Definition of tarantula in English:

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Pronunciation: /təˈrantjʊlə/


Image of tarantula
1A very large hairy spider found chiefly in tropical and subtropical America, some kinds of which are able to catch small lizards, frogs, and birds. Also called bird-eating spider.
  • Family Theraphosidae, suborder Mygalomorphae.
Example sentences
  • The children were given the chance to handle giant snails, snake, frogs, tarantulas, scorpions, millipedes and cockroaches.
  • An evolutionary biologist at East Carolina University in Greenville, North Carolina, specializes in trapdoor and funnel-web spiders, and tarantulas.
  • These hot and dry rocky slopes support scorpions, tarantulas, collared lizards, pygmy rattlesnakes, roadrunners, and prickly pear cacti.
2A large black wolf spider of southern Europe, whose bite was formerly believed to cause tarantism.
  • Lycosa tarentula, family Lycosidae.
Example sentences
  • By means of dancing and sweating, those bitten by tarantulas endeavor to expel the infected vapors.
  • Tarantism, that is, the disease resulting from having been bitten by a tarantula, was well known in southern Europe, and references to it permeated medical literature, music, and folklore for 500 years or more.


Mid 16th century: from medieval Latin, from Old Italian tarantola 'tarantula', from the name of the seaport Taranto. Compare with tarantella and tarantism.

  • The Italian seaport of Taranto gave its name to the tarantula, a large black spider found in southern Europe. Its bite was formerly thought to cause tarantism, a psychological illness marked by an extreme impulse to dance, which affected many people in Italy from the 15th to the 17th century. The rapid whirling tarantella (late 18th century) dance gets its name from the same source, as it was believed to be a cure for tarantism, with people dancing the tarantella until exhausted.

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: tar¦an|tula

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