butterfly


butterfly
butterflylike, adj., adv.
/but"euhr fluy'/, n., pl. butterflies, v., butterflied, butterflying, adj.
n.
1. any of numerous diurnal insects of the order Lepidoptera, characterized by clubbed antennae, a slender body, and large, broad, often conspicuously marked wings.
2. a person who flits aimlessly from one interest or group to another: a social butterfly.
3. butterflies, (used with a pl. v.) Informal. a queasy feeling, as from nervousness, excitement, etc.
4. a racing breaststroke, using a dolphin kick, in which the swimmer brings both arms out of the water in forward, circular motions.
5. Carpentry. See butterfly wedge.
6. Sculpture. an X-shaped support attached to an armature.
7. one of the swinging brackets of a butterfly table.
8. Motion Pictures. a screen of scrim, gauze, or similar material, for diffusing light.
v.t.
9. Cookery. to slit open and spread apart to resemble the spread wings of a butterfly.
adj. Also, butterflied.
10. Cookery. split open and spread apart to resemble a butterfly: butterfly shrimp; butterfly steak.
[bef. 1000; ME boterflye, OE buttorfleoge. See BUTTER, FLY2]

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I
Any of more than 17,000 lepidopteran species found worldwide.

Unlike moths, butterflies are active during the day and are usually brightly coloured or strikingly patterned. Distinctive features are club-tipped antennae and a habit of holding the wings vertically over the back when at rest. With few exceptions the larvae and adults eat plants. Butterflies are classified into five or six families. The metalmarks of the family Lycaenidae are found chiefly in the New World tropics; some members of the family Nymphalidae are called snout butterflies. Other species (with their families) include the white and sulphur butterflies (Pieridae), the swallowtail butterfly (Papilionidae), the blue, copper, and hairstreak butterflies (Lycaenidae), and the admiral, monarch, and painted lady (Nymphalidae).
II
(as used in expressions)

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insect
 any of 14,000 species of insects (insect) belonging to four families. Butterflies, along with the moths (moth) and the skippers (skipper), make up the insect order Lepidoptera (lepidopteran). Butterflies are nearly worldwide in their distribution.

      The wings, bodies, and legs, like those of moths, are covered with dustlike scales (scale) that come off when the animal is handled. Unlike moths (moth), butterflies are active during the day and are usually brightly coloured or strikingly patterned. Perhaps the most distinctive physical features of the butterfly are its club-tipped antennae and its habit of holding the wings vertically over the back when at rest. The lepidopteran life cycle has four stages: egg, larva (caterpillar), pupa (chrysalis), and adult (imago). The larvae and adults of most butterflies feed on plants, often only specific parts of specific types of plants.

  The four butterfly families are: Pieridae, the whites (white butterfly) and sulfurs (sulfur butterfly), known for their mass migrations; Papilionidae, the swallowtails (swallowtail butterfly) and parnassians (parnassian butterfly) (the latter sometimes considered a separate family, Parnassiidae); Lycaenidae (gossamer-winged butterfly), including the blues (blue butterfly), coppers (copper butterfly), hairstreaks (hairstreak), gossamer-winged butterflies (gossamer-winged butterfly), and metalmarks (metalmark) (the latter found chiefly in the American tropics and sometimes classified as family Riodinidae); and Nymphalidae (brush-footed butterfly), the brush-footed butterflies. Nymphalidae is the largest and most diverse family, and it is divided by some authorities into several families. The brush-footed butterflies include such popular butterflies as the admirals (admiral), fritillaries, monarchs (monarch butterfly), zebras, and painted ladies (painted lady). See also lepidopteran for more detailed coverage.

Additional Reading
John Feltwell, The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Butterflies (1993, reissued 2001), offers information on the ecology and observation of butterflies in addition to photographs and descriptions of more than 1,000 of the world's species. V. J. Stanek, The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Butterflies and Moths, ed. by Brian Turner, trans. from the Czech by Vera Gissing (1977, reissued 1993); and Mauro Daccordi, Paolo Triberti, and Adriano Zanetti, The Macdonald Encyclopedia of Butterflies and Moths (1988), provide highly illustrated and authoritative accounts of the world's Lepidoptera. Sharman Apt Russell, An Obsession with Butterflies: Our Long Love Affair with a Singular Insect (2003), combines discussions of natural history with anecdotes, mythology, symbolism, and other examples of the fascination that individuals and cultures have had with lepidopterans.

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Universalium. 2010.

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