In various websites on the Internet, including http://www.joke-archives.com/dictionaries/dictionarywords.html, I've come across the phrase Arachnoleptic fit.

Apparently all the words in that set (Beelzebug, Bozone, etc.) are all made by either adding, removing, or replacing a letter from an already existing word or phrase. But I can't figure out the original phrase for Arachnoleptic fit which only changes one letter of the word.

I've tried Googling, and got lots of pages mentioning the word, but none explaining its origin.

  • I remember reading the word/explanation years ago in a little book called "Sniglets" by Rich Hall. Sniglets are the funny words that describe something that doesn't necessarily have another word that means that thing. I just Googled "Sniglets" and came up with this link: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sniglet. That may help you find the book or other material related to an arachnoleptic fit.
    – user90401
    Sep 5, 2014 at 0:16
  • I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it is asking about a non-standard usage. Aug 14, 2017 at 18:07

3 Answers 3


It looks just like a portemanteau of:

arachno[phobia] (spider) and
[epi]-leptic (falling).

I would guess the idea being that one behaves as one would during an epileptic episode, but now cause by a spider(web) - or probably, because of the fear of spiders that the web invokes.

  • I thought of this as well, but it doesn't follow the 1-letter-changed rule. Maybe it's an exception?
    – Hippo
    Jul 22, 2014 at 8:55
  • 4
    @Hippo Well, that rule is never mentioned as a rule, is it? You deduced that rule from the (quite random) set of word plays on that site, and like every good rule, you found the exception to prove it :)
    – oerkelens
    Jul 22, 2014 at 8:57
  • 1
    @Hippo What made you think there was such a rule for inclusion in that list? One doesn't have to go very far down the list to find other examples of made-up portmanteau words, like "extraterrestaurant". In fact I'm not convinced that your "1-letter-changed" rule applies even to the majority of them.
    – Rupe
    Jul 22, 2014 at 10:18
  • @Rupe Well, maybe it wasn't that particular list; sorry, I should have checked before posting it. But the phrase did appear in a worksheet my friend got, and there (according to my friend) it clearly stated that all the words had been created by either adding, changing, or removing a letter.
    – Hippo
    Jul 22, 2014 at 10:51
  • 1
    @Hippo Fair enough. I see the link in your answer is a bit more consistent with regard to the rule than that in the question, but even there one also finds "caterpallor" which has two letter changes. So I think the answer is probably just that one shouldn't be trying too hard to work this out.
    – Rupe
    Jul 22, 2014 at 13:26

According to this page, the word was created as part of a competition by The Washinton Post, where people were asked to alter a word by changing only one letter from an already existing word or phrase.

Looking through the comments, however, I found Narcholeptic given as a (possible) source. The comment also said that the rules have changed, so probably the "n" was moved around as well as the extra "a" being added at the beginning.

Narcholepsy is apparently "A disorder characterized by sudden and uncontrollable, though often brief, attacks of deep sleep". Most websites spell it without the "h", though.


The word's spelling is probably a convergence to a problem you already know.

The word, I think, is unrelated to your spelling issues. Back when (way) when spiders were not uncommon in (Southern) Europe one could get bitten by a tarantula, an Arachnid. These are rarely fatal but always painful. When this happened the sufferer would perform the "Tarantella" or Arachnoleptic fit; a spontaneous dance reflecting the great pain being suffered. See: Jumping Up and Down.

Paganini was one composer who wrote music with the title Tarantella, probably with an actual dance in mind but the dance based on the bug bite.

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