butterfly effect

noun
a cumulatively large effect that a very small natural force may produce over a period of time.

Origin:
1980–85; so called from the notion that the fluttering of a butterfly's wings may set off currents that will grow into a large storm

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World English Dictionary
butterfly effect
 
n
the idea, used in chaos theory, that a very small difference in the initial state of a physical system can make a significant difference to the state at some later time
 
[C20: from the theory that a butterfly flapping its wings in one part of the world might ultimately cause a hurricane in another part of the world]

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Dictionary.com's 21st Century Lexicon
Main Entry:  butterfly effect
Part of Speech:  n
Definition:  a chaotic effect created by something seemingly insignificant, the phenomenon whereby a small change in one part of a complex system can have a large effect somewhere else
Etymology:  from the beating of a butterfly's wings in one place causing a tornado in another part of the world
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Example sentences
The butterfly effect is so small as to be totally irrelevant.
The butterfly effect can be added though to put us at the helm of many extinctions.
Something called the butterfly effect adds to the burden.
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