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but·​ter·​fly ˈbə-tər-ˌflī How to pronounce butterfly (audio)
often attributive
: any of numerous slender-bodied diurnal lepidopteran insects including one superfamily (Papilionoidea) with broad often brightly colored wings and usually another superfamily comprising the skippers
: something that resembles or suggests a butterfly
especially : a person chiefly occupied with the pursuit of pleasure
: a swimming stroke executed in a prone position by moving both arms in a circular motion while kicking both legs up and down
butterflies plural : a feeling of hollowness or queasiness caused especially by emotional or nervous tension or anxious anticipation
: a defensive move by a goalie in ice hockey executed by dropping to the knees while spreading the lower legs outward


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butterflied; butterflying

transitive verb

: to split almost entirely and spread apart
a butterflied steak
butterflied shrimp

Examples of butterfly in a Sentence

Noun They competed in the butterfly. Verb Butterfly the chicken before roasting.
Recent Examples on the Web
Its seeds attract birds, and butterflies and bees also visit the plants well into October. Southern Living Editors, Southern Living, 13 Sep. 2023 Half a century later, Tallamy is alarmed by the loss of insect abundance and diversity on nearly every continent, from butterflies and bumblebees to tiger beetles and aquatic insects such as stone flies. Emily Underwood, Smithsonian Magazine, 7 Sep. 2023 While the children beat ladles on pots as percussion, Lubo capers around in a bear suit, before emerging like a butterfly from a chrysalis, in a floaty peach dress, playing a strange gypsy-music tune on his harmonica. Jessica Kiang, Variety, 7 Sep. 2023 In Milwaukee County, a group named the Friends of the Monarch Trail have worked to create safe havens for the migrating butterflies. Drew Dawson, Journal Sentinel, 7 Sep. 2023 Some of the plants have to be pollinated by particular butterflies. Laura Collins-Hughes, New York Times, 7 Sep. 2023 The design of the 33 Stradale—with its low-slung looks, flowing lines, butterfly doors, and airy glass canopy—is arguably its pièce de résistance, and its retro-modern styling bridges the gap between Alfa's past and its future. Greg S. Fink, Car and Driver, 30 Aug. 2023 Smith wore a rainbow vest and jeans for the event, while Zada rocked a flower-print crop top and matching butterfly hair clips. Charlotte Walsh, Peoplemag, 6 Sep. 2023 Designed by Andrew Flesher, the white shiplap and butterfly print surrounding the bookcase offers a whimsy feel. Hadley Mendelsohn, House Beautiful, 31 Aug. 2023
Betsey Johnson butterflies in her hair and De Beers Jewellers diamonds, as a tribute to the silent film stars of the Gilded Age. 08 Olivia Rodrigo's Feather Dress During an appearance on The Late Late Show With James Corden, Rodrigo sported a feathery AREA dress in bright neon colors. Kelsie Gibson, Peoplemag, 6 Sep. 2023 The two-level garden feels like a slice of rainforest jungle and includes a cave-like tunnel and 20-foot waterfall, around which butterflies flutter between colorful flowers. Chris Schalkx, Travel + Leisure, 21 Aug. 2023 The team set up spatial learning experiments in Heliconius butterflies over three different spatial scales, each representing ecologically-relevant behaviors. Melissa Breyer, Treehugger, 7 Aug. 2023 Other butterflies rely on a single host plant for survival as well, such as zebra swallowtail butterflies and paw paw trees, and spicebush swallowtail butterflies on spicebush shrubs. Susan Brownstein, cleveland, 25 July 2023 But Wise thinks butterflies are a better example of how nature deviates from our Western norms because of their many transformations, from caterpillar to a kind of goo inside a chrysalis to butterfly. Jeanette Marantos, Los Angeles Times, 1 June 2023 Butchers hand-cut and butterfly the ribeyes into the shape of a heart. Chris Sims, The Indianapolis Star, 10 Feb. 2023 But the more famous kind of metamorphosis is more total—that quintessential transmogrification from a caterpillar to chrysalis to butterfly. Sabrina Imbler, Harper's BAZAAR, 6 Dec. 2022 Like her bestie and fellow vintage queen Bella Hadid, Devon is known for her ‘90s and y2k-inspired looks, from low-rise micro mini skirts to butterfly tops, and her latest knit look is no exception. Nitya Rao, Seventeen, 21 July 2022 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'butterfly.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use


before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1952, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of butterfly was before the 12th century

Dictionary Entries Near butterfly

Cite this Entry

“Butterfly.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/butterfly. Accessed 24 Sep. 2023.

Kids Definition


: any of numerous slender-bodied day-flying insects with large often brightly colored wings compare moth
: a swimming stroke performed by moving both arms together in a circular motion while kicking the legs up and down
plural : a queasy feeling caused by nervousness

Medical Definition


1 of 2 noun
but·​ter·​fly -ˌflī How to pronounce butterfly (audio)
plural butterflies
plural : a feeling of hollowness or queasiness caused especially by emotional or nervous tension or anxious anticipation


2 of 2 adjective
: affecting the part of the face including the cheeks and the bridge of the nose
the typical butterfly lesion of lupus erythematosus

More from Merriam-Webster on butterfly

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