noun, plural ta·ran·tu·las, ta·ran·tu·lae [tuh-ran-chuh-lee] /təˈræn tʃəˌli/.

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 confusedtarantella tarantula
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Related Words for tarantula

tick, mite, scorpion, harvestman

Examples from the Web for tarantula

Historical Examples of tarantula

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

    Good Indian

    B. M. Bower

  • It didn't take me long to find that my mine was the 'Tarantula.'

    The Vagrant Duke

    George Gibbs

  • Two hours later they were again on the Tarantula making for Hobart.

  • There were many scorpions and centipedes, with once in a while a tarantula.

    The Forbidden Trail

    Honor Willsie

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

    Russian Fairy Tales

    W. R. S. Ralston

British Dictionary definitions for tarantula


noun plural -las or -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 for tarantula

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

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

tarantula in Medicine



n. pl. ta•ran•tu•las

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.