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Definition: A disorder characterized by an uncontrollable urge to dance. (‘Til death, too, I assume.)

Pronunciation: Tare-ant-TIZ-um


From the New Latin term “tarantismus”, and from the name Taranto, a town in southern Italy.

Why this word?

I’m not an incredibly athletic person; I never have been. But I am quite active (there is a difference).

When I was a teenager, I used to try and go running for exercise, but I could never do it for very long without expensive training shoes that came with a lot of padding, and then only every other handful of days (lest my shins and feet leave me immobile for the next week). The arches in my feet are flat and ridiculous. I liked running; I liked getting up and moving around, but the persistent beating of the ground on my feet and slamming all of my weight down into my awful arches just was not working.

Dancing, however– Now, dancing is something I can definitely do. I discovered that I got more of an all-over workout as well as stretching when I danced compared to running a mile or two.

Now, it’s become my routine to turn on music and dance for an hour without stopping. I might slow down and breathe, but I don’t quit moving. Someone might walk in and ask me a question, but I’ll answer them while still dancing. The apartment compound I live on has a gym, but shaking my butt like the queen of disco fits my needs so much better.

I guess that’s my version of tarantism.

How do you use this word in a sentence?

Example: “The fever burned through the colony within days, leaving almost everyone moaning and sweating deliriously in their beds; unable to tell dream from reality. But then, a terrifying new symptom reared its head– Dancing. It was a mindless, driving tarantism that plucked each infected out of their homes, one by one, and dragged them into the streets into a writhing, shimmying mob.

“And they couldn’t be stopped, either: If some poor, terrified person tackled their dancing relative to the ground to try and keep them from moving, the newly horizontal would just jostle around against the earth until left alone, after which the infected would climb back to their feet and groove back to the crowd.

“Not a note of music was required for them to keep dancing. (They discovered this after the mayor had plugged the public sound system into one of the colonist’s music library, but the off-rhythm, awkward jerking of the fevered looked too weird with ordered sound playing in the background.)

“The only things that were different between the fever dancers and a riot were the absence of screams– unless the screamers had been some of the first to start jiving; after the first day, about half of the crowd were moaning in ragged exhaustion –and the absence of broken debris. The only things that broke during those strange tarantic days were toes of the fever dancers, some noses of those who tried to stop them, and a few windows– done when some especially large dancers started boogieing too hard while leaving their homes.”


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Written by Veronica Jacobs

Veronica Jacobs is a fiction writer, blogger, academic editor, and sci-fi enthusiast. Currently working freelance (with a background in English Literature), she spends most of her time writing.


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