butterfly fish


: any of a family (Chaetodontidae) of small brilliantly colored bony fishes of tropical seas with a narrow deep body and scaled fins
: a small brown freshwater bony fish (Pantodon buchholzi of the family Pantodontidae) of western Africa that has elongate winglike pectoral fins

Example Sentences

Recent Examples on the Web After lunch, Earle drifted through the museum, noting lava-lamp-like jellies, filigreed basket stars, and butterfly fish, which mate for life. Dana Goodyear, The New Yorker, 20 June 2022 It’s not uncommon to also see red pencil sea urchins, butterfly fish and moray eels. Sarah Sekula, USA TODAY, 23 Aug. 2020 During the dive, sea turtles—honu in Hawaiian—relax, swim nearby and enjoy a visit to butterfly fish and other reef fish that eat the algae off of their shells. Theresa Machemer, Smithsonian Magazine, 16 June 2020

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

Word History

First Known Use

1931, in the meaning defined at sense 2

Time Traveler
The first known use of butterfly fish was in 1931

Dictionary Entries Near butterfly fish

Cite this Entry

“Butterfly fish.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/butterfly%20fish. Accessed 6 Feb. 2023.

Kids Definition

butterfly fish

: any of various fishes having spots or stripes of several colors, broad fins, or both

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