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

  • n. Any of various insects of the order Lepidoptera, characteristically having slender bodies, knobbed antennae, and four broad, usually colorful wings.
  • n. A person interested principally in frivolous pleasure: a social butterfly.
  • n. Sports 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.
  • n. Sports A race or a leg of a race in which this stroke is swum.
  • n. A feeling of unease or mild nausea caused especially by fearful anticipation.
  • transitive v. To cut and spread open and flat, as shrimp.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

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

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. A general name for the numerous species of diurnal Lepidoptera.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. 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.
  • n. 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.
  • n. A kind of flat made-up neck-tie.
  • n. An herb otherwise called ragwort. Kersey, 1708.
  • n. 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.

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

  • n. diurnal insect typically having a slender body with knobbed antennae and broad colorful wings
  • v. talk or behave amorously, without serious intentions
  • n. a swimming stroke in which the arms are thrown forward together out of the water while the feet kick up and down
  • v. flutter like a butterfly
  • v. 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 fly2.

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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  • An interesting historical note about a bad translation involving the butterfly can be found on Dahua Yitz.

    October 6, 2017

  • That's a truly great sentence: "Is a butterfly named for the color of its excrement or because it was really a thieving witch?"

    April 27, 2012

  • "Is a butterfly named for the color of its excrement or because it was really a thieving witch? The first suggestion rests on the fact that an early Dutch name for the butterfly was boterschijte. This name is as astonishing a phenomenon as the fact that anyone ever noticed the color of butterfly excrement. Apparently, however, when the butterfly was not busy leaving colorful traces of itself, it was stealing milk and butter. This was not because of its thievish nature but because it was really a mischievous witch in the form of a winged insect. So the second suggestion is that this predilection for butter larceny gave rise to the colorful insect's name."

    --The American Heritage Dictionary, 3d Ed., page 262

    April 26, 2012

  • 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

  • I can't believe it.

    March 12, 2011

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

    March 11, 2011

  • “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

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

    December 4, 2008

  • Danish for "bow-tie".

    December 4, 2008

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

    November 30, 2007

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

    November 30, 2007

  • The butterfly counts not months

    But moments.

    And has time enough.

    --R. Tagore

    March 9, 2007

  • Flutter by sweet butterfly...

    February 3, 2007