or tar·ent·ism

[tar-uh n-tiz-uh m]


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.

Origin of tarantism

From the New Latin word tarantismus, dating back to 1630–40. See Taranto, -ism
Related formstar·ant·ist, noun
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for tarantism

Historical Examples of tarantism

  • The Tarantism so common in Italy from the fifteenth to the eighteenth century is another example of epidemic hysteria.

  • It is affecting people in much the same way as tarantism, or the dancing sickness, affected the Italians in the middle ages.

    In Pastures Green

    Peter McArthur

  • It was supposed to cause the disease known as Tarantism: the victim was seized with a mad desire to dance.

  • This form of "possession," then, passed out of the supernatural domain, and became known as "tarantism."

  • One of the best known of these diseases is 'Tarantism,' or the frenzy produced by the bite of the Tarantula, in Italy.

    Shakespeare and Music

    Edward W. Naylor

British Dictionary definitions for tarantism



a nervous disorder marked by uncontrollable bodily movement, widespread in S Italy during the 15th to 17th centuries: popularly thought to be caused by the bite of a tarantula

Word Origin for tarantism

C17: from New Latin tarantismus, from Taranto; see tarantula
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