- a rapid, whirling southern Italian dance in very quick sextuple, originally quadruple, meter, usually performed by a single couple, and formerly supposed to be a remedy for tarantism.
- a piece of music either for the dance or in its rhythm.
- a peasant dance from S Italy
- a piece of music composed for or in the rhythm of this dance, in fast six-eight time
n.1782, “peasant dance popular in Italy,” originally “hysterical malady characterized by extreme impulse to dance” (1630s), epidemic in Apulia and adjacent parts of southern Italy 15c.-17c., popularly attributed to (or believed to be a cure for) the bite of the tarantula. This is likely folk-etymology, however, and the dance is from Taranto, the name of a city in southern Italy (see tarantula). Used from 1833 to mean the style of music that accompanies this dance, usually in 6/8 time, with whirling triplets and abrupt major-minor modulations.