Tantalus is a verb which means to cause someone to feel interest or excitement about something that is very appealing. In the transitive verb form, it means to tease or torment by or as if by presenting something desirable to the view but continually keeping it out of reach. Example: He was tantalized by the promise of hitting a jackpot on buying the lottery tickets.
This word was first used in 1597 among the speakers of English. Etylmologically, this word was coined after Tantalus, a Greek mythological character. According to the Greek mythology, he was made to stand in a pool of water beneath a fruit tree with low-hanging branches bearing lot of fruits as punishment by the gods. When he tried to pluck the fruits, the tree branches went up eluding his grasp on the fruits. Whenever he tried to drink water, the water level beneath his legs receded and therefore he could not drink water and quench his thirst.
Tantalus was also called Atys and he was the son of Zeus and the nymph Pluoto.
According to the mythology, Tantalus stole ambrosia , gods’ drink and gave it to his people. That is why he was punished by the gods to stand beneath the tree and starve. As atonement, he offered his son Pelops and sacrificed him to the gods.
The Oxford English Dictionary defines the word tantalus as something attractive or desirable but out of reach. The element 73 has been named tantalum after Tantalus.