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  1. having or exhibiting something that provokes or arouses expectation, interest, or desire, especially that which remains unobtainable or beyond one's reach: a tantalizing taste of success.
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Origin of tantalizing

First recorded in 1650–60; tantalize + -ing2
Related formstan·ta·liz·ing·ly, adverbun·tan·ta·liz·ing, adjective
Can be confusedtantalizing titillating


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


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

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Examples from the Web for tantalizing

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • Academy: As tantalizing a problem as was ever bound in cloth.

    Cleo The Magnificent

    Louis Zangwill

  • His wife's fine indifference was tantalizing, also instructive.


    James Huneker

  • The voice was almost as familiar to him as was his own, and yet it persisted in tantalizing his memory.

  • I knew of nothing in the fishing game as tantalizing and despairing as this sight.

  • It had a familiar, tantalizing taste but he couldn't quite put a taste-finger on it.

    Acid Bath

    Vaseleos Garson

British Dictionary definitions for tantalizing



  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 tantalizing


mid-17c., present participle adjective from tantalize. Related: Tantalizingly.

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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