Word of the Day

: September 15, 2020


adjective sis-uh-FEE-un

What It Means

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

Sisyphean in Context

"I felt stuck in a Sisyphean loop, writing the same press release over and over. Even more, I was tired of promoting other people's creations instead of creating something myself." — Helene Wecker, The Golem and the Jinni, 2013

"In Beirut, balconies are the only spaces in public view that residents can ... make theirs. Furniture is displayed; a birdcage is suspended; plants are meticulously arranged and watered—and everything is kept clean, in a Sisyphean battle against the dust." — Bernardo Zacka, The New York Times, 9 May 2020

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.

Test Your Vocabulary

What adjective based on the name of a mythical Greek hero, beginning with "H," describes things that are very large, difficult, or powerful?



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