butterfly effect


a cumulatively large effect that a very small natural force may produce over a period of time.

Nearby words

  1. butterfly chair,
  2. butterfly closure,
  3. butterfly collar,
  4. butterfly damper,
  5. butterfly diagram,
  6. butterfly fish,
  7. butterfly flower,
  8. butterfly net,
  9. butterfly nut,
  10. butterfly orchid

Origin of butterfly effect

First recorded in 1980–85; so called from the notion that the fluttering of a butterfly's wings may set off currents that will grow into a large storm

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

British Dictionary definitions for butterfly effect

butterfly effect


the idea, used in chaos theory, that a very small difference in the initial state of a physical system can make a significant difference to the state at some later time

Word Origin for butterfly effect

C20: from the theory that a butterfly flapping its wings in one part of the world might ultimately cause a hurricane in another part of the world

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012