noun, often attributive
but·​ter·​fly | \ ˈbə-tər-ˌflī How to pronounce butterfly (audio) \

Definition of butterfly

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : 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
2 : something that resembles or suggests a butterfly especially : a person chiefly occupied with the pursuit of pleasure
3 : a swimming stroke executed in a prone position by moving both arms in a circular motion while kicking both legs up and down
4 butterflies plural : a feeling of hollowness or queasiness caused especially by emotional or nervous tension or anxious anticipation
5 : a defensive move by a goalie in ice hockey executed by dropping to the knees while spreading the lower legs outward


butterflied; butterflying

Definition of butterfly (Entry 2 of 2)

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: Noun Meanwhile, butterfly tops and platform sandals are better suited for a casual day of brunch and shopping in the summer heat. Frances Solá-santiago, refinery29.com, 18 May 2022 Adriana Sopena’s daughter, Aliviya, 11, made a roadside memorial for her mother out of cardboard and butterfly stickers. Stephen Hudak, Orlando Sentinel, 16 May 2022 One butterfly starts to flutter above our group of watchful eyes—then two, then three. Sunset Magazine, 12 May 2022 That butterfly alone may become the subject of a poem, or a song, and maybe eventually be used to advocate for sustainability processes that can ensure the longevity of Monarchs on Earth. Alex Wagner, SPIN, 12 May 2022 Bella shrugged on a buttery-yellow biker, a sunny key-hole top, straight-leg leather trousers with white piping featuring a butterfly motif, and Coperni zip heels. Eni Subair, Vogue, 11 May 2022 While the triangle cut of Dua's top and the cheeky, mid-rise bottoms look super cute, the main star of this look is obvi the sweet white butterfly charm that rests in the middle of Lipa's chest. Seventeen, 10 May 2022 Flight Behavior, Kingsolver’s book explicitly about the collapse of butterfly migration, might seem like a more obvious choice for a climate novel, but Prodigal Summer came first. Heather Hansman, The Atlantic, 10 May 2022 Kolfage’s arrest in 2020 did little to quell the harassment, said the butterfly center’s executive director, Marianna Treviño-Wright, as the site became a rallying point for border wall supporters, including out-of-state political candidates. Jeremy Schwartz, ProPublica, 5 May 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Civic science initiatives, also known as citizen science initiatives, assist with everything from water quality monitors to butterfly counts. Lucy Bernholz, The Conversation, 4 Jan. 2022 From low-rise jeans to butterfly motifs to rimless shades, the early aughts have officially had a stylish comeback. Rachel Besser, Vogue, 14 Dec. 2021 Madeline Champagne, an amateur lepidopterist — someone who studies moths and butterflies — said monarchs have a short life cycle, going from egg to caterpillar to chrysalis to butterfly in about four weeks. BostonGlobe.com, 8 Sep. 2021 This is the first major survey of the French artist’s work in the UK for over 50 years, showcasing four decades of Jean Dubuffet’s career, from early portraits and fantastical statues, to butterfly assemblages and giant colorful canvases. Joanne Shurvell, Forbes, 28 May 2021 Select a small tenderloin — about 1 pound — and use a sharp knife to butterfly it open to an even thickness that will cook in about 7 minutes. Tribune News Service, cleveland, 2 Apr. 2021 When Jacobsen transformed the specimen from caterpillar to chrysalis to butterfly with a flick of her wrists, Charlotte hopped as if about to take flight herself. René A. Guzman, San Antonio Express-News, 28 Mar. 2021 In another week or so, the pupa inside completes its metamorphosis to butterfly, emerging in search of food and a mate. Arricca Elin Sansone, Country Living, 8 June 2020 His son Bryan Babcock took over in the early 1980s and remains at the helm like a mad scientist of sorts, exploring everything from new trellising systems and psychedelic-pink pet nats to butterfly sanctuaries and new oak tree habitats. Matt Kettmann, SFChronicle.com, 23 June 2020 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'butterfly.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of butterfly


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


1952, in the meaning defined above

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

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Last Updated

24 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Butterfly.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/butterfly. Accessed 27 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for butterfly


but·​ter·​fly | \ ˈbə-tər-ˌflī How to pronounce butterfly (audio) \
plural butterflies

Kids Definition of butterfly

: an insect that has a slender body and large colored wings covered with tiny overlapping scales and that flies mostly in the daytime


but·​ter·​fly | \ -ˌflī How to pronounce butterfly (audio) \
plural butterflies

Medical Definition of butterfly

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 plural : a feeling of hollowness or queasiness caused especially by emotional or nervous tension or anxious anticipation



Medical Definition of butterfly (Entry 2 of 2)

: 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

Nglish: Translation of butterfly for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of butterfly for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about butterfly


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