It’s not got butter on it! It should be called ‘big-wing-fly’…

And so the conversation with 6-year-old continued, with much laughing over the name of the beautiful creature – the butterfly. So why is it called a butterfly? No one knew, but a quick look in the partner database (aka Google, thanks Peter) brought up a few suggestions:

  1. because they would flutter around milk while it was being turned into butter
  2. because witches that took on the shape of the ‘butterfly’ stole milk and butter
  3. it was really called a ‘flutterby’ but that got mixed up
  4. because the first butterfly to come out of hibernation (yes, this one hibernates) in the summer is the male brimstone butterfly and it is yellow, the colour of butter

There doesn’t seem to be any clear answer, all of these sound like they might be right – what do you think?

Why is it called a butterfly?
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2 thoughts on “Why is it called a butterfly?

  • 31 July, 2017 at 9:28 am

    How about some cynical adult , centuries ago, answering a child’s query with something like ‘ It’s rather grand, but it is but a fly’…? Which could easily be mistaken for a name.

    Also, it could be a corruption of beauty/ful fly – since beau is pronounced ‘ bo’, & with the variation in accents/dialects & spelling, & children’s pronunciation, (note the lost o from pronounce) I can imagine beautyfly -‘butty fly’ -‘buttuhfly’ – becoming a description.

    I’ve seen no info/ research backing up butterflies being attracted to milk or butter, so that explanation could be complete fallacy. Perhaps people churning buttermilk in revival camps could comment?

  • 6 September, 2017 at 5:08 am

    I was a substutute teacher today and the children asked me why are these insects callled butterflies. I admitted I didn’t know for sure but I said maybe they are called butterflies because their wings are so soft they are like butter and of course they fly. Looking at they some of the other answers it sounds about as good lol.

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