A butterfly on some flowers.
An example of a butterfly is the monarch.
- any of various families of lepidopteran insects active in the daytime, having a sucking mouthpart, slender body, ropelike, knobbed antennae, and four broad, usually brightly colored, membranous wings
- a person, esp. a woman, thought of as flitting about like a butterfly and being frivolous, fickle, etc.
- butterfly stroke
- a contest in which each contestant uses a butterfly stroke
- [pl.] an uneasy feeling, as in the abdomen, caused esp. by nervous anticipationalso butterflies in one's stomach
Origin of butterflyMiddle English buterflie from Old English buttorfleoge (see butter and fly): in folklore, it is thought to steal milk or butter
transitive verb-·flied·, -·fly·ing
Origin of butterflyfrom the resemblance of the cut and flattened piece to the outline of the insect
- Any of numerous insects of the order Lepidoptera, having four broad, usually colorful wings, and generally distinguished from the moths by having a slender body and knobbed antennae and being active during the day.
- A person interested principally in frivolous pleasure: a social butterfly.
- Sports a. A swimming stroke in which a swimmer lying face down draws both arms upward out of the water, thrusts them forward, and draws them back under the water in an hourglass design while performing a dolphin kick.b. A race or a leg of a race in which this stroke is swum.
- butterflies A feeling of unease or mild nausea caused especially by fearful anticipation.
transitive verbbut·ter·flied, but·ter·fly·ing, but·ter·flies
Origin of butterflyMiddle English butterflye from Old English butorflēoge butor, butere butter ; see butter . flēoge fly ; see fly 2.
- A flying insect of the order Lepidoptera, distinguished from moths by their diurnal activity and generally brighter colouring. [from 11th c.]
- (now rare) Someone seen as being unserious and (originally) dressed gaudily; someone flighty and unreliable. [from 17th c.]
- The butterfly stroke. [from 20th c.]
- A use of surgical tape, cut into thin strips and placed across an open wound to hold it closed.
- butterfly tape
(third-person singular simple present butterflies, present participle butterflying, simple past and past participle butterflied)
- To cut 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.
- To cut strips of surgical tape or plasters into thin strips, and place across a gaping wound to close it.
Middle English buterflie, butturflye, boterflye, from Old English butorflēoge, buttorflēoge, buterflēoge, perhaps a compound of butor- 'beater', mutation of bēatan 'to beat', and flēoge 'fly'. More at beat and fly.
Alternate etymology connects the first element to butere (“butter”), as the name may have originally been applied solely to butterflies of a yellowish color. This may have merged later with the belief that butterflies ate milk and butter (compare Middle High German molkendiep (“butterfly”, literally “milk-thief”); Modern German Molkendieb and Low German Botterlicker (“butterfly”, literally “butter-licker”)), or that they excreted a butter-like substance (compare Middle Dutch boterschijte (“butterfly”, literally “butter-shitter”)). Compare also Middle Dutch botervliege (“butterfly”) (Dutch botervlieg), German Butterfliege (“butterfly”). More at butter, fly.