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

Example Sentences

Recent Examples on the Web The digital butterfly effect is just the concept applied to the digital world. Bob Mckay, Forbes, 27 Jan. 2023 So does this mean that the butterfly effect doesn’t exist at all? Sophie Putka, Discover Magazine, 17 Aug. 2020 This special examines how one act of kindness can become a butterfly effect for positivity. Olivia Mccormack, Washington Post, 28 Dec. 2022 Some have argued that even tiny quantum nudges could nonetheless control brain activity, because of the butterfly effect: a small change might lead, indirectly, to a big one, in the complex system of the brain. Neuroskeptic, Discover Magazine, 22 Dec. 2013 After just one week, the butterfly effect took off and her friends have spread her message across the country — with the help of comedian Jimmy Fallon and former NFL quarterback Eli Manning. Norah O'donnell, CBS News, 15 Dec. 2022 In short, while the show and comics have had similarities and differences in the past, all these changes have created a butterfly effect that here in the finale, the show really cannot look remotely like the end of the comics. Paul Tassi, Forbes, 9 Oct. 2022 For the system’s sensitivity to initial conditions, Lorenz coined the term butterfly effect. Sarah Wells, Popular Mechanics, 22 Sep. 2022 Maybe there was some imperceptible something even earlier that had a butterfly effect. Marc Hirsh, BostonGlobe.com, 9 Sep. 2022 See More

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

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 9 Feb. 2023.

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