Tantalus was a figure from Greek mythology who angered the gods because he killed his son and offered him as a sacrifice. To punish him, they cast him down into Tartarus, the deepest part of the underworld and made him stand in a pool of water below a fruit tree. Whenever he went to grab a fruit, it rose out of his reach, and whenever he tried to drink some water, it receded. This left him perpetually hungry and thirsty and constantly tempted with something unobtainable, which is where we get the verb tantalize from. I'm really proud of figuring this one out by myself - it was a random epiphany connecting my interests in mythology and etymology. Tantalus' name is thought to be from an actual person named Tantalus who lived in Anatolia, possibly deriving from some old Hittite kings' names.
Hello! I'm Adam Aleksic, a senior studying government and linguistics at Harvard University, where I co-founded the Harvard Undergraduate Linguistics Society. In addition to etymology, I also really enjoy trivia, politics, vexillology, geography, board games, conlanging, art history, and law.