Word Of The Day 4-3-2017


tar·an·tism \ˈta-rən-ˌti-zəm\
Popularity: Bottom 20% of words


a mania characterized by an uncontrollable impulse to dance,especially as prevalent in southern Italy from the 15th to the 17th century, popularly attributed to the bite of the tarantula.


One of the best known of these diseases is ‘tarantism,’ or the frenzy produced by the bite of the Tarantula, Italy.  –Shakespeare and Music. Edward W. Naylor.

The tarantism so common in Italy from the fifteenth to the eighteenth century is another example of epidemic hysteria.   -Essays In Pastoral Medicine. Austin Malley

Historians would draw parallels between her recurring Voices and the ‘tarantism’ of the Middle Ages.  -Essays in Rebellion. Henry W. Nevinson

Did You Know?

Between the 15th and 17th centuries, Taranto, Italy, was hit by a dance craze unlike any other. The town was afflicted by a malady that would come to be known as tarantism and was characterized by a hysterical impulse to dance. Some people claimed tarantism was caused by the bite of the European wolf spider, which is also known as the tarantula (and is also named after Taranto); such folks declared that dancing off the venom was the only cure. Musicians supposedly traveled to the region to help cure the epidemic, and some believe that the Italian folk dance called the tarantella resulted from the craze (though it is also possible that the name of that dance derived independently from Taranto and has no connection with tarantism).


New Latin tarantismus, from Taranto, Italy

First Known Use: circa 1656


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