Other Word Forms of Butterfly
Origin of Butterfly
Alternate etymology connects the first element to butere (“butter”), as the name may have originally been applied solely to butterflies of a yellowish color. This may have merged later with the belief that butterflies ate milk and butter (compare Middle High German molkendiep (“butterfly”, literally “milk-thief”); Modern German Molkendieb and Low German Botterlicker (“butterfly”, literally “butter-licker”)), or that they excreted a butter-like substance (compare Middle Dutch boterschijte (“butterfly”, literally “butter-shitter”)). Compare also Middle Dutch botervliege (“butterfly”) (Dutch botervlieg), German Butterfliege (“butterfly”). More at butter, fly.
Middle English buterflie, butturflye, boterflye, from Old English butorflēoge, buttorflēoge, buterflēoge, perhaps a compound of butor- 'beater', mutation of bēatan 'to beat', and flēoge 'fly'. More at beat and fly.
Middle English butterflye from Old English butorflēoge butor, butere butter butter flēoge fly fly2
From American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition
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