Butterflies in one’s stomach is an idiom that dates to the twentieth century. An idiom is a commonly used word, group of words, or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal definition. Often using descriptive imagery or metaphors, common idioms are words and phrases used in the English language in order to convey a concise idea, and are often spoken or are considered informal or conversational. English idioms can illustrate emotion more quickly than a phrase that has a literal meaning, even when the etymology or origin of the idiomatic expression is lost. An idiom is a metaphorical figure of speech, and it is understood that it is not a use of literal language. Figures of speech like an often-used metaphor have definitions and connotations that go beyond the literal meaning of the words. Mastery of the turn of phrase of an idiom, which may use slang words or other parts of speech common in American slang or British slang, is essential for the English learner. Many English as a Second Language students do not understand idiomatic expressions and idiomatic language such as hit the sack, spill the beans, let the cat out of the bag, silver lining, back to the drawing board, barking up the wrong tree, kick the bucket, hit the nail on the head, face the music, under the weather, piece of cake, when pigs fly, and raining cats and dogs, because they attempt to translate them word for word, which yields only the literal meaning. English phrases that are idioms should not be taken literally. In addition to learning vocabulary and grammar, one must understand the phrasing of the figurative language of idiomatic phrases in order to know English like a native speaker; it is helpful to maintain a list of phrases, common expressions, colloquial terms, and popular expressions to memorize that are used figuratively or idiomatically. We will examine the meaning of the common idiom butterflies in one’s stomach, where it came from, and some examples of its idiomatic usage in sentences.
When someone has butterflies in one’s stomach, he is anxious, nervous, or excited. The term butterflies in one’s stomach refers to the fluttering feeling one has when anxious, nervous, or excited. The phrase butterflies in one’s stomach came into use around 1908 and originally used the singular, butterfly. By the mid-twentieth century, the term morphed into butterflies in one’s stomach.
“I have to be honest that there’s some butterflies in my stomach about it today, but I think it’s the right moment to do this.“ (The Scotsman)
Brazil’s Olympic football men’s team captain Dani Alves has played on the game’s biggest stages but says he is still feeling pre-tournament ‘butterflies’ ahead of Thursday’s opener against Germany. (Reuters)
“I had practiced my presentation maybe 50 times and was still really nervous, but as soon as I went on the stage, my butterflies in my stomach disappeared.” (Austin American-Statesman)