The term "tarantella" is linked to the name of a spider, the tarantula, whose bite according to ancient beliefs triggered violent psychomotor crises. The typical movements of this folk dance in fact reproduce those attributed to the bite of this arachnid. The dance, usually accompanied by the sound of rattle tambourines, therefore served to bring out the tarantolate from the state of delirium in which it found itself.

The Lycosa tarentula, the spider present in the areas of Southern Italy in which this dance spread, is poisonous, but its bite, very painful due to the density of the poison, tends to be harmless, causing reactions similar to those of a sting wasp, more accentuated with the increase in the size of the bite, therefore with the quantity of poison inoculated. About 2.5 centimeters long, the tarantula does not build webs but captures its prey by chasing them.

The real "culprit" of the phenomenon of tarantolism is instead the Latrodectes tredecimguttatus, called malmignatta.

According to some the term "tarantella" could also derive from Taranto, the city where perhaps this type of dance was born.