tarantism /TAIR-ən-tiz-əm/. noun. A nervous disorder that causes uncontrollable bodily movement; an extreme, even uncontrollable, urge to dance. Derived from tarantula, whose bite was commonly thought to be the cause of the problem. From Latin Tarentum (a town in southern Italy), popularly associated with tarantola (tarantula). || See also: tarantella, a rapid whirling southern Italian dance.
“In Mediterranean countries, spiders are thought to be poisonous, and in Spain and southern Italy the memory of tarantism is still vivid. It was believed that a tarantula bite infected a person with a fatal disease, from which it was possible to recover only by dancing frantically.” (Primo Levi)
“Curvet and caracole are terms from horsemanship for complicated steps and turns. Perhaps Legrand’s type of erratic dance here alludes to tarantism…” (Benjamin Fisher)
“To cope with ‘tarantism,’ the name given to the disease that follows on the bite of the Italian Spider, you must have recourse to music, the only efficacious remedy…” (J. Henry Fabre)
“What could account so entirely for his ways and actions as that strange poisoning which produces the state they call Tarantism?” (Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.)
“She may sing and cajole herself into hoarseness, she may smile and gesticulate herself into a mild sort of tarantism, or freeze herself at one end of the table into a statue of Suppressed Reproach…” (Kate Douglas Wiggin)
“Dr. H. Chomet, who diligently investigated the matter, never succeeded in finding a case of tarantism…” (Robert Means Lawrence)