. Sharmila Kuthunur, Scientific American, 11 Oct. 2023 The beloved hot dog stand that tantalized taste buds with its sights and smells at many Home Depot stores in metro Detroit could be returning. Susan Selasky, Detroit Free Press, 1 Aug. 2023 Every chef, of course, has a similar dream: to create a counter-service concept tantalizing enough to capture the public’s imagination — and easy enough to replicate without a ton of oversight. Tim Carman, Washington Post, 9 Oct. 2023 The idea has tantalized urban planners and utopian dreamers for centuries. Conor Dougherty, New York Times, 1 Sep. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'tantalize.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History



First Known Use

1597, in the meaning defined at transitive sense

Time Traveler
The first known use of tantalize was in 1597


Dictionary Entries Near tantalize

Cite this Entry

“Tantalize.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/tantalize. Accessed 5 Dec. 2023.

Kids Definition


tan·​ta·​lize ˈtant-ᵊl-ˌīz How to pronounce tantalize (audio)
tantalized; tantalizing
: to tease or torment by or as if by presenting something desirable to the view but continually keeping it out of reach

from Greek Tantalus, name of a king in mythology

Word Origin
In Greek mythology, King Tantalus offended the gods, so they punished him in a truly terrible way. He was forced to stand in a lake whose water came up to his neck. But every time Tantalus became thirsty and bent over to drink, the water level dropped so that he could never reach it. Above his head were branches loaded with delicious fruits. Yet every time Tantalus reached up to take a fruit, the branches moved up out of reach, leaving him hungry. Thus, Tantalus was always in torment, and from his name comes the English word for tormenting or teasing someone in a similar way.
Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
Love words? Need even more definitions?

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