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[tar-uh n-tel-uh] /ˌtær ənˈtɛl ə/
a rapid, whirling southern Italian dance in very quick sextuple, originally quadruple, meter, usually performed by a single couple, and formerly supposed to be a remedy for tarantism.
a piece of music either for the dance or in its rhythm.
Origin of tarantella
1775-85; < Italian, equivalent to Tarant(o) Taranto + -ella -elle
Can be confused
tarantella, tarantula. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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British Dictionary definitions for tarantella


a peasant dance from S Italy
a piece of music composed for or in the rhythm of this dance, in fast six-eight time
Word Origin
C18: from Italian, from TarantoTaranto; associated with tarantism
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for tarantella

1782, "peasant dance popular in Italy," originally "hysterical malady characterized by extreme impulse to dance" (1630s), epidemic in Apulia and adjacent parts of southern Italy 15c.-17c., popularly attributed to (or believed to be a cure for) the bite of the tarantula. This is likely folk-etymology, however, and the dance is from Taranto, the name of a city in southern Italy (see tarantula). Used from 1833 to mean the style of music that accompanies this dance, usually in 6/8 time, with whirling triplets and abrupt major-minor modulations.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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