[ 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.

Nearby words

  1. taramea,
  2. taranaki,
  3. taranaki gate,
  4. taranaki wind,
  5. tarantass,
  6. tarantino,
  7. tarantism,
  8. taranto,
  9. tarantula,
  10. tarantula nebula

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. 2019

Examples from the Web for tarantella

British Dictionary definitions for tarantella


/ (ˌtærənˈtɛlə) /


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 for tarantella

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



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