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.

Example Sentences

She was tantalized by the possibility of earning a lot of money quickly.
Recent Examples on the Web The few details Feadship gave about the interior and exterior design are tantalizing, especially if the final product holds up to the superlatives. Michael Verdon, Robb Report, 24 Apr. 2023 Perhaps unsurprisingly, the star attraction at this year's event will be former President Donald Trump, who has made CPAC a regular annual stop for dropping tantalizing hints about his political future and airing his favorite grievances. Rafi Schwartz, The Week, 28 Feb. 2023 Not to mention the rich coffee flavor that will tantalize your taste buds without wreaking havoc on your macros. Amber Smith, Discover Magazine, 28 Feb. 2023 No detail failed to tantalize. Liz Mcdaniel, Vogue, 12 Feb. 2022 It’s also made of mint, which helps to revitalize the skin’s appearance (and tantalize your senses, too). Olivia Hanson, Peoplemag, 10 Feb. 2023 Its puzzles are tantalizing, its characters so deliciously complicated. Kelly Lawler, USA TODAY, 24 Mar. 2023 The color of a new penny under a foamy, off-white cap, this IPA tantalizes with mango, pineapple, lime and tangerine notes courtesy of Motueka, Nectaron and Nelson Sauvin hops. Peter Rowe, San Diego Union-Tribune, 17 Mar. 2023 Jamie Lee Curtis hints that ‘Freaky Friday 2’ is really happening After tantalizing fans with sequel hints, Curtis is now saying a follow-up to the beloved 2003 film is in the works. Alexandra Meeks, CNN, 28 Feb. 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 8 Jun. 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.
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