• synonyms


verb (used with object), tan·ta·lized, tan·ta·liz·ing.
  1. to torment with, or as if with, the sight of something desired but out of reach; tease by arousing expectations that are repeatedly disappointed.
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Also especially British, tan·ta·lise.

Origin of tantalize

First recorded in 1590–1600; Tantal(us) + -ize
Related formstan·ta·li·za·tion, nountan·ta·liz·er, nounun·tan·ta·lized, adjective



Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for tantalise

Historical Examples

  • And why do you tantalise me by making me dream of an unattainable perfection?

    In Brief Authority

    F. Anstey

  • "You begin by being heavenly to people—and then you tantalise them."

    Regiment of Women

    Clemence Dane

  • They tantalise the fancy, but never reach the head nor touch the heart.


    William Hazlitt

  • Surely, that sweet strain was not intended to tantalise him.

    The Maroon

    Mayne Reid

  • You tantalise me to death with talking of conversations by the fireside.

British Dictionary definitions for tantalise



  1. (tr) to tease or make frustrated, as by tormenting with the sight of something greatly desired but inaccessible
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Derived Formstantalization or tantalisation, nountantalizer or tantaliser, nountantalizing or tantalising, adjectivetantalizingly or tantalisingly, adverb

Word Origin

C16: from the punishment of Tantalus
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for tantalise



1590s, from Latin Tantalus, from Greek Tantalos, king of Phrygia, son of Zeus, punished in the afterlife (for an offense variously given) by being made to stand in a river up to his chin, under branches laden with fruit, all of which withdrew from his reach whenever he tried to eat or drink. His story was known to Chaucer (c.1369).

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper