(redirected from Butterflys)
Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Medical, Financial, Idioms.
Related to Butterflys: butterflies in stomach


any of a large group of insectsinsect,
invertebrate animal of the class Insecta of the phylum Arthropoda. Like other arthropods, an insect has a hard outer covering, or exoskeleton, a segmented body, and jointed legs. Adult insects typically have wings and are the only flying invertebrates.
..... Click the link for more information.
 found throughout most of the world; with the mothsmoth,
any of the large and varied group of insects which, along with the butterflies, make up the order Lepidoptera. The moths comprise the great majority of the 100,000 species of the order, and about 70 of its 80 families.
..... Click the link for more information.
, they comprise the order Lepidoptera. There are about 12 families of butterflies. Most adult moths and butterflies feed on nectar sucked from flowers. In the process they may transfer pollen from one flower to another, and many plants depend on moths or butterflies for pollination. Like moths, butterflies have coiled, sucking mouthparts and two pairs of wings that function as a single pair; the wings are covered with scales that come off as dust when the insect is handled.

Butterflies can be distinguished from moths in several ways: the antennae of butterflies are knobbed at the tips, while those of moths almost never have terminal knobs and are often feathery; the body of a butterfly is more slender and usually smoother than that of a moth; butterflies are active by day, while most moths are nocturnal; when at rest most butterflies hold the wings vertically, while most moths flatten them against the surface on which they are resting. The skippers are intermediate in characteristics, but they are usually called butterflies. Some butterflies migrate, usually traveling toward the equator in the fall and away from it in the spring. The North American monarch butterfly makes mass migrations of several thousand miles.


The Lepidoptera, especially the butterflies, are known for the beautiful colors and patterns of their wings. Red, yellow, black, and white pigments are found in the scales; the blues and greens, and the metallic, iridescent hues found especially in tropical species, are caused chiefly by refraction. Some butterflies are protectively colored to match the environment. Many conspicuously colored species are distasteful to birds, which learn to avoid them, and others are protected by their resemblance to the distasteful species (see mimicrymimicry,
in biology, the advantageous resemblance of one species to another, often unrelated, species or to a feature of its own environment. (When the latter results from pigmentation it is classed as protective coloration.
..... Click the link for more information.
). Among the most beautiful butterflies are the swallowtails, found all over the world, the monarchs, and the peacock and tortoiseshell butterflies.


Metamorphosis is complete, that is, the insect goes through four stages: egg, larvalarva,
independent, immature animal that undergoes a profound change, or metamorphosis, to assume the typical adult form. Larvae occur in almost all of the animal phyla; because most are tiny or microscopic, they are rarely seen. They play diverse roles in the lives of animals.
..... Click the link for more information.
, pupapupa
, name for the third stage in the life of an insect that undergoes complete metamorphosis, i.e., develops from the egg through the larva and the pupa stages to the adult.
..... Click the link for more information.
, and adult. The eggs, which hatch in 2 to 30 days, are usually laid on a plant that the larva (called a caterpillarcaterpillar
, common name for the larva of a moth or butterfly. Caterpillars have distinct heads and are segmented and wormlike. They have three pairs of short, jointed legs (retained in the adult) on the thorax; in addition, they have unjointed, fleshy appendages, called
..... Click the link for more information.
) uses for food. Most caterpillars eat leaves. After the last of several molts the larva is transformed into a pupa with a hard, often sculptured outer integument, within which it changes to the adult form. The butterfly pupa is called a chrysalis, or chrysalid. Most chrysalids (unlike the pupae of most moths) are not enclosed in a cocoon; however, they are usually suspended from some object by a silken thread and may have a partial covering. Except in those species that winter in the pupa stage, the adult usually emerges from the integument in two or three weeks. Members of some species winter in the egg stage, others as larvae or adults. The adults of most species, however, live only about a month.


Butterflies are classified in the phylum Arthropoda, class Insecta, order Lepidoptera. The true butterflies form the superfamily Papilionoidea, and the skippers form the superfamily Hesperoidae.


See A. B. Klotz, Butterflies of the World (1976); R. M. Pyle, The Audubon Society Handbook for Butterfly Watchers (1984); M. Daccordi et al., Simon & Schuster's Guide to Butterflies and Moths (1988); D. Carter, Butterflies and Moths (1992).


In Christian art the butterfly symbolizes the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It also represents the resurrection of all humanity. Butterflies sometimes appear in Christian art depicting the Virgin Mary and the child Jesus (see also Mary, Blessed Virgin). Often the butterfly rests in Jesus'hand.

The butterfly's own stages of growth require a dramatic transition from one form of life to another. This transition suggests the following symbolic formula. The caterpillar stage represents our earthly existence, the cocoon death, and the emerging butterfly eternal life. The ancient Greeks recognized a similar symbolism in the butterfly. They named the creature psyche, the same word they used for "soul." Although apparently not a popular symbol among the Greeks and Romans, butterflies flutter above the departed in a number of works of Greek art. Christians adopted the symbol sometime during the Middle Ages. In Christian art the butterfly usually stands for resurrection. Nevertheless, its beauty and short, meandering flights also led to its occasional use as a symbol of vanity and aimlessness.

Further Reading

Becker, Udo. "Butterfly." In his The Continuum Encyclopedia of Symbols. New York: Continuum, 1994. Hogan, Julie. Treasury of Easter Celebrations. Nashville, TN: Ideals Publications, 1999. Hulme, F. Edward. The History, Principles and Practice of Symbolism in Chris- tian Art. 1891. Reprint. Detroit, MI: Gale Research, 1969. Knapp, Justina. Christian Symbols and How to Use Them. 1935. Reprint. Detroit, MI: Gale Research, 1974. Lord, Priscilla Sawyer, and Daniel J. Foley. Easter Garland. 1963. Reprint. Detroit, MI: Omnigraphics, 1999. Webber, F. R. Church Symbolism. 1938. Second edition, revised. Reprint. Detroit, MI: Omnigraphics, 1992.

What does it mean when you dream about a butterfly?

Butterflies sometimes carry the same range of meanings as birds. However, because of the metamorphosis of caterpillars into butterflies, butterflies are potent symbols of transformation. They also represent beauty and pollination.


(invertebrate zoology)
Any insect belonging to the lepidopteran suborder Rhopalocera, characterized by a slender body, broad colorful wings, and club-shaped antennae.
A color imperfection in a lime-putty finish caused by lumps in the lime that were not broken up during mixing.

butterfly wedge, butterfly

A double dovetail for joining two boards at their edges.


1. any diurnal insect of the order Lepidoptera that has a slender body with clubbed antennae and typically rests with the wings (which are often brightly coloured) closed over the back
2. a swimming stroke in which the arms are plunged forward together in large circular movements


Some say that the butterfly represents the spirit or the essence of the individual: the soul. Butterflies are generally symbols of transformation because they go through a metamorphosis. They are beautiful, evasive, and, at times, inspiring. Your unconscious mind may be pointing out the most positive part of yourself or another.
References in periodicals archive ?
The 22-year-old South African is coming off the back of a record 27 wins in 27 races in the seven-stage Fina/Mastbank Swimming World Cup series, which finished in Singapore on Sunday, but he's already looking ahead to December 3 and 4, when he hopes to reign supreme in the 50, 100 and 200-metre butterfly events.
When it's too warm, they're not going to hibernate, they're going to fly around and act like a regular butterfly.
Fortunately for butterflies and butterfly lovers, one woman has created her paradise on a slice of land in Pine Mountain, Georgia.
THEY don't write operas like Madama Butterfly any more.
The scene, like the butterfly stroke, is second nature to the longtime L.
Robert Oppenheimer) and tenors Roger Honeywell (Captain James Nolan) and Thomas Glenn (Robert Wilson) in Doctor Atomic: tenor Joseph Kaiser (Narraboth) in Salome; soprano Adrianne Pieczonka (Amelia) in Simon Boccanegra; and Michael Levine designing the set for Anthony Minghella's stunning Madama Butterfly.
Subsequently, she's added Lauretta (Gianni Schicchi), Liu (Turandot) and, most recently, the title role of Madama Butterfly.
Singers and musicians from around Southern California will perform Giacomo Puccini's ``Madama Butterfly,'' the 1904 opera that tells the tragic story of a geisha who falls in love with and is betrayed by an American naval officer in turn-of-the-century Japan.