- any of numerous diurnal insects of the order Lepidoptera, characterized by clubbed antennae, a slender body, and large, broad, often conspicuously marked wings.
- a person who flits aimlessly from one interest or group to another: a social butterfly.
- butterflies, (used with a plural verb) Informal. a queasy feeling, as from nervousness, excitement, etc.
- a racing breaststroke, using a dolphin kick, in which the swimmer brings both arms out of the water in forward, circular motions.
- Carpentry. butterfly wedge.
- Sculpture. an X-shaped support attached to an armature.
- one of the swinging brackets of a butterfly table.
- Movies. a screen of scrim, gauze, or similar material, for diffusing light.
- Cookery. to slit open and spread apart to resemble the spread wings of a butterfly.
- Cookery. split open and spread apart to resemble a butterfly: butterfly shrimp; butterfly steak.
Origin of butterfly
Related Words for butterfliesjumpy, afraid, uncertain, concerned, suspicious, doubtful, uneasy, uptight, jittery, fearful, anxious, startled, panicky, unnerved, spooked, restless, fidgety, nervous, apprehensive, distressed
Examples from the Web for butterflies
Contemporary Examples of butterflies
It implies that GMOs are the opposite of butterflies and blades of grass.Whole Foods' Anti-GMO Swindle
September 15, 2014
It conjures up all sorts of nice mental pictures: waterfalls, butterflies, the slow return to spring after a long winter.Warning: “Natural Medicine” Is Often Code for “Pseudoscience”
April 3, 2014
Farrow smiles and butterflies flutter and stars shoot across the night sky.Do Not Defy Ronan Farrow’s Power Pout
February 25, 2014
Or that one time Mariah Carey rambled four minutes about butterflies and then blew glitter into the wind?Jennifer Lopez, Keith Urban, and Harry Connick Jr. Will Save ‘American Idol’
September 3, 2013
Judge Heidi Klum floated across stage as if carried by a fleet of butterflies.My Night at ‘America’s Got Talent’ With Mariann From Brooklyn
July 31, 2013
Historical Examples of butterflies
Suddenly the noise and motion cease, and the butterflies drop dead.The Uncommercial Traveller
All my sorrows were at once dispersed like a cloud of butterflies.My Double Life
The dew in the meadows and the pearls on the wings of butterflies began to glisten.The Great Hunger
I have frequently tried the experiment with flies and butterflies.
This was also the case in general with spiders, flies, and butterflies.
- informal tremors in the stomach region due to nervousness
- any diurnal insect of the order Lepidoptera that has a slender body with clubbed antennae and typically rests with the wings (which are often brightly coloured) closed over the backCompare moth Related adjective: lepidopteran
- a person who never settles with one group, interest, or occupation for long
- a swimming stroke in which the arms are plunged forward together in large circular movements
- commerce the simultaneous purchase and sale of traded call options, at different exercise prices or with different expiry dates, on a stock exchange or commodity market
Word Origin for butterfly
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]