from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun 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.
  • noun A person interested principally in frivolous pleasure.
  • noun 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.
  • noun A race or a leg of a race in which this stroke is swum.
  • noun A feeling of unease or mild nausea caused especially by fearful anticipation.
  • transitive verb To cut and spread open and flat, as shrimp.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun A local name for a mussel, Plagiola securis, found in the Mississippi river: so called from the shape of the valves. The shell is used in the pearl-button industry.
  • noun The common English name of any diurnal lepidopterous insect; especially, one of the rhopalocerous Lepidoptera, corresponding to the old Linnean genus Papilio, called distinctively the butterflies. See Diurna, Rhopalocera, Lepidoptera, and Papilio.
  • noun Figuratively, a person whose attention is given up to a variety of trifles of any kind; one incapable of steady application; a showily dressed, vain, and giddy person.
  • noun A kind of flat made-up neck-tie.
  • noun An herb otherwise called ragwort. Kersey, 1708.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • noun (Zoöl.) A general name for the numerous species of diurnal Lepidoptera.
  • noun See under Asclepias.
  • noun (Zoöl.) the ocellated blenny (Blennius ocellaris) of Europe. See Blenny. The term is also applied to the flying gurnard.
  • noun (Zoöl.) a shell of the genus Voluta.
  • noun (Mech.) a kind of double clack valve, consisting of two semicircular clappers or wings hinged to a cross rib in the pump bucket. When open it somewhat resembles a butterfly in shape.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • noun A use of surgical tape, cut into thin strips and placed across an open wound to hold it closed.
  • verb To cut almost entirely in half and spread the halves apart, in a shape suggesting the wings of a butterfly.
  • verb To cut strips of surgical tape or plasters into thin strips, and place across a gaping wound to close it.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • noun diurnal insect typically having a slender body with knobbed antennae and broad colorful wings
  • verb talk or behave amorously, without serious intentions
  • noun a swimming stroke in which the arms are thrown forward together out of the water while the feet kick up and down
  • verb flutter like a butterfly
  • verb cut and spread open, as in preparation for cooking


from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

[Middle English butterflye, from Old English butorflēoge : butor, butere, butter; see butter + flēoge, fly; see fly.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

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.



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  • Flutter by sweet butterfly...

    February 3, 2007

  • The butterfly counts not months

    But moments.

    And has time enough.

    --R. Tagore

    March 9, 2007

  • WeirdNet strike: giving us the verb usage and including the word to be defined in the definition.

    November 30, 2007

  • Oh, it does that all over the darn place.

    November 30, 2007

  • Danish for "bow-tie".

    December 4, 2008

  • The Indonesian equivalent dasi kupu-kupu 'butterfly necktie' looks like a calque from somewhere.

    December 4, 2008

  • “Luongo employs the butterfly goaltending style, more fluid and nimble in the net.”

    The New York Times, Live Analysis: Canada Beats the U.S. for Gold Medal, February 28, 2010

    March 1, 2010

  • Kraft came up with Margerinefly, but it never flew.

    March 11, 2011

  • I can't believe it.

    March 12, 2011

  • See “Butterfly Etymology”, Matthew Rabuzzi's “butterfly collection” of a “large variety of distinct words for 'butterfly' in various Indo-European languages.”

    July 9, 2011