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2 definitions found
 for Tantalus
From The Collaborative International Dictionary of English v.0.48 :

  Tantalus \Tan"ta*lus\, n. [L., from Gr. Ta`ntalos.] (Gr. Myth.)
     1. A Phrygian king who was punished in the lower world by
        being placed in the midst of a lake whose waters reached
        to his chin but receded whenever he attempted to allay his
        thirst, while over his head hung branches laden with
        choice fruit which likewise receded whenever he stretched
        out his hand to grasp them.
        [1913 Webster]
     2. (Zool.) A genus of wading birds comprising the wood
        [1913 Webster]
     Tantalus's cup (Physics), a philosophical toy, consisting
        of a cup, within which is the figure of a man, and within
        the figure a siphon, the longer arm of which passes down
        through the bottom of the cup, and allows the escape of
        any liquid that may be poured in, when it reaches as high
        as the bend of the siphon, which is just below the level
        of the mouth of the figure in the cup.
        [1913 Webster]

From WordNet (r) 3.0 (2006) :

      n 1: (Greek mythology) a wicked king and son of Zeus; condemned
           in Hades to stand in water that receded when he tried to
           drink and beneath fruit that receded when he reached for it

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