For the first time in 25 years, I actually had butterflies.
It conjures up all sorts of nice mental pictures: waterfalls, butterflies, the slow return to spring after a long winter.
Farrow smiles and butterflies flutter and stars shoot across the night sky.
Judge Heidi Klum floated across stage as if carried by a fleet of butterflies.
Pippa wore a hat embroidered with butterflies, by Madeleine Millinery, and a gold sequinned dress.
His art suggests a strong being, held captive by butterflies.
Everywhere the floors were stained with the crushed forms of butterflies.
Her bracelets and rings were also all designed in butterflies, in fact everything matched.
He has a thousand pinned down at home—beetles, butterflies, and so forth.
Brilliantly colored flowers are usually visited by butterflies, bees, and similar day-flying insects.
Old English buttorfleoge, evidently butter (n.) + fly (n.), but of obscure signification. Perhaps based on the old notion that the insects (or witches disguised as butterflies) consume butter or milk that is left uncovered. Or, less creatively, simply because the pale yellow color of many species' wings suggests the color of butter. Another theory connects it to the color of the insect's excrement, based on Dutch cognate boterschijte. An overview of words for "butterfly" in various languages can be found here. Also see papillon.
Applied to persons from c.1600, originally in reference to vain and gaudy attire; by 1806 in reference to transformation from early lowly state; in reference to flitting tendencies by 1873. The swimming stroke so called from 1936. Butterflies "light stomach spasms caused by anxiety" is from 1908.
The butterfly effect is a deceptively simple insight extracted from a complex modern field. As a low-profile assistant professor in MIT's department of meteorology in 1961, [Edward] Lorenz created an early computer program to simulate weather. One day he changed one of a dozen numbers representing atmospheric conditions, from .506127 to .506. That tiny alteration utterly transformed his long-term forecast, a point Lorenz amplified in his 1972 paper, "Predictability: Does the Flap of a Butterfly's Wings in Brazil Set Off a Tornado in Texas?" [Peter Dizikes, "The Meaning of the Butterfly," The Boston Globe, June 8, 2008]
Dull spasms in one's stomach, caused by anxiety and nervousness; flutters: I sure got butterflies thinking about it (1908+)