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Meaning of Butterfly Names


" What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any another name would smell as sweet." - William Shakespeare.


            I think he was wrong at least in one case - Butterflies. Many times I wondered what is so particular about the names of the butterfly?  As time passed, I learned some key characteristics for butterfly identification and then referred for the dictionary meaning of the same. It was amazing. Butterflies are named mostly because of their color, appearance, shape, habits. English researchers were frontiers in butterfly research in India and obviously were the first to baptist butterflies. Therefore some of the butterflies are named after British military or civilian rankings, may to "butter-up" the Queen. Here I am listing some deductions and interpretations relating common butterfly names, their relevant key ID mark and relevant meaning.I have not included butterfly names with obvious meaning and I do not have my own photo to show exactly some of the characteristics described.

Based on Markings


Tinsel - m. Very thin sheets, strips, or threads of a glittering material used as a decoration, to impart false sparkle. id. The texture of Tinsel butterfly matches with the meaning. sp. Common Tinsel, Yellow Tinsel.


Mottled - m. Spotted or blotched with different shades or colors. sp. Mottled Emigrant.

Pied - m. having markings of two or more colors. sp.  Magpie crow.

Puffin - Probably named after some northern diving birds having a black-and-white plumage. Puffin also posses black and white markings. sp.  Plain Puffin, Spot Puffin.

Tabby - Having light and dark striped markings.

Pierrot -  m. A male character from French pantomime with a whitened face, white costume, and pointed hat. id. Probably "Polka" type black and white colored appearance. sp. Common Pierrot, Dark Pierrot, Forest Pierrot.

Dusky Diadem -  Dusky means dark in color (Here indicates to dark brown color of the butterfly) and Diadem meaning A crown worn as a sign of royalty (probably indicating the ring string on the border on open wing, interpreted as crown.)

Labyrinth - Something highly intricate or convoluted in character, composition, or construction. sp. Dusky Labyrinth.

Harlequin -  varied in colour or decoration/ having a white coat with irregular patches of black or other dark colour/ A clown; a buffoon.

Onyx - A type of chalcedony that occurs in straight and parallel bands of different colors, often black and white.


Based on Colors


Cerulean - m. Azure; sky-blue. The word is probably derived from the latin word caeruleus, "dark blue, blue or blue-green". id. The upper wings of common cerulean has this typical color. sp. Common Cerulean, Metallic Cerulean, Dark Cerulean.

Cornelian - m. Variant of carnelian. A pale to deep red or reddish-brown variety of clear chalcedony. On open wing, Cornelian exhibits this typical color on its wings, hence the nomenclature. 

Slate - m. A dark or bluish gray to dark bluish or dark purplish gray. sp. Slate Flash.

Rusty - m. Of a yellowish-red or brownish-red color. 

Fawn - m. A grayish yellow-brown to moderate reddish brown.

Salmon -  A moderate, light, or strong yellowish pink to a moderate reddish orange or light orange. sp. Small Salmon Arab.

Rustic - m.Made of unfinished or roughly finished wood.  Having a rough or textured appearance id. Texture and color of upper wing.

Brimstone - m. Sulfur color.

Raven - Black and shiny.

Tawny - A light brown to brownish orange. sp. Tawny Rajah, Tawny Coster.



Based on Habits:
Common Jay

Forester - m. One that inhabits a forest.

Swift - m. Moving or capable of moving with great speed.

Flitter - m. a less common word for flutter. Flutter means, To wave or flap rapidly in an irregular manner / To flap the wings without flying.

Jay - m.  An overly talkative person; a chatterbox. id. Probably fluttering and restless flight. sp. Common Jay.





Based on Ranking:

Commander -  A commissioned rank in the U.S. Navy or Coast Guard that is above lieutenant commander and below captain / an officer responsible for a district of the Metropolitan Police in London.

Yeoman - An attendant, servant, or lesser official in a royal or noble household. sp. Large Yeoman, Common Yeoman.

Knight - A man holding a nonhereditary title conferred by a sovereign in recognition of personal merit or service to the country / A man belonging to an order or brotherhood

Sergeant - A noncommissioned rank in the U.S. Army or Marine Corps that is above corporal and below staff sergeant / The rank of police officer next below a captain, lieutenant, or inspector. sp. Studded Sergeant, Small Staff Sergeant. 

Commodore - Used as an unofficial designation for a captain in the British Navy temporarily in command of a fleet division or squadron.

Constable -  A peace officer with less authority and smaller jurisdiction than a sheriff, empowered to serve writs and warrants and make arrests /  A medieval officer of high rank, usually serving as military commander in the absence of a monarch /  The governor of a royal castle.

Duke -  A nobleman with the highest hereditary rank, especially a man of the highest grade of the peerage in Great Britain. sp. Redspot Duke.

Monarch -  A sovereign prince who rules an independent duchy in some European countries. A sovereign head of state, esp a king, queen, or emperor, who rules usually by hereditary right.

Common Baron
Emperor -  The male ruler of an empire / a monarch who rules or reigns over an empire

Baron -  A British nobleman of the lowest rank.

Admiral - the supreme commander of a fleet or navy

Jester - a professional clown employed by a king or nobleman, esp at courts during the Middle Ages.

Imperial -  Of, relating to, or suggestive of an empire or a sovereign, especially an emperor or empress.

Courtesan - a woman who cohabits with an important man or A woman prostitute, especially one whose clients are members of a royal court or men of high social standing. (????) Interesting if it is.

Earl -  A British nobleman next in rank above a viscount and below a marquis, corresponding to a count in continental Europe.

Marquis -  A nobleman ranking below a duke and above an earl or a count. sp. Redtail Marquis. 

Courtier -  An attendant at a sovereign's court.

Lascar -  army servant.

Count -  A nobleman in some European countries. sp. Grey Count, Lavender Count.



Named After heads of various institutions in various  countries:

Pasha - Used formerly as a title for military and civil officers, especially in Turkey and northern Africa. / a provincial governor or other high official of the Ottoman Empire or the modern Egyptian kingdom: placed after a name when used as a title.

Rajah - The king in Indian Culture. sp. Black Rajah, Variegated Rajah.

Nawab - A Muslim ruling prince or powerful landowner in India. sp. Common Nawab.

Caliph - A leader of an Islamic polity, regarded as a successor of Muhammad and by tradition always male. What about Red Caliph female? :-)

Archduke -  In certain royal families, especially that of imperial Austria, a nobleman having a rank equivalent to that of a sovereign prince. sp. Dark Archduke, Great Archduke.
 

Relation to Culture 

Cupid - m. In Roman mythology its a representation of Cupid as a naked cherubic boy usually having wings and holding a bow and arrow, used as a symbol of love. id. This description has nothing to do with the key mark of the butterfly, however this nomenclature signifies the efforts to integrate  European culture with science fields. My personal opinion is that, such ways preserves the history in daily life, making people sensible about the culture. sp. Small Cupid, Indian Cupid, Plains Cupid.


Plum Judy - m. Plum means a dark purple to deep reddish purple. Judy is British slang for girl or woman. id. Dark purple color can be seen when butterfly spreads wings open. As far as Judy is concern, for me, relation seems to be distinct. Woman and dance might be that. It has a habit of landing and turning around almost immediately after alighting. It repeats this turning movements as it moves along branches to evade predators.This distinctive mode of movement gives the impression of 'dancing' and is an important field characteristic that helps in identifying the species from even a distance.The relation also may be extended to the wife of Punch in the children's traditional and popular puppet show Punch and Judy. 

Punch - m. The quarrelsome hook-nosed husband of Judy in the comic puppet show Punch and Judy.

Jezebel - I don't see any direct relation, but still stated ahead is interesting and popular description when you search for Jezebel : wife of Ahab who was king of Israel; according to the Old Testament she was a cruel immoral queen who fostered the worship of Baal and tried to kill Elijah and other prophets of Israel (9th century BC). The name Jezebel came to be associated with false prophets, and further associated by the early 20th century with fallen or abandoned women.

Helen - The daughter of Zeus and Leda and wife of Menelaus, considered to be the most beautiful woman in the world. Her abduction by Paris caused the Trojan War.

Wizard - Probably because of impact of magic and magicians, especially black magic, a male witch or a man who practices or professes to practice magic or sorcery.

Punchinello - Any grotesque or absurd character/ a type of clown from Italian burlesque or puppet shows, the prototype of Punch.

Gorgon - Now I dont believe they might have named after this :  Greek Mythology Any of the three sisters Stheno, Euryale, and the mortal Medusa who had snakes for hair and eyes that if looked into turned the beholder into stone. Also A woman regarded as ugly or terrifying. On the contrary yellow gorgon and brown gorgon are rare and so striking because of shape.

Argus - In Greek Mythology, A giant with 100 eyes who was made guardian of Io and was later slain by Hermes.

Wight -Probably after an island in the English Channel off south-central England. It is a popular resort area and yachting center. Queen Victoria often stayed at the Osborne House near Cowes. sp. Common Wight.

Faun - Ancient Italian deity in human shape, with horns, pointed ears and a goat's tail; equivalent to Greek satyr.

Quaker - a member of the Religious Society of Friends, a Christian sect founded by the English religious leader George Fox (1624-91) about 1650, whose central belief is the doctrine of the Inner Light. Quakers reject sacraments, ritual, and formal ministry, hold meetings at which any member may speak, and have promoted many causes for social reform.


Symbolic meanings associated with the "butterfly" in different cultures and languages :

The Mandarin Chinese word for butterfly is "hu-tieh". "Tieh" means "70 years", therefore butterflies have become a symbol for a long life. In this culture butterflies have also become representative of young men in love. In the Japanese culture butterflies are thought to be representative of young maidens and marital bliss. Many Japanese families use the butterfly in the family crest design.

Germany has a very unique belief about butterflies. As butterflies can often be found hovering about milk pails or butter churns, they have become associated with witches trying to steal the cream. The German word for butterfly is "Schmetterling", which is actually derived for the Czech word "Smetana" which means "cream".

There are many links with butterflies in mythology from all over the world, many of which, in particular Greek mythology, link butterflies to the human soul. The Ancient Greeks also considered butterflies as the souls of those who had passed away.
In ancient Greek the word for butterfly is "Psyche", which translated means "soul". This was also the name for Eros' human lover and when the two figures are depicted they are often surrounded by butterflies.


In one of the Russian dialects, butterflies are referred to as "dushuchka" which is a derivative of the word "dusha" also meaning soul. There is also an Irish saying that refers to the symbolic meaning of butterflies. This saying is: "Butterflies are souls of the dead waiting to pass through purgatory".

Butterflies also symbolize: Resurrection, Transition, Celebration, Lightness, Time, Soul. There is a small town in Mexico that also associate butterflies with souls. It is to this town that Monarch Butterflies migrate every year, around the holiday known as the Day of the Dead. The people of this town see these butterflies as the returning souls of the deceased.

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