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A tarantula (Brachypelma smithii)


Via Medieval Latin, from Old Italian tarantola, named after Taranto, a seaport in southern Italy; from Latin Tarentum, from Ancient Greek Τάρᾱς (Tárās, Tarās); compare Modern Greek: Τάραντας (Tárantas, Tarantas); Tarantino Tarde; ultimately from Illyrian *darandos (oak).[1]
First recorded in English in the mid-16th century: usage for the New World species may have been influenced by Spanish tarántula.


  • IPA(key): /təˈɹænt͡ʃələ/
  • (file)


tarantula (plural tarantulas or tarantulae)

  1. Any of the large, hairy New World spiders comprising the family Theraphosidae.
    • 1857, John Askew, A voyage to Australia and New Zealand, including a visit to Adelaide:
      Cockroaches, centipedes, tarantulas, scorpions, and mosquitoes are abundant in summer.
    • 1873 May 3, “The tarantula -- an interesting native of California”, in Friends' Intelligencer, volume 30, number 10:
      In the southern portions of the State we have met with specimens of brown tarantula weighing a full Troy ounce, but these were of unusual size. The wood tarantula is the largest of all, occasional specimens weighing an ounce and a half, inhabits dead wood, is very active on a warm day, is found of sunning himself, and is quite courageous, leaping on a large lizard, with a perfect recklessness of consequences.
  2. A species of wolf spider, Lycosa tarantula, native to southern Europe.
    • 1678, An Alphabetical Table of the Philosophical Transactions from March 6. 1665 to July 1677, T.:
      The story of the Tarantula's biting to be cured by peculiar Musick and Dancing, Examined in Calabria the proper place, and there suspected to be fabulous, n. 83, p. 4066
    • 1723, Giorgio Baglivi, “A Disseratation of the Anatomy, Bitings, and Other Effects of the venemous Spider, call'd, Tarantula”, in The Practice of Physick, page 314:
      A Tarantula is a venemous Spider, so call'd from Tarentum, an ancient City of Magna Gracia, upon the Ionian Sea. Those who are once bit by it, are never quite cur'd of the Venom; for it revives every Year, and occasions a long Series of Evils, which would be very annoying to the Patients, if they did not take due Care of their Health by Dancing and Balls.
    • 1837 February 18, “Hunting the Tarantula Spider”, in The Mirror, number 821:
      On May 7, 1812, during my stay at Valencia, in Spain, I took, without hurting him, a tarantula of tolerable size, which I imprisoned in a glass covered over with paper, in which I had made a square opening.
  3. A member of certain other groups of spiders, generally characterized by large size, hairiness, or membership with the Theraphosidae in infraorder Mygalomorphae.


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  1. ^ tarantula” in Unabridged,, LLC, 1995–present.