Definition of tarantism in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈtar(ə)nˌtɪz(ə)m/


[mass noun]
A psychological illness characterized by an extreme impulse to dance, prevalent in southern Italy from the 15th to the 17th century, and widely believed at the time to be caused by the bite of a tarantula.
Example sentences
  • From the 17th century to the 20th there was apparently great communal tarantism, in which whole towns would suddenly give themselves over to wild dancing, and the musicians had a profitable time.
  • His study of tarantism, for instance, ignored traditional academic boundaries, making use of a team of scholars - a psychologist, a musicologist, a sociologist - with himself in the guiding position as historian-ethnologist.
  • In many families naming tarantism was taboo, reflecting this ambiguity between condemnation and belief.


Mid 17th century: from Italian tarantismo, from the name of the seaport Taranto, after which the tarantula is also named. Compare with tarantella.

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: tar¦ant|ism

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