noun, plural tarantulas, tarantulae [tuh-ran-chuh-lee] .
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.

1555–65; < Medieval Latin < Italian tarantola. See Taranto, -ule

tarantella, tarantula.
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World English Dictionary
tarantula (təˈræntjʊlə)
n , pl -las, -lae
1.  any of various large hairy mostly tropical spiders of the American family Theraphosidae
2.  a large hairy spider, Lycosa tarentula of S Europe, the bite of which was formerly thought to cause tarantism
[C16: from Medieval Latin, from Old Italian tarantola, from Taranto]

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Word Origin & History

1561, "wolf spider," (Lycos tarantula), from M.L. tarantula, from It. tarantola, from Taranto "Taranto," seaport city in southern Italy in the region where the spiders are frequently found, from L. Tarentum, from Gk. Taras (gen. 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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American Heritage
Medical Dictionary

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
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Example sentences
Visitors can have their picture taken with a tarantula or a snake.
That's the scale of army ant operations when they're attacking a tarantula or scorpion.
It is full of stuffed and mounted animals ranging from a tarantula to a mountain goat.
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