The Spanish fly (Lytta vesicatoria)


Late Middle English, from Latin cantharides, plural of cantharis.



cantharides (uncountable)

  1. Spanish fly, a vesicant extracted from the beetle Lytta vesicatoria (syn. Cantharis vesicatoria), popularly held to have aphrodisiac properties.
    • 1926, Hope Mirrlees, Lud-in-the-Mist, Ch.26:
      I can make the most subtle sauces yield up their secret—whether it be white arsenic, rosalgar, mercury sublimate, or cantharides.
    • 1964, Anthony Burgess, Nothing Like The Sun:
      Speaking her name, it was as if he spake pure cantharides. ‘Quick,’ she panted. ‘There is time before they are all about. Again.’
    • 1992, Will Self, Cock and Bull:
      It’s lucky that Carol had taken the precaution of obtaining some cantharides; without them the evening might have been a dead loss.
    • 2006, Thomas Pynchon, Against the Day, Vintage 2007, p. 612:
      Basically Louis's drug dealer and pimp, Richelieu, known for opium recipes to fit all occasions, is also credited with the introduction into France of the cantharides, or Spanish fly.




  1. nominative plural of cantharis
  2. accusative plural of cantharis
  3. vocative plural of cantharis