1. Any of numerous insects of the order Lepidoptera, having four broad, usually colorful wings, and generally distinguished from the moths by having a slender body and knobbed antennae and being active during the day.
2. A person interested principally in frivolous pleasure: a social butterfly.
a. A swimming stroke in which a swimmer lying face down draws both arms upward out of the water, thrusts them forward, and draws them back under the water in an hourglass design while performing a dolphin kick.
b. A race or a leg of a race in which this stroke is swum.
4. butterflies A feeling of unease or mild nausea caused especially by fearful anticipation.
tr.v. but·ter·flied, but·ter·fly·ing, but·ter·flies
To cut and spread open and flat, as shrimp.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2019 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.