Definition of tarantism
: a dancing mania or malady of late medieval Europe
tarantism was our Word of the Day on 03/30/2008. Hear the podcast!
Theme music by Joshua Stamper ©2006 New Jerusalem Music/ASCAP
Did You Know?
Between the 15th and 17th centuries, Taranto, Italy, was hit by a dance craze unlike any other. The town was afflicted by a malady that would come to be known as tarantism and was characterized by a hysterical impulse to dance. Some people claimed tarantism was caused by the bite of the European wolf spider, which is also known as the tarantula (and is also named after Taranto); such folks declared that dancing off the venom was the only cure. Musicians supposedly traveled to the region to help cure the epidemic, and some believe that the Italian folk dance called the tarantella resulted from the craze (though it is also possible that the name of that dance derived independently from Taranto and has no connection with tarantism).
Origin and Etymology of tarantism
New Latin tarantismus, from Taranto, Italy
First Known Use: circa 1656See Words from the same year
Seen and Heard
What made you want to look up tarantism? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).