Butterflies in My Stomach – Idiom, Origin & Meaning

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Candace Osmond

Candace Osmond studied Advanced Writing & Editing Essentials at MHC. She’s been an International and USA TODAY Bestselling Author for over a decade. And she’s worked as an Editor for several mid-sized publications. Candace has a keen eye for content editing and a high degree of expertise in Fiction.

Got a case of butterflies in your stomach? It sounds like some weird stomach bug, but I assure you it’s not. This phrase isn’t about insect-infested intestines (ew!) but about a feeling we’ve all experienced at some point or another. Intrigued? Let’s get to it.

Is Butterflies in the Stomach an Idiom or Metaphor?

Butterflies in My Stomach Idiom Origin Meaning

It’s both, really. As an idiom, butterflies in your stomach is a phrase where the words together have a meaning different from the dictionary definitions of the individual words. It’s also a metaphor because it draws a comparison between the nervous sensation in your tummy and the fluttering flight of butterflies.

Meaning of Butterflies in Your Stomach

When someone says they’ve got butterflies in their stomach, they’re not saying they’ve swallowed a bunch of insects during a late-night snack. They’re talking about a fluttery feeling in the stomach, usually due to nervousness, excitement, fear or anticipation.

I always get this feeling when I’m about to release a new book! Yes, even now, after 15 years of publishing and nearly 30 books, I still get that fluttery whirlwind in my tumtum.

Butterflies in One’s Stomach Origin and Etymology

Butterflies in Your Stomach Ngram
Butterflies in your stomach usage trend.

This idiom’s origin is a bit unclear, but it seems to have sprung up around the 1900s. The comparison of the anxious, fluttery feeling to the flapping of butterfly wings is so spot on that the phrase quickly caught on and is now widely used to describe pre-performance jitters or the thrill of a first date.

Synonyms for Butterflies in Your Stomach

Feeling the butterflies and want to express it differently? Synonyms can help get your point across without sounding repetitive.

  • Jitters
  • Nervous stomach
  • The heebie-jeebies
  • Anxiety
  • Nervousness
  • Tension
  • Stress
  • Cold feet

Butterflies in My Stomach Sentence Examples

Butterflies in My Stomach Idiom Origin Meaning 1

Still a bit unsure about how to use this stomach idiom? Here are a few sentence examples to help you fully absorb the true meaning of this phrase.

  • I always get butterflies in my stomach before a big presentation.
  • He had butterflies in his stomach as he knelt down to propose.
  • The butterflies in her stomach vanished as soon as she hit the stage.
  • Going on a roller coaster always gives me butterflies in my stomach.
  • She felt the familiar butterflies in her stomach as her date arrived.
  • As the exam day neared, he felt butterflies in his stomach.
  • The prospect of meeting her favorite author gave her butterflies in her stomach.
  • He could feel the butterflies in his stomach as he stepped into the job interview.
  • Do you get butterflies in your stomach when you think about the big move?

Closing the Wings

Phew, that was a fluttery whirlwind, wasn’t it? Now, the next time you get that feeling of butterflies in your tummy, you know it’s not a belly full of bugs but a belly full of metaphorical winged friends. I’ve got tons of other quick guides on idioms, so be sure to check them out!

Want to have more idioms in your arsenal? Check out some others we covered: