From Middle English buterflie, butturflye, boterflye, from Old English buterflēoge, equivalent to butter + fly. Cognate with Dutch botervlieg, German Butterfliege (“butterfly”). The name may have originally been applied to butterflies of a yellowish color, and/or reflected a belief that butterflies ate milk and butter (compare German Molkendieb (“butterfly”, literally “whey thief”) and Low German Botterlicker (“butterfly”, literally “butter-licker”)), or that they excreted a butter-like substance (compare Dutch boterschijte (“butterfly”, literally “butter-shitter”)). Compare also German Schmetterling from Schmetten (“cream”), German Low German Bottervögel (“butterfly”, literally “butter-fowl”). More at butter, fly.
An alternate theory suggests that the first element may have originally been butor- (“beater”), a mutation of bēatan (“to beat”).
Superseded non-native Middle English papilion (“butterfly”) borrowed from Old French papillon (“butterfly”).
- IPA(key): /ˈbʌtə(ɹ)flaɪ/
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butterfly (plural butterflies)
- A flying insect of the order Lepidoptera, distinguished from moths by their diurnal activity and generally brighter colouring. [from 11th c.]
- 1936, D[avid] H[erbert] Lawrence, “[Autobiographical Fragment]”, in Edward D[avid] McDonald, editor, Phoenix: The Posthumous Papers of D. H. Lawrence, London: William Heinemann Ltd., →OCLC, page 836:
- It is true. I am like a butterfly, and I shall only live a little while.
- (medicine, attributive) A use of surgical tape, cut into thin strips and placed across an open wound to hold it closed.
- butterfly tape; butterfly bandage; butterfly strips
- (swimming) The butterfly stroke. [from 20th c.]
- Any of several plane curves that look like a butterfly; see Butterfly curve (transcendental) and Butterfly curve (algebraic).
- (in the plural) A sensation of excited anxiety felt in the stomach.
- I get terrible butterflies before an exam.
- (now rare) Someone seen as being unserious and (originally) dressed gaudily; someone flighty and unreliable. [from 17th c.]
- 1859, George Meredith, chapter 15, in The Ordeal of Richard Feverel. A History of Father and Son. […], volume (please specify |volume=I to III), London: Chapman and Hall, →OCLC:
- He was affable; therefore he was frivolous. The women liked him; therefore he was a butterfly.
- 1897, Henry James, What Maisie Knew:
- The day came indeed when her breathless auditors learnt from her in bewilderment that what ailed him was that he was, alas, simply not serious. Maisie wept on Mrs. Wix's bosom after hearing that Sir Claude was a butterfly […].
- (finance) A combination of four options of the same type at three strike prices giving limited profit and limited risk.
- (alternate history) A random change in an aspect of the timeline seemingly unrelated to the primary point of divergence, resulting from the butterfly effect.
- One potential butterfly could be JFK having another son the year after the POD instead of a daughter.
- (sports) A type of stretch in which one sits on the ground with the legs folded into a shape like that of a butterfly's wings, slightly rocking them up and down, resembling the wings fluttering.
- A person who changes partners frequently.
- 2022 December 9, Darren C, “Paying For Bar Girls, Sex in Pattaya”, in Pattaya Unlimited:
- What does it mean to be a butterfly in Pattaya? It means, just like a butterfly briefly visits many flowers, you will briefly visit many different girls.
- alfalfa butterfly
- alpine butterfly bend
- alpine butterfly knot
- break a butterfly on a wheel
- break a butterfly on the wheel
- break a butterfly upon a wheel
- break a butterfly upon the wheel
- brush-footed butterfly
- butterflies in one's stomach
- butterfly adder
- butterfly agave (Agave potatorum)
- butterfly ballot
- butterfly banners
- butterfly bat (Glauconycteris variegata)
- butterfly bend
- butterfly bomb
- butterfly bush (see buddleia or buddleja)
- butterfly cake
- butterfly chair
- butterfly child
- butterfly clam (Ellipsaria lineolata)
- butterfly clip
- butterfly cod (Pterois spp.)
- butterfly collector (see lepidopterist or lepidopterology)
- butterfly connector
- butterfly crab (Cryptolithodes typicus)
- butterfly dam
- butterfly damper
- butterfly door
- butterfly effect
- butterfly fish
- butterfly flower (see schizanthus)
- butterfly grip
- butterfly hinge
- butterfly keyboard
- butterfly kick
- butterfly kiss
- butterfly knife
- butterfly knot
- butterfly lily (Hedychium coronarium)
- butterfly milkweed
- butterfly mussel
- butterfly needle
- butterfly net
- butterfly nut (wing nut)
- butterfly orchid
- butterfly pea
- butterfly plant (Carallia brachiata)
- butterfly position
- butterfly ray (Gymnuridae)
- butterfly roof
- butterfly screw
- butterfly shell
- butterfly sleeve
- butterfly stitch
- butterfly stroke (swimming)
- butterfly syringe
- butterfly table
- butterfly tulip
- butterfly upon a wheel
- butterfly valve
- butterfly watching
- butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa)
- butterfly window
- cabbage butterfly
- California dogface butterfly
- float like a butterfly
- gossamer-winged butterfly
- iron butterfly
- lime butterfly
- map butterfly
- monarch butterfly
- moth butterfly
- nettle tree butterfly
- paper kite butterfly
- peacock butterfly
- sea butterfly
- semicolon butterfly
- social butterfly
- spinal butterfly ray
- sulfur butterfly
- sulphur butterfly
- thistle butterfly
- Troilus butterfly
- The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout § Translations.
butterfly (third-person singular simple present butterflies, present participle butterflying, simple past and past participle butterflied)
- (transitive) To cut (food) almost entirely in half and spread the halves apart, in a shape suggesting the wings of a butterfly.
- butterflied shrimp
- Butterfly the chicken before you grill it.
- (transitive) To cut strips of surgical tape or plasters into thin strips, and place across (a gaping wound) to close it.
- 2006, Paul Garber, Newton's Force, page 256:
- After everyone had obeyed his commands, the lieutenant motioned for two medics that now appeared to enter the room and attend to Dr. Carter. They bandaged him up, butterflying some of the deeper gashes and gave him a couple of shots.
- (transitive, of the point of divergence of an alternate history scenario) To cause events after the point of divergence to not happen as they did in real history, and people conceived after the point of divergence to not exist in recognizable form, due to the random variations introduced by the butterfly effect.
- Pearl Harbor not happening would've butterflied Taylor Swift.
- ^ Donald A. Ringe, A Linguistic History of English: From Proto-Indo-European to Proto-Germanic (Oxford: Oxford, 2003), 232.
butterfly c (singular definite butterflyen, plural indefinite butterfly)