Etymology of "Butterfly"

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Etymology of "Butterfly"

Postby Perseus » Sat Feb 21, 2009 2:43 pm


BUTTER n.1 + FLY n.; with OE. buttorfléoe cf. Du. botervlieg, earlier botervlieghe, mod.G. butterfliege. The reason of the name is unknown: Wedgwood points out a Du. synonym boterschijte in Kilian, which suggests that the insect was so called from the appearance of its excrement.]

I. 1. An insect belonging to any of those diurnal species of lepidoptera, or scaly-winged flies, which have knobbed antennæ, and carry their wings erect when at rest.

a1000 ÆLFRIC Voc. in Wr.-Wülcker 121 Papilio, buttor~fleoe. a1300 Floriz & Bl. 473 er fliste ut a buterflie Are ihc wiste on min ie. c1386 CHAUCER Nun's Pr. Prol. 24 Swich talkyng is nat worth a boterflye. c1440 Promp. Parv. 46 Boturflye, papilio. c1440 HYLTON Scala Perf. (W. de W.) III. xxv, Lyke to children at renneth after butter flyes. 1548 LATIMER Serm. Ploughers (Arb.) 22 The butterflye gloriethe not in hyr owne dedes. 1606 SHAKES. Tr. & Cr. III. iii. 78 Men like butter-flies, Shew not their mealie wings, but to the Summer. 1626 BACON Sylva §696 As Butterflies quicken with heat, which were benummed with cold. 1726 GAY Fables I. xxiv. 41 And what's a Butterfly? At best He's but a caterpillar, drest. 1845 DARWIN Nat. Voy. ii. 33 This [Papilio feronia] is the only butterfly which I have ever seen, that uses its legs for running. 1856 MRS. BROWNING Aur. Leigh 312 Butterflies that bear Upon their blue wings such red embers round.


So it looks like it could be named after any of the white butterflies.

Adur Butterfly & Large Moth List


Andy Horton
Adur Valley Nature Notes
Adur Valley Nature Notes: February 2009

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