, eOE buturfliogae
, eOE buturfliogo
, OE butorfleoge
, ME boterfleȝe
, ME boterfleie
, ME boterfleus
(plural), ME boterflie
, ME boterfliȝes
(plural), ME botirfley
, ME botirflie
, ME botirflye
, ME botreflee
, ME botreflie
, ME botterflie
, ME boturflye
, ME buterfliȝe
, ME butreflye
, ME butterfflye
, ME butterfleis
(plural), ME butterflyeȝ
, ME buttirflye
, ME butturflye
, ME buttyrfle
, ME buttyrflie
, ME buttyrflye
, ME–15 boterflye
, ME–16 butterflee
, ME–16 butterflie
, ME–16 butterflye
, 15– butterfly
; also Scottish
, pre-17 butterfleis
) also records the forms ME bottirflye
, ME botyrflie
, ME botyrflye
. (Show Less)
Frequency (in current use):
Origin: Formed within English, by compounding. Etymons: ,
Compare Dutch botervlieg
(1588; one of numerous popular names for the insect, normally called in Dutch vlinder
), Middle High German bitterflivge
(German regional Butterfliege
, beside standard German Schmetterling
The motivation for the name is unclear and has been variously explained. It may arise from the pale yellow appearance of the wings of certain European butterflies (perhaps specifically the brimstone butterfly), or from a supposed tendency to feed on or hover over butter or buttermilk, or from a folk belief that butterflies (or even witches in the form of butterflies) steal butter; compare names such as Dutch regional botterheks
, lit. ‘butter witch’, bottervogel
‘butter bird’, boterwijf
‘butter wife’, German regional Butterhexe
‘butter witch’, Milchdieb
‘milk thief’, etc. Among numerous similar names found in Dutch is boterschijte
, lit. ‘butter shit’, which has led to the (improbable) suggestion that the insect was so called on account of the (supposed) appearance of its excrement.
A very early use in a compound is shown by .
to break a butterfly on a wheel and variants: to use unnecessary force in destroying something fragile. Hence also butterfly on a wheel: a weak or vulnerable person destroyed by, or at the mercy of, significantly more powerful people, institutions, or processes.Originally with reference to a wheel used as an instrument of torture (see and cf. ).
1734 Pope 15
Satire or Shame alas! can Paris feel? Who breaks a Butterfly upon a Wheel?
1788 Jan. 75
We never wish to break a butterfly on a wheel, and often praise where the severity of criticism might have checked the tender mercies which well-meant endeavours have drawn from our tribunal.
1809 Oct. 88
So very depraved is the Stage become, that to criticize a modern English Opera now is as silly an undertaking as to break a butterfly on the wheel.
1875 Trollope I. ix. 70
One doesn't want to break a butterfly on the wheel.
1921 36 182
Are we breaking this delicate butterfly unnecessarily upon the wheel, by over-complexity of conjecture?
1931 W. Holtby vi. 213
I can't bear to see a woman in the dock—butterfly on the wheel.
1951 N. G. Annan 292
Why break a butterfly on the wheel of scholarship?
1990 W. Hussey
(transcribed from song, perf. ‘The Mission’)
Love breaks the wings of a butterfly on a wheel.
2002 M. E. Abbott iii. 76
Marlowe is thus a butterfly on a wheel, spinning at the hands of brutish and gorgeous thugs.
2002 12 Aug. (T2 section) 19/2
There were plenty of implausibilities in Ella and the Mothers, if you stopped and thought about it too much, but that would be to break a butterfly upon a wheel.
(a) General attributive (in senses , ) with the senses: ‘vain, capricious, frivolous, showy’; ‘flimsy, fragile, ephemeral’.
1596 T. Nashe sig. V2
As vnfainedly and sincerely as in his first butter-fly Pamphlet against Greene he praisd me for that proper yong man, Greenes fellow Writer.
1624 T. Heywood vi. 298
Iulia on the contrarie, loosely and wantonly habited, had in her traine none but butterflie-pages, wild fashion-mongers, and fantasticke gallants.
1673 R. Head 103
The Bawd furnisheth them with Butterfly Garments.
1728 M. Delany
All the butterfly men were at court last night.
1756 E. Haywood iv. 29
I cannot help but heartily pitying the husbands of those butterfly wives who are every day flaunting in the Mall.
1832 10 Oct. 996/1
Everybody loved Jack Taylor—he was thoroughly harmless—a kind and affectionate creature, with all kinds of light pleasantry fluttering across his butterfly brain.
1857 Jan. 25
Perhaps they were butterfly thoughts..flitting from one thing to another but fixing upon nothing.
1917 Apr. 86/1
Why send us a fluffy story opening with a boudoir talk between Mabel and Lucille about their silly, sugary love-affairs, or stories of dull domestic or butterfly society life?
1982 J. Krantz
Their ranks grew to many dozens, exquisite girls, butterfly girls who were so much more glamorous, so clearly more sophisticated than their only rivals.
29 Sept. 32
His butterfly mind has often moved on to the next thought within the space of a single sentence.
(b) General attributive (in sense ) with the sense ‘of, relating to, or reminiscent of a butterfly or butterflies’.
1658 Sir T. Browne Garden of Cyrus iiii, in 180
Handsomely observable in hooded and gaping flowers, and the Butterfly bloomes of leguminous plants.
1795 ‘P. Pindar’ 229
The Virtuoso itch, For making a rare butterfly collection.
1847–9 IV. i. 171/2
The butterfly movement of the wings being most commonly resorted to.
1895 Nov. 130/2
It oscillated in the breath of air stirring, and after a few butterfly gyrations, alighted in the eager clutch of Jimmie.
1911 J. Muir 172
His trousers..have become so adhesive with the mixed fat and resin that..moth and butterfly wings, legs and antennae of innumerable insects, or even whole insects..adhere to them.
1984 R. M. Pyle xiii. 161
Hunting butterfly eggs in order to rear them out requires special watchfulness.
1988 42 303/2
Most cases of independent evolution of gregariousness in butterfly larvae are preceded by the evolution of aposematism.
2001 31 May 531/1
The size of Britain's butterfly fauna elicits expressions of sympathy from lepidopterists elsewhere.
(c) attributive. Designating an (adhesive) bandage consisting of a thin strip of material with wider ends, typically used to hold the edges of a wound together; esp. in butterfly bandage, butterfly strip. See also , .
1895 R. Guiteras in 6 Apr. 366/2
I also..show my patients how to make a butterfly-dressing to soak up the discharge.
1895 May 225
To catch the discharge, a butterfly bandage should be used.
1939 44 400/1
The method is an outgrowth of the time honored procedure of closing small superficial wounds with butterfly strips of adhesive.
1995 26 65/1
The wounds are about 3 cm long and superficial. They are cleaned and closed using butterfly plasters.
2003 B. Wagner i. 36
A butterfly bandage graced his temple.
2008 E. M. Stasiak v. 123
When shopping for a first-aid kit, be sure it contains..antibiotic ointment, burn-cooling gel, butterfly closures, [etc.].
(d) attributive. Designating a piece of meat or fish split almost in half and opened flat, or a dish made with this cut of meat or fish. Cf. .
1932 30 Sept. 8/4
The new butterfly chops, one of the many new ideas in pork cuts.
1955 F. G. Ashbrook xii. 171
Butterfly Fillets are the two sides of the fish corresponding to two single fillets held together by uncut flesh and the skin.
1978 26 Aug. 40/3
A choice of 14 entrees, including Butterfly Steak stuffed with summer sausage and raisins.
1989 A. Aird 567
The food can run to the finest steaks or prettily presented butterfly prawns.
2000 July 87/3
For parties of 20 or more, cook a butterfly leg of lamb—it's really simple.
(e) attributive. Swimming. Designating a stroke in swimming in which both arms are raised out of the water and lifted forwards together while the legs are brought up and down in unison with an undulating motion; of, relating to, or involving this stroke. Frequently in butterfly stroke. Cf. sense , and .
1934 16 July 19/4
He won because he used the unorthodox ‘butterfly stroke’ that still is considered legal in spite of the storms of protest its adoption has caused.
The breast stroke swimmers used the butterfly style, which was a failure.
1968 24 Jan. 36/3
Mark Redmond copped the 20-yard breaststroke and Rob Alderson took the 20-yard butterfly event.
1970 82 220
The floating eagle propelled itself toward shore by slow rhythmic beats of its outstretched wings, much like a human swimmer using the butterfly breast stroke.
2014 J. Costello 355
A vigorous session of butterfly stroke in the swimming pool.
(f) attributive. Designating glasses with frames that arch upwards from the bridge and have a comparatively narrow bottom edge, particularly fashionable in the 1950s and 60s.
1942 Apr. 125/3
Her new butterfly frames are the same color as her red lipstick.
1962 H. Calisher 124
Hair..coiffed not ten minutes before, butterfly glasses with this year's line of twisted gold at the bridge.
1973 30 Oct. 16/7
Bartlett..wears butterfly spectacles like [Mary] Whitehouse.
14 Sept. 20
With lilac hair, a sequined jacket and butterfly glasses,..Dame Edna Everage, housewife, superstar..—alias comic Barry Humphries.
b. Objective, parasynthetic, and instrumental, as butterfly-brained, butterfly-catching, butterfly-hunting, etc.
1796 J. Owen I. lii. 265
A German baron, whose penchant for butterfly-hunting was extraordinary.
1838 19 Apr.
The predicament in which our pair of ‘butterfly-brained’ baronets stand.
1881 J. Payn I. ii. 29
His only exercise (he was an entomologist) being butterfly-catching.
1881 G. Allen iv. 31
The date when flower-hunting and butterfly-hunting both begin.
1948 6 Sept. 54/1
Butterfly-collecting is fun since wild flowers attract them plentifully.
1961 6 Dec. 17/3
The butterfly-brained society hostess.
1990 Jan. 79
Buddleia Corner—a bee-busy, butterfly-haunted place kept warm by sheltering hedges.
2002 26 Sept. (Review section) 21/4
This is further proof that BBC1's science programmes have been comprehensively cabled, capitulating to the butterfly-minded style of Bravo and the Discovery channel.
2002 D. Monkman vi. 141
Butterfly-watching is at its most productive in late June and early July since the greatest number of different species is aflight at this time.
† butterfly aeroplane n. Obsolete any of various lightweight aeroplanes.Chiefly with reference to the Demoiselle series of aeroplanes built by aviation pioneer Alberto Santos-Dumont (1873–1932).
[Butterfly is only an approximate translation of French demoiselle damselfly (see ).]
1908 27 Aug.
Notable airship flights and records... Santos Dumont, in Butterfly aeroplane, 150 meters in Paris, Nov. 10, 1907.
1909 6 Jan. 8/5
M. Santos Dumont's butterfly aeroplane, named the Demoiselle, has the distinction of being the neatest and lightest exhibit.
1909 10 Aug. 1/5
The Stewart-Brownell combination..have been preparing..what they call a ‘butterfly aeroplane’.
butterfly ballot n. chiefly U.S. colloquial a machine-readable ballot paper having the names of the candidates printed on either side of a column of punched holes, which the voter pierces to select his or her preferred candidate.Particularly associated with the ballot paper used in Florida during the U.S. Presidential elections in 2000, which was claimed to have confused Democratic voters into selecting the wrong candidate.
2000 20 Nov. 4/2
Members of this demographic..suddenly came forward to say they had been precipitated into senior moments by a butterfly ballot.
2008 1 Nov. 3/2
Hanging chads and butterfly ballots decided the outcome, and ushered in..the most inept and disastrous presidency of the modern era.
2011 R. K. Scher v. 115
The famous ‘butterfly ballot’ in Palm Beach County, Florida (where Pat Buchanan received thousands of votes apparently meant for Al Gore).
butterfly block n. Nautical (now rare) a small block consisting of two wings, each wing containing a wheel for a chain to pass over.
1882 G. S. Nares
Rollers or butterfly blocks are fitted to bands round the yard.
1933 C. N. Longridge II. vii. 148
In the later ships, the two blocks were therefore replaced by a single butterfly block with two sheaves, which was shackled to an eye under the central sling band.
butterfly bomb n. now hist. A type of small bomb with a cylindrical casing designed to spring open (forming a shape thought to resemble a butterfly) and rotate as the bomb descends.By means of a spindle connecting the casing to the device's fuse, the rotation of the open casing arms the explosive device.The butterfly bomb was first developed by Germany in the Second World War.
(U.S. War Dept.)
ii. ii. 23
2 Kg. Antipersonnel ‘Butterfly’ Bomb.
1972 1 Sept. (Colour Suppl.) 16/2
In the last war the Germans devised a series of anti-personnel devices, including the S-mine & the ‘butterfly-bomb’.
When peace was declared in May 1945, the men of Bomb Disposal had defused about 40,000 high explosive bombs, 5,700 butterfly bombs and another 6,900 anti-aircraft shells and incendiaries.
butterfly bow n. a bow having the loops, or loop and end, on each side spread apart like the open wings of a butterfly; spec. a bow tie having the loops spread apart in this way (cf. ).
1830 Feb. 117
Large butterfly bows, or else ends of very broad riband, or of silk, arranged in the form of butterfly's wings..is the favourite style of trimming.
1888 Feb. 182/1
A bonnet à la Folle, with a tricoloured butterfly bow at the top.
1920 4 Aug. 97/2
The wearing of a butterfly bow with a double event collar was a solecism past forgiveness.
15 Nov. 59/2
To go out, a dark velvet suit or bottle-green suède suit, butterfly bow in black velvet. If a tie is not demanded, a cashmere turtleneck, or ecru-color shirt in rough peasant cotton.
1992 28 Sept. 65/1
A size 6 off-the-shoulder bridal dress with a duchesse-silk-satin top, layered tulle skirt, and butterfly bow in the back.
butterfly cake n.
(a) a pressed cake made from bugong moths, formerly used as food by Australian Aborigines (rare);
(b) a small sponge cake which has had a portion of the top removed, divided into two, and then reset with buttercream, etc., so as to resemble a butterfly's wings.
1906 13 May x. 4/7
The bodies and the oil are then made into the famous bugong or butterfly cakes.
1910 Sept. 495/2
The ice cream may be served in yellow rose cases and should be accompanied by small butterfly cakes iced with white.
1932 4 Aug. 58/1
Butterfly cakes... Cut off the tops and fill them with whipped cream or vanilla filling. Cut the pieces of the tops in halves and put on top of cream to look like butterflies' wings.
1951 24 May 6/4
Butterfly cakes will please everyone. Children will love the way the little wings are set on top of luscious, creamy whorls.
2009 M. Berry 118
Butterfly cakes are quick and easy to make and very effective for a children's party.
butterfly chair n. any of various chairs resembling a butterfly in shape; spec. a (foldable) type of sling chair having a tubular steel frame made from two stylized butterfly shapes joined together, with a piece of canvas, leather, etc., suspended from its four apexes.
1892 23 Dec. 6/3
Among the newest basket chairs are the butterfly chairs with plush introduced and a high-backed one with seat and back in Indian colours.
1952 20 July 35/4
Butterfly chair. Deluxe model. Heavy black steel frame. Durable removable canvas sling.
13 Sept. (Home section) 20
Butterfly chairs, with canvas, black leather or ponyskin covers.
2005 J. Miller 441/1
Also known as the A chair, the Hardoy chair, the Sling chair, and the Butterfly chair, the B.K.F. chair is named for its designers.
† butterfly clack n. British (Obsolete rare) a pair of flap valves consisting a single piece of flexible material (typically leather) fastened down in the middle to form a hinge; = .
1859 W. J. M. Rankine ii. iv. 123
A pair of flap valves placed hinge to hinge (usually made of one piece of leather fastened down in the middle) constitute a ‘butterfly clack’.
1913 12 Aug. 243/2
Sometimes they are made of one piece of leather fastened down in the middle and often known in English practice as a ‘butterfly clack’.
butterfly clip n. any of various clips that resemble a butterfly, typically in having two large sides attached to a thin middle part; esp.
(a) a small stud with two long flat pointed pieces that are pushed though the surface or surfaces to be attached and the pieces opened out behind, used to fasten papers together; a paper fastener;
(b) a sprung hair clip, typically one with two jaws opened by a finger-piece or finger-pieces that resemble butterfly wings;
(c) a type of (adhesive) plaster consisting of a thin strip with two wider ends, used to hold the edges of a wound together; cf. .
1874 13 Feb. 540/2
I use..a..rantoon, the wheels wood,..iron tires, for which I bought rubber tires with butterfly clips, patented.
1912 48 18
The heaters..consisting merely of a single radiator lamp with a concave bright metal reflector, a butterfly clip being attached at the back for the purpose of clipping on to the leg of a table.
(U.S. Dept. of Health, Educ. & Welfare, Social Security Admin.))
vii. D- 29/1
Posters..can be mounted with..‘Butterfly’ clips (brass paper fasteners with 1″ shank).
1963 24 Feb. 2 d/1
The doctor wanted to use several stitches but Salazar and his handlers refused, insisting that ‘butterfly’ clips heal the wound faster.
1965 P. White Season at Sarsaparilla ii, in 132
Girlie enters. She is dressed, but is wearing butterfly clips. Could be without her teeth. Anyway, she averts her face.
1993 J. Day viii. 210
Never throw out anything with a paper clip or butterfly clip still attached.
2010 G. March 32
Long chestnut hair held high with a butterfly clip.
2013 S. Altschuler i. 3
We have to stem the flow of blood... It doesn't look too bad, maybe a butterfly clip is all.
butterfly cock n. rare a tap or other valve equipped with a handle which has two projections thought to resemble wings.
1868 III. 507/2
Robinet papillion, Butterfly-cock, winged tap.
1963 H. Calisher 15
To their left, water dripped into a sink from a single tap, flanked by a toilet in a half-open stall and a laocoön of pipes tipped with a butterfly cock that might once have meant gas.
butterfly collar n. any of various collars resembling the shape of a butterfly's wings; esp.
(a) a type of wing collar having rounded wing tips, popular in the early 20th cent.;
(b) a shirt collar having two long pointed or rounded wings, popular in the 1970s.
1893 6 Feb. 8/5
Medium weight cloth Capes, with Butterfly Collar of velvet, silk lined, ribbon trimming.
1904 17 June 803/2
The David Hope New Regd. Fashionable Butterfly Collar (4-fold pure Irish Linen, as illustrated).
1988 ‘DJ Jazzy Jeff’ & ‘The Fresh Prince’ Parents just don't Understand
(transcribed from song)
I said, ‘Mom, this shirt is plaid with a butterfly collar!’
30 May (Weekend section) 9
White tie means black evening tails.., a starched white shirt with butterfly collar, white waistcoat, white bow tie, [etc.].
2014 J. B. Morrison ix. 55
He was wearing..a yellow shirt with a butterfly collar..and huge-flared trousers.
butterfly collector n. a person who catches butterflies and preserves them as a collection for study or as a hobby.
1824 L. Jermyn
The butterfly collector's vade mecum.
1905 Apr. 652/2
The butterfly collector must have the scientific temperament and a delight in the outdoor chase.
2004 26 July 15/1
Not since Victorian butterfly collectors scampered across..meadows brandishing large nets has there been such a passion for lepidoptery.
butterfly farm n. a place (typically a glass enclosure, area of a park, etc.) providing a suitable environment for butterflies to be bred, reared, or exhibited, variously as a public attraction, for research, or for sale.
1887 22 Oct. 1418/1
Why, if such daring deeds were to take place any day on the turf as occur every morning on the Stock Exchange the Jockey Club would have to warn everybody off and turn their establishments into butterfly farms.
1892 2 Apr. 460/1
His garden was soon turned into a butterfly-farm.
1966 22 Sept. 732/1
On their butterfly farm in Dorset they raise many fascinating and exotic species of butterfly.
2003 P. Thomas & A. Vaitlingam
Plans are afoot to create a butterfly farm here, too; the owners hope to start a breeding programme for Jamaica's giant swallowtail butterflies.
butterfly garden n. a garden that provides an environment that attracts butterflies, as well as certain moths; (also) a large glass enclosure, area of a park, etc., providing a protective environment for butterflies and plants as a public attraction or for study or research (cf. ).
1898 12 Mar. 328/2
Over one end of the wall a plant of everlasting-pea has thrown its cascade of gorgeous rose-pink blossom. Saffron butterflies pirouette above it... It is a butterfly garden.
1904 Dec. 158/1
We spend infinite pains and toil planting and tending a flower garden; why not have a butterfly garden too? Think of it..: a mass of green food plants giving birth daily to a host of gaily-coloured, velvet-winged insects.
1984 R. M. Pyle xii. 143
Add a patch of annuals—sweet William, zinnias, and marigolds for starters..and you have a basic butterfly garden.
Its [sc. Singapore's airport] offerings include..a swimming pool, a six-metre waterfall and a butterfly garden housing 1,000 species.
butterfly gardening n. the action or practice of cultivating or laying out a garden designed to attract butterflies, esp. as a hobby.
1901 16 Mar. 383/2
Public advisers in papilio culture, the Miss Jekylls of butterfly gardening, ready with counsel as to how to bring on late second broods of tortoiseshells to grace the autumn borders.
Butterfly gardening is often aimed at inviting..butterflies and moths to lay eggs as well.
butterfly house n. a large (typically heated) glass enclosure providing a protective environment for butterflies and plants as a public attraction or for study or research.
1881 5 Sept. 3/4
When Dr. Sclater succeeded..as secretary of the Zoological Society.., there was one thing still to be done, to open a butterfly house.
In the warm and damp Butterfly House, honeysuckles..mingle with unfamiliar exotic plants.., carefully chosen to nourish the spectacular butterflies that flutter unafraid among the visitors.
2014 S. R. Shaw v. 70
Judging from the growing popularity of butterfly houses and insect zoos, it appears that most people gain pleasure from the sight of butterflies in flight.
butterfly kiss n.
(a) a light kiss in which the lips only brush the skin;
(b) an act of affectionately fluttering one's eyelashes against a person's skin.
1849 Oct. 229/1
The light butterfly kiss of ceremony.
1871 ‘G. Eliot’
I. i. v. 73
Celia knelt down..and gave her little butterfly kiss.
1883 E. Lynn Linton I. vi. 136
Making her eyelids ache with her butterfly kisses!
1932 E. Waugh ii. 58
‘I've invented a new way of kissing. You do it with your eye-lashes.’ ‘I've known that for years. It's called a butterfly kiss.’
2001 C. Glazebrook 98
He plants a butterfly kiss on my mouth and soon we're having a full-blown snog, tongues, the lot.
2005 N. Laird 231
Her lashes brushed against his cheekbone. ‘That's a butterfly kiss.’ She'd pulled away.
butterfly knife n.
(a) a folding pocket knife with a handle consisting of two parts which divide and pivot round to enclose the blade, typically used as a weapon; = ;
(b) a short sword with a single sharp edge, typically one of a pair, used in wing chun and certain other forms of kung fu; =
[In sense after Chinese húdié shuāngdāo lit. ‘butterfly double knife (or sword)’.]
1970 30 June 15/3
After he had picked up the two hitchhikers, one of them pulled a butterfly knife and said, ‘We would appreciate a ride to Richmond.’
1974 Nov. 15/1
During a ‘double butterfly vs. spear’ set..another weapon sailed off the stage... A butterfly knife.
1992 J. W. Smith III. ii. 50
A Wing Chun fighter armed with only the butterfly knives would have difficulty fighting against an opponent armed with a spear.
2006 28 July 8/5
We disarmed two men, one with a bottle..and one with a butterfly knife.
butterfly lupus n. lupus erythematosus which causes a rash on the bridge of the nose and the adjacent parts of the cheeks; cf.
1879 W. T. Fox & T. C. Fox
(Amer. ed. 2)
Often there is a patch under each eye, and if these bridge together and form a junction over the nose, the appearance of a butterfly is produced, hence the term butterfly lupus.
1949 July 504/1
The uncommon lupus erythematosus, or butterfly lupus,..has frequently been known to follow sunburn.
2018 @rosemurray 2 Jan. in twitter.com
I had ‘butterfly lupus’ as a child, missed a LOT of school.
butterfly net n. a hand-held net with a fine mesh and a long handle, used to catch butterflies; also figurative, esp. denoting such a net fancifully imagined as being used to catch a person and escort them to a psychiatric hospital.
1806 J. Sowerby I. 95
Perhaps a butterfly-net might be used with success about banks where we observe many burrows of insects.
1827 M. Wilmot Jrnl. 25 July in
Edmund and Wilmot amused themselves with their butterfly nets.
1939 T. S. Eliot ii. i. 77
The day I lost my butterfly net.
1983 W. Goldman 88
You can pray that the man with the butterfly net catches up to that kid before he does permanent damage.
1998 19 Jan. 30/1
Another chaotic week ends, leaving Miamians to wonder how long before the white-suited men with butterfly nets come to take the mayor away.
30 Mar. t16
If I find a fly in the house, I catch it in a butterfly net and set it free.
butterfly nose n. a dog's nose when spotted or mottled.
1878 11 May 39/1
A light- colored (‘Dudley’) or a parti-colored (‘butterfly’) nose is especially objected to.
1937 1 Sept. 46/1
When we have a hunting breed to appraise, a butterfly nose must be rated just as keen scented as a nose of normal color.
2002 J. Cunliffe
A butterfly nose, sometimes called a spotted nose, is considered an undesirable nose colour in many breeds.
butterfly nut n. a nut having two flat projections, thought to resemble wings, on either side which allow the nut to be turned by hand; = .
1849 Enlarged Ser. 13 384
A screw-pin..with a wide head above, and a butterfly nut below.
Under the butterfly nut at the back of the bonnet hinge.
2011 A. R. Edwards xv. 181
It was an uncomfortable crossbar to ride, due to the butterfly nut located at a tactically inopportune place.
butterfly rash n. Medicine a rash confined mainly to the bridge of the nose and the adjacent parts of the cheeks, seen especially in lupus erythematosus and in rosacea and certain other skin disorders; cf. The likeness of the shape of the rash to that of a butterfly was first pointed out by the Austrian dermatologist Ferdinand von Hebra in 1845 or 1846.
[1871 A. Pullar tr. I. Neumann 253
The efflorescence becomes confluent, and on the nose and cheeks, the patch assumes the form of a butterfly,—the body being represented by the nose,—the wings by the cheeks.]
1895 31 310
Three photographs..taken of a man aged 45, showing the characteristic ‘butterfly’ rash of Lupus Erythematosus.
1969 23 July 22/1
Butterfly rashes occur from other causes [than rosacea].
2007 D. S. Smith
A classic butterfly rash occurs in 40% [of cases of systemic lupus erythematosus] and is exacerbated by sun exposure.
butterfly screw n. a bolt having two flat protections, thought to resemble wings, either side of the head which allow the bolt to be turned by hand.
1861 4 342/1
The attendant then slips the breastplate over his head..and, with butterfly screws, covered by a vulcanized India-rubber band, fastens it to the dress.
1916 15 195
By means of the butterfly screws they can be screwed tightly so that no movement of the individual blocks is possible.
Quirky taste can be yours as long as you know how to fit a butterfly screw properly.
butterfly-shaped adj. Botany (of a flower) having a corolla arranged in a form resembling a butterfly; (also) denoting such a corolla; esp. as characteristic of leguminous plants (cf. ).
1763 J. Wheeler p. xxiii
The corolla is papilionaceous, or of the butterfly-shaped kind.
1880 29 May 349/2
The pea tribe, with butterfly-shaped flowers (leguminosæ) has nearly seven thousand species in it.
(National Acad. Sci.–National Res. Council (U.S.))
Copious clusters of scarlet, butterfly-shaped blossoms appear in bunches along the branches.
16 July e1
Moth orchids are prized for their long-lasting, butterfly-shaped flowers.
butterfly stitch n.
(a) any of various stitches used in knitting, crochet, etc., to make a butterfly pattern;
(b) a type of (adhesive) plaster consisting of a thin strip with two wider ends, used to hold the edges of a wound together; cf. .
1891 Sept. 19/2
An Infant's Dress Yoke. Butterfly Stitch.
1941 1 Apr. 7/2
This sweater is knitted in the new butterfly stitch. It is easy to make and as dainty as it is durable.
1945 44 588
Swelling and suppuration occurred..which made it necessary to remove the remaining sutures and substitute a butterfly stitch.
2009 L. Zukaite Introd. 7
You'll..discover something new..about smocking stitch, herringbone pattern, butterfly stitch, [etc.].
A..gash along his nose..bound..by a set of butterfly stitches which added a flash of bright white to his rainbow array of bruises.
butterfly stomach n. a fluttering sensation felt in the stomach as a result of nervousness or apprehensive excitement; cf. sense ,
1943 Oct. 6/1
The expression some aviators use to describe their condition before taking off. They have ‘butterfly stomach’, they say, so marked is the fluttering in the Department of the Interior.
1997 13 Feb. b1
There were enough exciting games to guarantee at least one case of butterfly stomach per week.
25 Nov. 4
Filmmaker Luke Doolan confessed to suffering a ‘butterfly stomach’ while his new short film Cryo had its world premiere.
butterfly sword n. a short sword with a single sharp edge, typically one of a pair, used in wing chun and certain other forms of kung fu; frequently also known as butterfly knife (see ).
[After Chinese húdié shuāngdāo lit. ‘butterfly double knife (or sword)’ (see ).]
1974 V. Glaessner iii. 21/2
Twin butterfly swords, sticks and staves, daggers and the whole repertoire of more fanciful weaponry..displayed.
Collette uses butterfly swords to fend off Zoe, wielding a three-section staff as father Michael looks on.
2015 B. N. Judkins & J. Nielson ii. 94
The ‘double swords’ noted..are the direct ancestors of the hudiedao (or butterfly swords) that are still used in Wing Chun, Choy Li Fut, and Hung Gar today.
butterfly table n. orig. North American a kind of drop-leaf table having wing-shaped supports for the table leaves.
1901 E. Singleton III. 202
An oval table of oak, of rough work... The design is now popularly called the ‘butterfly table’.
1925 Mar. 355/2
When little butterfly tables, so called, with warped maple tops, sell for $575 apiece, it is their age and rarity which bring the extravagant price.
1994 July 59/1
I built this double drop-leaf table—sometimes called a butterfly table—as a birthday present for my wife.
butterfly tie n. a bow tie; (spec.) =
1865 9 Mar.
Butterfly Ties, (for Paper Collars).
1887 E. Custer
It was then the fashion for men to wear a tiny neck-bow, called a butterfly tie.
1914 G. K. Chesterton xi. 264
A very young gentleman with..a black butterfly tie.
16 Jan. 9
Black-and-white butterfly ties with formal evening wear looked spirited.
butterfly tummy n. a fluttering sensation felt in the stomach as a result of nervousness or apprehensive excitement; cf. ,
1941 17 Apr. 7/3
Two players with ‘butterfly tummy’—that sinking feeling which strikes on the first tee—were paired today at the quarter-finals of the Texas Women's Golf association tournament.
1969 9 July 6/7
With the proverbial sweating palms and butterfly tummy, I taxied to the end of the runway, did everything I was supposed to, added a big swallow and started rolling.
28 Jan. (Mag.) 42
We swept straight up to the VIP lounge, breathless with a mix of cheek-reddening embarrassment and butterfly-tummy excitement.
butterfly valve n.
†(a) a pair of flap valves consisting of a single piece of flexible material (typically leather) fastened down in the middle to form a hinge (obsolete);
(b) a valve that is opened and closed by the rotation of a rigid disc having a spindle running through its centre.
1809 W. Nicholson III. at Hydraulics
The butterfly-valve..varies from the two former, in having two semicircular flaps appended by hinges to a bar passing over the centre of the excavated piston.
1889 W. J. Baldwin xxv. 328
Nothing but a gate valve should be tolerated in the main pipes of an apparatus unless it is a butterfly valve of good design.
1911 A. M. Greene vi. 289
A double clack valve..is sometimes called a butterfly valve.
2003 1 Sept. 98/1
‘They're called butterfly valves’, he said of the sluices inside the cylinder.
In the names of animals and plants.
butterfly blenny n. a small blenny (fish) of the north-east Atlantic, Blennius ocellaris (family Blenniidae), having a long dorsal fin, the tall anterior part of which is marked with a prominent eyespot.
1838 J. Wilson 192/2
Of these we may mention the butterfly blenny (B[lennius] ocellaris), distinguished by having the dorsal bi-lobed, the anterior lobe being very elevated, and marked with a round black spot.
1959 A. Hardy x. 213
The beautiful little butterfly blenny..which is not uncommon to the south west.
19 Mar. (Sport section) 74
A mighty 1oz 4dr butterfly blenny, the proud trophy of Cliff Williams, who will surely never forget that momentous day off Weymouth.
butterfly bush n. any of various buddleias (genus Buddleja), esp. B. davidii, widely cultivated as garden plants for their panicles of sweet-smelling white, purple, or pink flowers that are attractive to butterflies.
1895 E. B. Walling 1
The big butterfly-bush that overhangs the brook.
1937 18 Apr. x9/7
Among the best of summer blooming shrubs for borders..are the kinds of Buddleia, or butterfly bush.
2013 14 Oct. 52/2
If you cut a butterfly bush down to nothing it grows back the next year twice as high.
†(a) the butterfly blenny, Blennius ocellaris (obsolete);
(b) New Zealand a large deep-water tuna, Gasterochisma melampus, with fan-like pelvic fins;
(c) a small African freshwater fish, Pantodon buchholzi (family Pantodontidae), with large pectoral fins used in leaping out of the water;
(d) any of numerous brightly coloured or boldly marked reef fishes of the family Chaetodontidae, esp. the genus Chaetodon, popular in marine aquaria.
1686 F. Willughby & J. Ray iv. xix. 131
Blennus Salviani, an fortasse etiam Bellonii..The Butterfly-fish.
1740 R. Brookes ii. vi. 187
The Butterfly-Fish is often exposed to sale at Venice among other small Fish.
1898 E. E. Morris 74
Butterfly-fish... New Zealand sea-fish, Gasterochisma melampus... The ventral fins are exceedingly broad and long.
1931 E. G. Boulenger vii. 78
A strange member of this Order is the Butterfly Fish (Pantodon buchholzi ) of the brooks of West Africa.
1957 A. W. Parrott 156
The Butterfly Fish is also known as the Scaled Tunny, and is closely related to the Bonito and Albacore.
1975 T. Brooke-Taylor et al. 35/2
The delicate Four-Eyed Butterfly Fish, so popular with fanciers in Crawley.
1997 G. S. Helfman et al. xvi. 288/1
Other osteoglossomorphs include the African freshwater butterflyfish Pantodon (Pantodontidae).
2010 Feb. 26/1
The threadfin is readily available and is one of the more popular butterflyfish.
butterfly flower n.
[in sense probably after post-classical Latin Papilionaceae (plural): see ]
(a) a papilionaceous flower; a plant producing such a flower; cf. ;
(b) any of various plants of the genus Schizanthus (family Solanaceae), which are widely cultivated as garden plants for their bright, multicoloured flowers; (also) a flower of such a plant; cf. ;
(c) any of various plants having flowers which are attractive to butterflies or pollinated by butterflies; a flower of such a plant.
1731 P. Miller I. at Commelina
A flower, which consists of two Leaves, which are plac'd in the Form of two Wings, much after the manner of the Butterfly Flowers.
1853 5 Feb. 84/3
For extreme gaiety, what can equal a well-grown specimen of Schizanthus! The plants..are..densely covered with little butterfly flowers.
1879 J. S. Hibberd 1st Ser. Synopsis p. ix
The 'papilionaceous' or butterfly flowers represent an enormous natural order.
1881 F. Darwin in 10 Feb. 334/1
It seems impossible to believe that a butterfly-flower could be developed under such circumstances.
1903 37 476
Other red butterfly flowers are species of Silene, Lychnis and Primula.
1929 11 417
Schizanthus retusus Hook. Butterfly flower.
1956 L. S. Wolfe 19
A legume is a plant that bears pods like the pea or bean and produces a characteristic butterfly flower.
2000 P. Schappert iv. 192
‘Butterfly flowers’ have relatively deep corollas that suit the length of an uncoiled proboscis.
28 July (Gardening section) 1
Schizanthus, otherwise known as poor man's orchid or the butterfly flower,..is a new discovery for me.
butterfly lily n.
(a) a mariposa lily (genus Calochortus); = ;
(b) a ginger lily (genus Hedychium, family Zingiberaceae); esp. H. coronarium.
1880 V. Rattan
C[alochortus] uniflorus,..Stem very short, bulbiferous... Mariposa. Butterfly Lily.
1885 28 608/1
The most beautiful flower I have seen in Jamaica is the wild ginger... The natives call it the ‘butterfly lily’, for the upper petals are in shape something like the expanded wings of a large white butterfly.
1902 V. K. Chesnut 323
Calochortus venustus..the commonest species of the Mariposa or butterfly lilies.
1970 3 Aug. 15/3
The Butterfly Lily (Hedychium)..can tolerate wet soil.
2014 J. L. Lowry 77/2
You can serve unusual vegetables to your guests while amazing the neighbors with the beauty of your butterfly lilies.
butterfly lobster n. any decapod crustacean of the family Scyllaridae, with a broad, flattened body; spec. the small Ibacus peronii, found in coastal waters of Australia.
1880 L. A. Meredith 248
‘Butterfly lobsters’..the shell of the head and body..expands into something like wing-forms.
1966 May 25
The zoological tribe Scyllaridea comprises two families, the Palinuridae, commonly known as marine crayfish or spiny lobsters and the Scyllaridae, or butterfly lobsters.
2007 W. R. Webber & J. D. Booth in K. L. Lavalli & E. Spanier ii. 26
The scyllarid lobsters have attracted an interesting variety of common names... These names include slipper lobsters, shovel-nosed lobsters, squat lobsters, butterfly lobsters.
butterfly orchid n. any of various orchids, esp. of the genera Psychopsis and Platanthera, having flowers thought to resemble a butterfly in shape; also with distinguishing word.Cf. ,
1851 6 Sept. 564/2
Oncidium Papilio, the butterfly Orchid, from Trinidad, flowers in succession nearly all the year round.
1935 19 Mar. b18/2
A rare butterfly orchid which will be on display at the California Spring Garden Show.
1996 R. Mabey 441/2
Greater butterfly-orchid, Platanthera chloranthera [sic] and lesser butterfly-orchid, P. bifolia , are white-flowered species whose blooms are strongly fragrant at night.
2002 P. Benshoff vii. 145
These large trees are covered with butterfly orchids.
butterfly orchis n. now rare a butterfly orchid; esp. Platanthera bifolia or P. chlorantha.
1597 J. Gerard i. 165
Ornithophora Candida. Butter-flie Orchis.
1629 J. Parkinson xxii. 192
Orchis Hermaphroditica candida, the white Butterflie Orchis.
The lesser Butterfly Orchis. Sparingly in some inclosures near Buddon Wood.
1851 12 July 16/2
I never see the butterfly orchis without being reminded by it of some tall fair girl, whose growth has overshot her strength.
1996 Feb. 93
There is a first lighting up of wild roses on the wood-edge, pink and white, and of purple orchis and butterfly-orchis.
butterfly pea n. any of several tropical leguminous plants of the genera Clitoria and Centrosema, esp. Clitoria ternatea, which are native to the Americas and Asia and have papilionaceous flowers; cf. .
1848 A. Gray 106
Clitoria..Butterfly Pea. Calyx tubular, 5-toothed... Centrosema..Spurred Butterfly Pea. Calyx short, 5-cleft.
1888 13 269
Along the roadsides..were great quantities of the showy flowers of the Butterfly peas, Clitoria Mariana and Centrosema Virginiana.
1977 6 Jan. 15/3
No greenhouse is complete without a climber, and one to try this year is the butterfly pea, Clitoria ternatea.
2013 14 Sept.
An accompanying side of fragrant, slightly sweet rice tinged blue with butterfly pea flowers.
butterfly plant n.
(a) a butterfly orchid (now rare);
(b) any of various plants of the genus Schizanthus (family Solanaceae), which are widely cultivated for their bright, multicoloured flowers; cf. ;
(c) any of various plants having flowers which are attractive to butterflies or pollinated by butterflies.
1825 J. Lindley in 11 910
The Butterfly-plant of Santa Cruz, described by West.
1882 11 Feb. 91/2
Butterfly plants (Schizanthus) are a charming class of annuals.
1891 Aug. 171
The butterfly-plants of the butterfly-zone are all strictly adapted to butterfly tastes and butterfly fancies.
1909 Aug. 116/2
The butterfly plant (Oncidium papilio), one of the weirdest and most extraordinary of orchid flowers known.
1961 18 July 10/1
A bower overflowing with hanging baskets containing Schizanthus, the butterfly plant.
1985 28 Sept. 7/3
Small tortoiseshells and speckled woods flutter over the ‘butterfly plants’, buddleia and sedum.
13 June iv. 2/1
There's an advantage to having some thistle but parsley and bronze fennel are better. They're all butterfly plants that offer nectar and chewy leaves.
butterfly ray n. any of the short-tailed rays of the genus Gymnura and family Gymnuridae, of warm seas, having very broad and flat pectoral fins.It is uncertain what fish is denoted in quot. .
1865 A. G. L'Estrange xi. 287
Here [sc. off Cornwall] was also the butterfly ray; the rare blenny with its long dorsal fin; [etc.].
1877 H. C. Dorner 58
The Butterfly Ray. (Pteroplatea maclura). Above, the color is greenish blue, with pale spots, below, it is pale red.
1931 J. R. Norman xvi. 325
The Butterfly Rays (Pteroplatea).
2016 P. R. Last et al. xxiv. 520
Gymnura tentaculata... Diet probably based on teleosts, like other butterfly rays.
butterfly shell n. the shell of various marine molluscs, esp. (formerly) of gastropods of the genus Voluta, and (in later use) of bivalve clams of the genus Donax; (also) the mollusc itself.
1831 Webster I.
Butterfly-shell, n. A genus of Testaceous Molluscas, with a spiral unilocular shell; called voluta.
1939 Nov. 105/2
The small yellow clam locally called a butterfly-shell seems to be a favorite victim.
9 Mar. (Review section) 20
She was walking along the shoreline under a pale sun gathering butterfly shells.
butterfly snail n. any of the pelagic gastropod molluscs of the group Pteropoda, which have wing-like flaps that are used in swimming; a sea butterfly.
1876 E. R. Lankester tr. Haeckel II. xix. 162
The Stump-headed Snails (Perocephala) are very closely allied..to the Cuttle-fish (through the Butterfly-snails).
1929 H. G. Wells et al. II. vi. i. 556/2
A whalebone whale swims its devouring way through swarms of little crustacea or butterfly-snails, taking ten thousand at a gulp.
2008 T. Soper 14
The butterfly snail is a shell-less ‘naked pteropod’ which may grow to as much as 36mm in length.
butterfly tulip n. a mariposa lily (genus Calochortus); cf.
1860 May 486/2
The beautiful Butterfly Tulip, or Calochortus venustus.
1937 26 Apr. 17/3
They carried sheaves of pale pink roses, delphiniums, and butterfly-tulips.
4 Mar. (Features section) 38
The butterfly tulip (Calochortus amabilis) is a brilliant yellow flower with a deep purple spot on each petal.
butterfly weed n. chiefly U.S. any of several North American flowering plants, spec. the orange milkweed, Asclepias tuberosa, which has clusters of sweetly-scented orange or yellow flowers that are attractive to butterflies.Also called pleurisy root.
1798 B. S. Barton 48
It [sc. Asclepias decumbens] is called Butterfly-weed, &c. because its flowers are often visited by the butterflies.
1830 J. Lindley 213
Butterfly weed is a popular remedy in the United States for a variety of disorders.
1969 D. F. Costello
The flaming orange umbels of butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa ), blooming late in the year, add to the magic of the autumn flora.
2015 30 June 12
Butterfly weed likes full sun, so it's no wonder it does well along the highways and byways of North America from the Rockies eastward.
ˈbutterflydom n. the state or condition of being a butterfly (in various senses); the world of butterflies.
1863 7 Mar. 39/2
His transition condition, before he develops into the full-grown butterflydom of the box, is lifted several hundred feet above his ordinary social altitude.
1882 H. C. Merivale II. ii. vii. 240
The world in all its aspects bore the pleasant face of butterflydom.
1911 Aug. 84/2
When several choice bits of butterflydom had eluded my grasp, behold the masculine element enters and demands—‘Give me that net.’
11 Dec. c37
‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar’, about a larva munching its way to butterflydom.
† butterflyism n. Obsolete the state or condition of being a butterfly (in figurative sense); frivolous behaviour; giddiness.
1833 T. Hook I. xiii. 277
Having cast his skin and burst from the chrysalism of a commander on half-pay into the splendid butterflyism of a barony.
1866 S. G. Osborne 25
That great amount of butterflyism of which we see so much in after-life.
1910 J. J. Holm xv. 343
The age of frivolousness and butterflyism among them is fast passing away.
ˈbutterfly-like adj. and adv.
(a) adj. resembling a butterfly or resembling that of a butterfly;
(b) adv. in the manner of a butterfly.
1706 G. London & H. Wise II. vi. ix. 736
At the end of the Branches appears a Butterfly-like Flower.
1753 J. Lockman 6
He, Butterfly-like,..was perpetually whisking from his Desk; whispering to, and tampering with the several Tradesmen.
1878 R. Browning La Saisiaz in 53
The bard born to bask Butterfly-like in shine which kings and queens And baby-dauphins shed.
1947 R. T. Peterson
The Redstart is one of the most butterfly-like of birds.
1984 R. M. Pyle xvii. 205
While butterflies hold their wings vertically over their backs, and most moths fold them roof-like, geometrids hold them butterfly-like.
2005 May 31/3
The slightly chewed-up creature..is described as female and six inches tall, with pointy ears and butterfly-like wings.
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This entry has been updated (OED Third Edition, September 2018).
In this entry:
In other dictionaries:
- My entries(1)
- buttercuppy, adj.1871
- butter dish, n.1559
- buttered, adj.eOE
- butteresse, n.1632
- butterface, n.1998
- butterfingered, adj.1615
- butterfingers, n.1835
- butterfish, n.1673
- butterflower, n.1527
- butterfly, n.eOE
- butterfly, v.1855
- butterfly effect, n.1958
- butterfly kick, n.1937
- butterham, n.1673
- butterhorn, n.1920
- Butterick, n.1892
- butterine, n.1866
- butteriness, n.1528
- buttering, n.1533
- buttering, adj.1716
- butterinsky, n.1902
- butteris, n.1559
- butterish, adj.1542
- butter-kit, n.1567
- butterless, adj.1820
- buttermilk, n. and adj.a1500
- butternut, n. and adj.1670
- butter pat, n.1789
- butter plate, n.1490
- butter print, n.1616
- butters, adj.2003
- butterscotch, n. and...1847
- butter tooth, n.a1566
- butterwort, n.1597
- buttery, n.1c1384
- buttery, n.21899
- buttery, adj.a1398
- butt-face, n.1984
- butt-faced, adj.1973
- butt-fuck, n.1971