Sisyphean (n.) - Over and over and over again.
Of or related to repetitive and fruitless tasks or labor, similar to the punishment of Sisyphus by Hades and Zeus.
Etymology & Vocabulary Building
Stories are not only a great way to remember words or anything in general, but they’re also a great way for words to be created. That’s exactly where this word Sisyphean came from, the Greek myth of Sisyphus. Now I’m not going to do the story of Sisyphus any justice in this video so if you’re interested I recommend doing more research and read the stories for yourself. Anyway, I'm going to give a brief overview of the story, and why I think this is a wonderful word that everyone needs to use more often.
Sisyphus was the first king of a city-state in Greece called Corinth. He was well known for his wit and cunning, and all his trouble started one day when he saw Zeus fly by in the form of a bird carrying a nymph. Moments later the river god who was the father of the nymph came bay and asked which way Zeus had gone. Sisyphus decided to make a deal. In exchange for the information about Zeus, the river god agreed to create a spring in the city.
Needless to say, Zeus was unhappy with this and requested that Thanatos, the god of death, go and capture Sisyphus and take him to the underworld. Special chains and shackles were made to capture Sisyphus. When Thanatos approached Sisyphus with these special shackles Sisyphus showed great interest in how they were constructed.
He asked Thanatos to, “Please show me these work?” and he managed to trick Thanatos into shackling himself. Sisyphus took the bound god of death and locked him in his dungeon. That’s how Sisyphus cheated death for the first time. With the god of death locked away no one could die anymore. As one would imagine this very much displeased Aries the god of war, who then rescued Thanatos.
This was only the first time Sisyphus cheated death. The gods weren’t happy at all, in spite of this Sisyphus ended up living a long full life. When he died one last time Zeus and the gods thought they had they finally had the upper hand.
This is where the definition of the word Sisyphean comes in.
As punishment for his deeds in life Sisyphus was tasked with rolling a large stone up a steep hill and when he would near the top the stone would slip from his grip and roll back down to the bottom where he would have to start again. Constantly rolling a boulder uphill for all of eternity.