1. Any of various insects of the order Lepidoptera, characteristically having slender bodies, knobbed antennae, and four broad, usually colorful wings.
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.
[Middle English butterflye, from Old English butorfloge : butor, butere, butter; see butter + floge, fly; see fly2.]
Word History: Is a butterfly named for the color of its excrement or because it was thought to steal butter? It is hard to imagine that anyone ever noticed the color of butterfly excrement or believed the insect capable of such theft. The first suggestion rests on the fact that an early Dutch name for the butterfly was boterschijte. The second is based on an old belief that the butterfly was really a larcenous witch in disguise.