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tarantella

[tar-uh n-tel-uh]
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noun
  1. 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.
  2. 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 confusedtarantella tarantula
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for tarantella

Historical Examples

  • Was there not in the air the thin sound of a reed flute playing a tarantella?

    A Spirit in Prison

    Robert Hichens

  • The tarantella then was no more than an interlude in a play.

    The Prisoner

    Alice Brown

  • It wasn't the tarantella only that led him this long wandering.

    The Prisoner

    Alice Brown

  • Delarey seemed to him like a tarantella in repose, if such a thing could be.

    The Call of the Blood

    Robert Smythe Hichens

  • The tarantella—that was the dance of the soil here, the dance of the blood.

    The Call of the Blood

    Robert Smythe Hichens


British Dictionary definitions for tarantella

tarantella

noun
  1. a peasant dance from S Italy
  2. a piece of music composed for or in the rhythm of this dance, in fast six-eight time

Word Origin

C18: from Italian, from Taranto Taranto; 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

Word Origin and History for tarantella

n.

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