Word of the Day

Friday, May 16, 2014


\TAR-uhn-tiz-uhm\ , noun;
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. Also, tarentism.
…I am afraid I shall have nothing more to say, than that the surprising cure of the bite of the Tarantula, by music, has not the least truth in it; and that it is only an invention of the people, who want to get a little money, by dancing when they say the tarantism begins.
-- Dominico Cirillo, "A Letter to Dr. William Watson, F. R. S. Giving Some Account of the Manna Tree, and of the Tarantula,” Philosophical Transactions, Vol. 60, 1770
The form of music and dance which is commonly perceived to be connected to the ritual of tarantism is the tarantella.
-- Jerri Daboo, Ritual, Rapture and Remorse, 2010
Tarantism comes from Taranto, the name of a seaport city in Italy where the spiders once thought to cause tarantism were frequently found. The tarantula spider is also named for this town.
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