butterfly effect


Definition of 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

This sensitivity to initial conditions, later popularized as the butterfly effect, made predicting the far future a fool’s errand. Quanta Magazine, "The Hidden Heroines of Chaos," 20 May 2019 Fans all over social media have made the connection between the butterfly effect and Stormi’s name, pointing out chaos theory in the idea that a butterfly flapping its wings can create a storm somewhere far away. Jen Juneau, PEOPLE.com, "From True to Stormi, Chicago, Saint and Reign: Decoding the Names of All the KarJenner Kids," 17 Apr. 2018 Well, in chaos theory, the butterfly effect is the phenomenon where a small change in a complex system can have large effects elsewhere. Noelle Devoe, Seventeen, "Kylie Jenner Fans Have Decoded How Stormi Webster’s Name IS Actually Connected to Butterflies," 9 Feb. 2018 Change one detail and, via the butterfly effect, all manner of subsequent ones also alter. Darran Anderson, The Atlantic, "The Cities That Never Existed," 17 June 2018 The butterfly effects of even a single make in those 23 misses could have been enormous. Rob Mahoney, SI.com, "LeBron James Made the Right Play And It Cost the Cavs Game 1," 1 June 2018 The butterfly effect is a metaphor for the concept that small, seemingly insignificant events — like the fluttering of a butterfly's wings — can produce tremendous and unanticipated consequences. Marie Claire, "The Butterfly Effect: Qatar," 4 June 2010 Out of the complexity of the global sand trade has emerged something of a butterfly effect, in which an economic decision in one place can wreak social and environmental havoc on the other side of the world. Eoin O'carroll, The Christian Science Monitor, "It's a small world after all, say scientists warning of sand scarcity," 14 Sep. 2017

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.

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First Known Use of butterfly effect

1976, in the meaning defined above

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Last Updated

29 Jun 2019

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Time Traveler for butterfly effect

The first known use of butterfly effect was in 1976

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More from Merriam-Webster on butterfly effect

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about butterfly effect

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a usually brief trip or an expedition

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