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[tuh-ran-chuh-luh] /təˈræn tʃə lə/
noun, plural tarantulas, tarantulae
[tuh-ran-chuh-lee] /təˈræn tʃəˌli/ (Show IPA)
any of several large, hairy spiders of the family Theraphosidae, as Aphonopelma chalcodes, of the southwestern U.S., having a painful but not highly venomous bite.
any of various related spiders.
a large wolf spider, Lycosa tarantula, of southern Europe, having a bite once thought to be the cause of tarantism.
Origin of tarantula
1555-65; < Medieval Latin < Italian tarantola. See Taranto, -ule
Can be confused
tarantella, tarantula. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for tarantula
Historical Examples
  • Shall not hunger, which brings the wolf from the wood, also bring the tarantula out of her hole?

    The Life of the Spider J. Henri Fabre
  • The young man leaped to his feet as if a tarantula had bitten him.

    Edmond Dants Edmund Flagg
  • Ha, that is the tarantula dance; Maestro Paolo foots it bravely!

    Zanoni Edward Bulwer Lytton
  • Good Indian shook off the touch as if it were a tarantula upon him.

    Good Indian B. M. Bower
  • The natives of the island hold the old tradition of the ancients, that one bitten by a tarantula will dance himself to death.

  • Mizgir, a venomous spider, like the tarantula, found in the Kirghiz Steppes.

    Russian Fairy Tales W. R. S. Ralston
  • I make a tarantula bite the leg of a young, well-fledged Sparrow, ready to leave the nest.

    Insect Adventures J. Henri Fabre
  • I write to tell you of my success with the tarantula in Young People No. 29.

  • I learn by inserting a straw that it is inhabited by a tarantula of a size suited to my plans.

    More Hunting Wasps J. Henri Fabre
  • "I will give you this tarantula, Bill," he said with an air of bestowing a great benefit.

    Battling the Clouds Captain Frank Cobb
British Dictionary definitions for tarantula


noun (pl) -las, -lae (-ˌliː)
any of various large hairy mostly tropical spiders of the American family Theraphosidae
a large hairy spider, Lycosa tarentula of S Europe, the bite of which was formerly thought to cause tarantism
Word Origin
C16: from Medieval Latin, from Old Italian tarantola, from Taranto
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 tarantula

1560s, "wolf spider," (Lycos tarantula), from Medieval Latin tarantula, from Italian tarantola, from Taranto "Taranto," seaport city in southern Italy in the region where the spiders are frequently found, from Latin Tarentum, from Greek Taras (genitive Tarantos; perhaps from Illyrian darandos "oak"). Its bite is only slightly poisonous. Popularly applied to other great hairy spiders, especially the genus Mygale, native to the warmer regions of the Americas (first so called in 1794).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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tarantula in Medicine

tarantula ta·ran·tu·la (tə-rān'chə-lə)
n. pl. ta·ran·tu·las or ta·ran·tu·lae (-lē')
Any of various large, hairy, chiefly tropical spiders of the family Theraphosidae, capable of inflicting a painful but not seriously poisonous bite.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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