Definition of butterfly effect in US English:

butterfly effect


  • (with reference to chaos theory) the phenomenon whereby a minute localized change in a complex system can have large effects elsewhere.

    • ‘I told you about the butterfly effect, didn't I?’
    • ‘It's the butterfly effect, one magickal bullet at the right place and right time can change the world.’
    • ‘He does an adequate job, creating multiple versions of the role for each of the parallel realities that are created by his butterfly effects.’
    • ‘He only had to change the tiniest thing for the end result to be completely different - known as the butterfly effect.’
    • ‘It's like the butterfly effect: a boy from Peckham forgets to take a drug test in Manchester and within days the world of football is rocked.’
    • ‘In all cases, the butterfly effect curved off the scale.’
    • ‘This sharp portrays a group of people suffering through the vagaries of the butterfly effect.’
    • ‘There will be a butterfly effect in football this summer, as the ripples of one club's reconstruction bring consequences like tidal waves for some others.’
    • ‘This has got absolutely nothing to do with academic speculation over whether sorcery might work along a similar principle to the butterfly effect.’
    • ‘Wakefield's paper appears to be a dramatic example of the butterfly effect celebrated in chaos theory, in which the flutter of tiny wings on one continent is amplified around the planet to produce a tidal wave on some distant shore.’
    • ‘In fact, they had given the idea a name - ‘the butterfly effect.’’
    • ‘No, it would be too risky, because of the butterfly effect.’
    • ‘He not only arrives at the kind of great historical moment you read about in sixth-form studies, he changes events without realising through a kind of butterfly effect.’
    • ‘The process of obtaining apparently probabilistic outcomes from deterministic laws has acquired its own name, the butterfly effect.’
    • ‘Yet there is a sense that progress and understanding will require something new - an economics of virtuous circles, thresholds and butterfly effects, in which small changes have very large effects.’
    • ‘Constant choices (small and large) by each musician influence the others and produce the rich diversity and creativity in the performance (butterfly effects).’
    • ‘Generated from model results, the top of Fig.4 shows the manifestation of the butterfly effect; the shape of the diffusion front curves as flow proceeds downstream.’


1980s: from the notion in chaos theory that a butterfly fluttering in Rio de Janeiro could change the weather in Chicago.


butterfly effect

/ˈbədərˌflaɪ əˈfɛkt/