butterfly effect


: a property of chaotic systems (such as the atmosphere) by which small changes in initial conditions can lead to large-scale and unpredictable variation in the future state of the system

Examples of butterfly effect in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web And who knows what kind of butterfly effect a loss there might have had in the tight NL wild card race, where, counting tiebreakers, the Diamondbacks finished two games ahead of the seventh-place Cubs? Jerry Beach, Forbes, 27 Mar. 2024 Credit: Everett Several Twilight Zone episodes tackle the butterfly effect with time travel stories. Wesley Stenzel, EW.com, 21 Apr. 2023 This brainy series imagines a butterfly effect leading to a more robust space exploration program and reshaping our history and culture. Randy Myers, The Mercury News, 25 Jan. 2024 Applied mathematicians have spent decades figuring out how to quantify and sometimes ameliorate butterfly effects; recent advances in remote sensing and data collection are now helping to improve the fidelity of the models. Dan Rockmore, The New Yorker, 15 Jan. 2024 These were the accidents of history, the butterfly effect that ran through the three very different societies my pilgrimage had taken me to. Aatish Taseer, New York Times, 9 Nov. 2023 People may be familiar with the butterfly effect, the theory that a slight change can drastically affect the future. Clayton Davis, Variety, 9 Nov. 2023 Can Barry get around the butterfly effect of his meddling long enough to make his family whole? Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune, 13 June 2023 When the victim turns out to be the son of a ruthless underworld figure, Michael moves to cover up Adam’s involvement — triggering a lethal and ever-widening butterfly effect that destroys several lives, including Adam’s, Michael’s and an entire innocent family’s. Michael Ordoña, Los Angeles Times, 9 June 2023

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'butterfly effect.' 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

1976, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of butterfly effect was in 1976

Dictionary Entries Near butterfly effect

Cite this Entry

“Butterfly effect.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/butterfly%20effect. Accessed 13 Jun. 2024.

More from Merriam-Webster on butterfly effect

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!