We use cookies to enhance your experience on our website. By continuing to use our website, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Find out moreJump to Main NavigationJump to Content
  • Text size: A
  • A

butterfly, v.

Frequency (in current use): 
Origin: Formed within English, by conversion. Etymon: butterfly n.
 1. intransitive.

 a. To flutter or flit like a butterfly. Frequently with about, around, etc.

1855   Vermont Chron. 7 Aug. 126/6   Ye animated bundles of ribbons and flounces, who are butterflying around the dry goods stores.
1875   W. D. Howells Foregone Concl. viii. 96   Gaming, sonneteering, and butterflying about generally.
1880   Time 2 448   Who are those young gentlemen at that side seat, who butterfly round that smiling lily?
1922   A. S. M. Hutchinson This Freedom iii. v. 207   A wife..that butterflied the day long between idleness and pleasure.
1949   E. Bowen Heat of Day vii. 122   The spotlight butterflied over the letters.
2006   Daily Tel. (Nexis) 20 July 6   I wake up at 4am with tasks butterflying around my head.

1855—2006(Hide quotations)


b. To avoid an exclusive commitment to one romantic partner; to dally, to flirt. Obsolete.

1893   Chambers's Jrnl. 12 Aug. 504/2   The young graduate was only butterflying after all.
1906   B. von Hutten What became of Pam iii. ix. 284   ‘What about Wantage?’..‘He is still butterflying.’

1893—1906(Hide quotations)


 2. transitive. To split (a piece of meat or fish) almost in two and spread it out flat. Cf. butterfly n. Compounds 1a(d).

1952   Cumberland (Maryland) Evening Times 10 July 14/1   This cut should be enough to ‘butterfly’ the shrimp which should be almost separated but not quite.
1978   Washington Post (Nexis) 15 June e1   Have butcher bone the leg of lamb and butterfly it.
1993   Albuquerque (New Mexico) Jrnl. 19 May b12/2   Let the meat department butterfly the steak for you.
2001   Austral. Gourmet Traveller Aug. 90/3   With a sharp knife, butterfly fillet to enlarge surface area, then flatten gently.
2016   Choice Nov. 61/2   If you want to cook a whole chicken you'll need to butterfly it.

1952—2016(Hide quotations)




  ˈbutterflied adj. (of a piece of meat or fish) split almost in half and opened flat.

1954   Yuma (Arizona) Daily Sun 11 Mar. 3/1   Arrange the butterflied prawns in individual flat baking dishes.
1996   J. Lanchester Debt to Pleasure (1997) 205   Butterflied lamb, vegetable kebabs, brochettes, grilled sea-bass.
2015   Press (Christchurch, N.Z.) (Nexis) 7 Oct. 2   There is certainly plenty of variety in pork cuts—medallions and butterflied steaks, frenched racks, boned loins.

1954—2015(Hide quotations)


This entry has been updated (OED Third Edition, September 2018).

In this entry:

In other dictionaries: