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butter, n.1

Keywords:
Quotations:
Pronunciation: 
Brit. /ˈbʌtə/
U.S. /ˈbədər/
Forms:  eOE butur- (in compounds), OE buter (rare), OE butor- (in compounds), OE butr- (inflected form), OE–eME butere, lOE buture, eME botere, eME butera, ME botir, ME boture, ME botyr, ME butir, ME butre, ME buttere, ME buttir, ME buttre, ME–15 boter, ME–15 botter, ME–16 buter, ME–16 buttur, ME 16 butture, ME–16 buttyr, ME– butter, 15–16 buttor, 15–16 butyr, 16 bootar, 17 buthther (Irish English (Wexford)); Scottish pre-17 buiter, pre-17 butar, pre-17 buter, pre-17 butir, pre-17 butire, pre-17 buttar, pre-17 buttir, pre-17 butyre, pre-17 buytter, pre-17– butter; N.E.D. (1888) also records a form ME bottre. (Show Less)
Frequency (in current use): 
Origin: A borrowing from Latin. Etymon: Latin būtȳrum
Etymology: < classical Latin būtȳrum (also būtūrum) butter < ancient Greek βούτυρον   butter < βοῦς   ox, cow (see Bucephalus n.) + τυρός   cheese (see tyroma n.).
Similar, or perhaps shared, borrowing is shown by forms in other West Germanic languages: Old Frisian butere   (West Frisian bûter  ), Middle Dutch botre  , botere   (Dutch boter  ), Middle Low German botter  , boter  , Old High German butira   (only in late glossaries; Middle High German buter  , German Butter  ).
 
The details and date of the borrowing of the Latin word into Germanic languages are uncertain and disputed. The evidence of the Old English forms has been interpreted in more than one way to support conflicting arguments.
 
The Old English forms butur-   and butor-   are attested only in butterfly n.  
 
Specific senses.
 
With use in chemistry denoting a chloride (see Compounds 5b) compare post-classical Latin butyrum antimonii (1608 or earlier), butyrum saturni (1566 or earlier).
 1.

 a. A pale yellow dairy fat used in cookery and as a spread, made by churning milk or cream and straining off the buttermilk to leave a solid substance.Butter is a soft solid at room temperature which is easily melted. It is typically made from cow's milk or cream, but that of other animals (as sheep, goats, etc.) can also be used. See also yak butter n. at yak n. Compounds 2.Frequently in collocation with bread; see bread and butter n.

OE   Ælfric Catholic Homilies: 2nd Ser. (Cambr. Gg.3.28) xi. 104   Hi ðicgað on ðam earde ele on heora bigleofum, swa swa we doð buteran.
lOE   Laws: Rectitudines (Corpus Cambr.) xvi. 451   Cyswyrhtan gebyreð hundred cyse, & þæt heo of wringhwæge buteran macige to hlafordes beode.
?a1160   Anglo-Saxon Chron. (Laud) (Peterborough contin.) anno 1137   Þa was corn dære & flec & cæse & butere, for nan ne wæs o þe land.
c1300   Havelok (Laud) (1868) l. 643   Bred an chese, butere and milk.
a1325  (c1250)    Gen. & Exod. (1968) l. 1014   Bred kalues fleis and flures bred And buttere.
c1400  (c1378)    Langland Piers Plowman (Laud 581) (1869) B. v. l. 444   Bothe bred and ale, butter, melke, and chese.
1440   J. Capgrave Life St. Norbert (1977) l. 924   Lenten metis..Mith him not plese; but he mut nedis certayn Ete buttir and chese.
1546   J. Heywood Dialogue Prouerbes Eng. Tongue ii. vii. sig. Kv   Euery promyse that thou therin doest vtter, Is as sure, as it were sealed with butter.
1598   Shakespeare Henry IV, Pt. 1 ii. v. 517   A grosse fat man. Car. As fat as butter .  
1601   P. Holland tr. Pliny Hist. World II. 318   The fattest Butyr is made of Ewes milke.
a1661   R. Bargrave Trav. Diary (1999) 169   My Master..left me Superintendent over the horses & Baggage, having no language, nor any other Victualls, but course Seae bread, and a litle Butture.
1714   J. Gay Shepherd's Week v. 60   Sometimes, like Wax, she rolls the Butter round, Or with the wooden Lilly prints the Pound.
1767   A. Shackleford Mod. Art Cookery Improved 7   Put it into a sauce-pan with a piece of butter, keep it stirring till the butter is melted.
1841   tr. ‘Valery’ Italy & its Comforts iv. 25   Milan is noted for its delicious veal cutlets fried in butter and crumbs.
a1881   M. A. H. Clarke Memorial Vol. (1884) 303   With appetites like demons, come the gentle public in. ‘Toast and butter!’ ‘Eggs and coffee!’ ‘Waiter! Mutton chops for four!’
1915   C. L. Hunt & H. W. Atwater Honey & its Uses in Home (U.S. Dept. Agric. Farmers' Bull. No. 1759) 12   A honey cake made with butter will keep its quality until the butter grows rancid.
1941   F. Naylor World Famous Chefs' Cook Bk. 558   Slightly beat butter, cream and egg white in a bowl.
1961   A. Sillitoe Key to Door (1962) xx. 287   Brian liked to see her doing such things, washing-up, slicing bread, paring cheese, and spreading butter.
2017   Vancouver Sun (Nexis) 25 Nov. 14   Warm bread, straight from the oven, crusty and fragrant and dripping with melted butter.

OE—2017(Hide quotations)

 

b. spec. Unsalted clarified butter applied medicinally. Cf. May-butter n. Obsolete.

eOE   Leechbk. (Royal) (1865) iii. ii. 308   Afleot þæt fam of & ahlyttre þa buteran on blede, do eft þæt hluttre on pannan, gecnua celeþonian.., wyl swiþe.
c1150  (▸OE)    Recipe (Harl. 6258B) in T. O. Cockayne Leechdoms, Wortcunning, & Starcraft (1864) I. 380   Wið eafodece pollege..wulle on ele, odðer on clane butere, & smyre þæt heafod mid.
a1382   Bible (Wycliffite, E.V.) (Bodl. 959) (1965) Job xxix. 6   I wesh my feet with butter: & þe ston heeldede to me ryuerys of oile.
a1398   J. Trevisa tr. Bartholomaeus Anglicus De Proprietatibus Rerum (BL Add. 27944) (1975) II. xix. lxxiii. 1332   Buttre draweþ al þe venyme to itself.
1526   Grete Herball iii. sig. Aiiiv/2   Make a supposytory onely of assa fetida anoynted with oyle, butter, or hony for hurtyng.
1643   J. Steer tr. Fabricius Exper. Chyrurg. viii. 34   Let him apply the..Ointment of Sweet Butter [L. unguentum ex butyro recenti] thereto.
a1849   T. L. Beddoes Death's Jest-bk. ii. iii, in Poems (1851) II. 67   A bodily slice Is cured by surgeon's butter.

eOE—a1849(Hide quotations)

 

 c. Any of various sauces in which butter is a main ingredient; spec. a sauce made by combining melted butter with flour, water or milk, etc. (esp. in melted butter). Also with modifying word denoting the main flavouring: butter combined with herbs or other ingredients for use as a spread or sauce.garlic butter, green butter, orange butter, parsley butter, etc.: see the first element.Recorded earliest in green butter n. at green adj. and n.1 Special uses 4a.

1654   J. Cooper Art of Cookery 15   Sheeps tongues fryed in greene Butter.
a1665   K. Digby Closet Opened (1669) 221   Pour butter upon the fish.
1709   J. Addison Tatler No. 192. ⁋1   A Plate of Butter which had not been melted to his Mind.
1723   J. Nott Cook's & Confectioner's Dict. sig. G3   To make Parsley, Sage, Thyme, Savoury or Lemon Thyme Butter. Clarify your Butter..mix it with a little of the Chymical Oil of any of the Herbs.
1807   Parl. Deb. 1st Ser. 9 892   It was the sort of poverty of conception, reproached by some foreigner to English cookery, that we had but one sauce, and that that sauce was melted butter.
1823   M. Radcliffe Mod. Syst. Domest. Cookery 263   Good melted butter cannot be made with mere flour and water; there must be a full and proper proportion of butter.
1885   Sun (Baltimore) 2 Feb.   Either caper or pickle butter is excellent with any broiled or fried fish.
1925   San Antonio (Texas) Express 3 Jan. 6/3   Pour lemon butter over the asparagus.
1941   L. de Sounin Magic in Herbs viii. 152   Small rye-krisps spread with chive butter are delicious with cream of cucumber soup.
1971   Grand Diplȏme Cookery Course (1972) 113   Bisques..may be flavored with a butter made from the fish coral.
2000   J. Traunfeld Herbfarm Cookbk. iv. 105   Sage butter makes a wonderful sauce on its own, but in this pasta dish I've tossed it with sweet garden peas.

1654—2000(Hide quotations)

 
 2. figurative.

 a. A person's heart, temperament, etc., likened to butter in being soft, yielding, or easily melted. Esp. in heart of butter.

1594   T. Lodge & R. Greene Looking Glasse sig. C3v   Truly sir my heart is made of butter, it melts at the least persecution.
1703   P. Motteux et al. tr. Cervantes Hist. Don Quixote III. xxix. 287   What dost thou cry for?... Who hurts thee, thou dastardly Craven, thou Cowardly Mouse, thou Soul of a Milksop, thou Heart of Butter?
1851   H. Mayhew 1851 ii. 17   Sandboys, though naturally possessed of a heart of butter, delighted to assure himself that he carried about a flint in his bosom.
1910   ‘M. Twain’ in Harper's Bazar Feb. 119/2   Martin Luther and Joan of Arc..—that splendid pair equipped with temperaments not made of butter, but of asbestos.
1979   S. Sondheim By the Sea, Pt. 2 (MS sheet music) 6   Me eyelids'll flutter, I'll turn into butter, The moment I mutter, ‘I do-hoo!’
2010   E. Lorello Ordinary World (rev. ed.) ii. 10   That mild tenor that reduced me to butter every time he read to me.

1594—2010(Hide quotations)

 

 b. Flattering or ingratiating speech or behaviour, esp. when used to gain favour or advantage.In early use with allusion to Psalms 55:21: ‘The words of his mouth were smoother then butter, but warre was in his heart: his words were softer then oyle, but yet were they drawen swords’ (King James Bible).Often used in phrases alluding to sense 1a.

1618   J. Dyke D. Dyke's Two Treat.: Philemon & Schoole of Affliction vii. 156   Words which are as the prickings of a Sword,..when rather words, as it were suppled with Oyle and Butter, should be vsed.
1669   J. Stewart Jus Populi Vindicatum xxi. 426   He cometh forth in his owne colours, & with his tongue speaketh no flattering words, nor words of butter, but both heart and tongue are full of gall and worm wood.
1823   Blackwood's Edinb. Mag. 14 309   You have been daubed over by the dirty butter of his applause.
1880   World 13 Oct.   A lavish interchange of compliments, the butter being laid on pretty thick.
1924   A. Christie Man in Brown Suit xvi. 130   ‘You can manage it. You can manage anything.’ ‘I love butter,’ purred Suzanne.
1978   ‘M. M. Kaye’ Far Pavilions xlix. 883   Stop spreading on the butter and talk sense for a change.
2008   L. D. Johnson After Dance (2010) ii. 122   Even with my talent for laying on the butter thick, and in all the right places, I understood at any given moment the whole thing could come crashing down on me.

1618—2008(Hide quotations)

 
 3. In extended use.

 a. slang. Ejaculated semen. Also (rarely): vaginal fluid produced during sexual activity or arousal.In quot. c1618   in to make butter with one's tail : (of a woman) to have sexual intercourse. Cf. tail n.1 5c.

c1618   Ante Maske of Mountebankes in A. H. Nelson & J. R. Elliott Early Eng. Drama: Inns of Court (2010) II. 565   If lusty Doll mayde of the Dayry Chance to be blew nipt by the fairye for making Butter with her tayle Ile giue her that did neuer fayle.
1668   P. M. Cimmerian Matron 19 in W. Charleton Ephesian & Cimmerian Matrons   Her evil destiny to be besmear'd with her own blood, while the more guilty wife was anointed with the Butter of Joy.
?1804   in Merry Muses (Dublin ed.) 117   Nothing but a Roger's strength Can make my butter come.
1938   R. Wright Lawd Today! ii. iii, in Wks. (1991) I. 153   You talk like I don't know how to whip a woman's jelly!.. I can whip it till the butter comes.
2015   @Delibird444 22 Oct. in twitter.com (O.E.D. Archive)    Why is everyone ejaculating over nick's voice[?] It's buttery smooth, yeah, but don't shoot your butter over it.

c1618—2015(Hide quotations)

 
 

 b. Any of various substances, chiefly derived from plants, which resemble butter in appearance or consistency.cocoa butter, mahua butter, palm butter, vegetable butter, etc.: see the first element.

1682   N. Grew Idea Philos. Hist. Plants 19 in Anat. Plants   No Oyl which remained liquid..but instead of that a Butyr, almost of the Consistence and Colour of the Oyl of Mace.
1796   J. G. Stedman Narr. Exped. Surinam II. xx. 115   A cafe-bottle filled with excellent butter..made by melting and clarifying the fat of the palm-tree worms.
1799   M. Park Trav. Interior Districts Afr. xvi. 203   The kernel is enveloped in a sweet pulp, under a thin green rind; and the butter produced from it..is..of a richer flavour, than the best butter I ever tasted made from cows' milk.
1832   London Jrnl. Arts & Sci. (Conjoined Ser.) 1 241   The palm oil, or butter of palm, is placed in a metallic vessel or boiler.
1877   Garden 25 Aug. 174/1   Spread very clean grease—say a butter made of a mixture of lard and beef suet—upon a plate.
1888   W. T. Brannt Pract. Treat. Animal & Veg. Fats & Oils ix. 332   The butter is prepared in the same manner as the foregoing. It is pure white, has a fine taste and odor, and is an important food and kitchen fat in India.
1944   Dairy Rec. 26 Jan. 7/3   The Butler Food Products Co. of Cedar Lake has entered suit..to determine whether ‘Veg-Oil’, known as ‘Soy Butter’, can be classed as oleomargarine.
1992   Toronto Star (Nexis) 6 Aug. c4   Fresh plant butters, authentic rose water, herbs and essential oils with natural anti-microbial properties are used.
2011   M. Jones Creating Oils, Soaps, Creams, & Herbal Gels 188   Mango butter results in a rich, smooth soap.

1682—2011(Hide quotations)

 

c. A scented grease applied to the skin as a perfume or cosmetic, or used as an ingredient in salves, balms, etc.; = pomade n.2 Obsolete.

?1762   P. Montague Family Pocket-bk. (new ed.) 132   Mons. Rouille's incomparable lip-salve. Orange butter one drachm; conserve of jessamine, sperma-ceti, and tincture of coral, each half a drachm.
1862   Athenæum 13 Sept. 337/2   Greases thus perfumed were termed butters till within a period of the last twenty-five years, since which the word ‘pomade’ has been more generally adopted.
1885   Encycl. Brit. XVIII. 526   For the manufacture of perfumes for the handkerchief the greases now known as pomades, butters, or philocomes are treated with rectified spirit of wine..which practically completely abstracts the odour.

?1762—1885(Hide quotations)

 
 

 d. A preserve or paste made from puréed fruit, ground nuts or seeds, etc., typically used as a spread or condiment.apple butter, nut butter, peanut butter, pumpkin butter, etc.: see the first element.

1832   Nolan County (Texas) News 27 Oct.   She also has jams, jellies, marmalades, preserves, and fruit butter.
1898   Market Garden Aug. 14/1   These berries may be taken and made into jellies, jams, and butters.
1917   Weekly News Let. (U.S. Dept. Agric.) 29 Aug. 5/3   Put it [sc. peach pulp] through a colander or coarse wire sieve to make a butter of fine texture.
1978   M. D. Murphy Food Processor Cookery 18   Peanuts, pecans, and other oily nuts can be pureed into a tasty butter.
2002   R. O. Young & S. R. Young pH Miracle iii. 314   Tahini is a butter made from hulled sesame seeds.

1832—2002(Hide quotations)

 

 e. An unguent or lotion applied to the body as a moisturizer or for cosmetic purposes.body butter, shea butter: see the first element.

1967   Press-Telegram (Long Beach, Calif.) 24 May f13/4 (advt.)    Tanning butter.
1977   Paris (Texas) News 28 June 13 a/3 (advt.)    Aloe butter—for tanning or sunburn relief. New skin care product.
1995   P. Weiss Cock-a-doodle-doo xii. 142   Fragrant skin butters, dewberry and pear and mango, in soft foil packages.
2005   Daily News (Halifax, Nova Scotia) (Nexis) 3 Apr. (You section) 11   To give your skin a head start on shorts-and-tank top season, apply the butter of your choice all over just after you emerge from the shower.
2014   Daily Rec. & Sunday Mail (Nexis) 9 Mar.   Inspired by tribal spa rituals, this rich moisturising butter nourishes even the driest of skin.

1967—2014(Hide quotations)

 

Phrases

 P1. (as if) butter wouldn't melt in his (also her, etc.) mouth : used to refer to a person who has a demure, innocent manner or appearance that conceals a bad character, underhand behaviour, etc. Also in elliptical phrases.

1530   J. Palsgrave Lesclarcissement 620/1   He maketh as thoughe butter wolde nat melte in his mouthe.
a1555   H. Latimer 27 Serm. (1562) ii. f. 38v   These felowes..can speake so fynely, that a man would thynke butter shold scant melte in theyr mouthes.
1608   H. Clapham Errour Left Hand i. 8   There, there, he is awaking, I will stand as butter would not melt in my mouth, gazing, crossing, trembling.
1695   E. Ravenscroft Canterbury Guests iv. xi. 48   You Mrs. Jacinta, that look'd As harmless as a Devil of two Years old; and As demure, as if Butter would not melt in your Mouth.
1738   Swift Compl. Coll. Genteel Conversat. 43   She looks, as if Butter wou'dn't melt in her Mouth; but I warrant, Cheese won't choak her.
1850   Thackeray Pendennis II. xxii. 223   She smiles and languishes, you'd think that butter wouldn't melt in her mouth.
1910   H. H. Richardson Getting of Wisdom iv. 37   Laura..consciously wore a fixed little simper, which was meant to put it beyond doubt that butter would not melt in her mouth.
1958   M. Stewart Nine Coaches Waiting vi. 82   You don't think she has that sour-milk face for Madam, do you? Oh, no, it's all niminy-piminy butter-won't-melt there, you mark my words.
2002   T. McKinley Windflowers xv. 297   ‘Miss perfect,’ she spat. ‘Little miss goody-two-shoes. Butter wouldn't bloody melt would it?’

1530—2002(Hide quotations)

 

P2. to make butter and cheese of : (perhaps) to thwart, to make difficulties for (a person).Obsolete. rare.  [Apparently after ancient Greek τυρεύειν to make cheese, in Hellenistic Greek also to contrive by trickery and intrigue.]

1642   J. Hales Tract conc. Schisme 11   They made butter and cheese one of another.

1642—1642(Hide quotations)

 

 P3. Chiefly South African, British, and Australian. with one's bum (also arse, ass) in the butter and variants: in a very fortunate or advantageous situation or position. Esp. in to land with one's bum (also arse, ass) in the butter .  [Apparently after Afrikaans om met sy gat in die botter te val, lit. ‘to fall with one's arse into the butter’; compare Dutch met zijn aars in de boter vallen (1726) and similar expressions (in the same literal and figurative senses); of uncertain precise origin, but probably understood as alluding to a soft landing.]

1971   R. Christie For President's Eyes Only x. 93   You, of course, have landed with your bum in the butter once more. You'll have to..go to the Victoria Falls and spend a week there making like a bloody tourist!
1979   Listener 28 June 870/1   Why the fuck should I get my ass shot off out here in the bush to protect the kaffirs sitting back there with their bums in the butter?
1987   ‘D. Kavanagh’ Going to Dogs iv. 94   Vic's doing all right for himself. Bum in the butter.
1999   Euroweek (Electronic ed.) 30 July 52   Our..friends have, as they say in London cafe society, their ‘bums in the butter’ and can afford to take us out to ridiculously expensive restaurants.
2008   Brisbane News (Nexis) 23 July 11   I had an interview on the spot and started the next day. I just landed with my bum in the butter to be honest.
2015   @jeremyoos 17 Sept. in twitter.com (O.E.D. Archive)    You have the keys to the kingdom. Fell with your arse in the butter. Golden spoon in your mouth. Good luck and enjoy!

1971—2015(Hide quotations)

 

Compounds

 C1.
 

 a. General attributive, as butter cart, butter dairy, butter firkin, etc.

eOE   Cleopatra Gloss. in J. J. Quinn Minor Lat.-Old Eng. Glossaries in MS Cotton Cleopatra A.III (Ph.D. diss., Stanford Univ.) (1956) 63   Uas buteri, buterstoppa.
1572   in J. Raine Wills & Inventories N. Counties Eng. (1835) I. 249   One butter-skepp.
1603   T. Dekker 1603: Wonderfull Yeare sig. D4v   The Low-countries (that are built vpon butter-firkins, and holland cheese).
1643   J. Howell Disc. betwixt Patricius & Peregrine 8   He swore, That hee would drowne the Hollanders in their Butter-tubs.
1693   T. Urquhart & P. A. Motteux tr. Rabelais 3rd Bk. Wks. xvii. 139   A great Butter-pot full of fresh Cheese.
1764   St. James's Chron. 18 Feb.   She told the Boy she must go to a Butter Shop in Clare-Market.
1784   J. Twamley Dairying Exemplified 81   A near relation of mine, who kept a Butter Dairy.
1808   C. Vancouver Gen. View Agric. Devon viii. 231   The butter-merchants in London.
1828   M. R. Mitford Our Village III. 308   [They] would run to meet the butter-cart as if it were a carriage and four.
1843   Bristol Mercury 13 May 7/3   A boy saw the prisoner..knock up the top of a butter cask, scoop a quantity of the butter out, and make off with it.
1893   W. Fream Youatt's Compl. Grazier (ed. 13) ii. iii. 260   A butter dairy should comprise two distinct compartments, one for receiving the milk, another for performing the operation of churning.
1904   J. W. Streeter Fat of Land xxxii. 184   Can't they drive the butter-cart out each morning and home after school?
1942   Pop. Sci. Monthly Oct. 149/1   This film-processing outfit was made from a 3-gal. butter crock and a 3-gal. tin milk cooler costing together less than a dollar.
1968   E. Kellner Devil & Aunt Serena 172   Skinny..scooped a pound of fresh butter from the butter tub into a thin beech-wood shell.
2014   Bangor (Maine) Daily News (Nexis) 21 Mar.   Ken attended Wheaton College, traveling to Chicago by train, his lunch packed in a butter firkin and a few dollars tucked in his shoe.
2017   Times (Nexis) 15 June (T2) (headline)    Soon there may be as many luxury butter merchants as there are bijou bakeries.

eOE—2017(Hide quotations)

 

 b. Objective, as butter buyer, butter churning, butter maker, butter making, etc.

1587   R. Holinshed et al. Hist. Eng. (new ed.) ii. xviii. 203/2 in Holinshed's Chron. (new ed.) I   When..fewer of these butter buiers were stirring, our butter was scarslie woorth eighteene pence the gallon, that now is worth three shillings foure pence.
1652   Mercurius Democritus No. 14. 105   The Piscaterian Butter-eaters, which are now a sending up to Billings-gate.
1720   London Gaz. No. 5879/4   William Dixon..Buttermonger.
1751   Lady M. W. Montagu Let. 19 June (1966) II. 485   I expect Immortality from the Science of Butter makeing.
1839   S. Judd Let. 6 July in A. Hall Life & Char. Rev. S. Judd (1854) 158   This three times a day, table-gathering and beef-eating, butter-spreading and tea-drinking,..makes one wonderfully content with life.
1863   Eclectic Rev. Mar. 225   [He] excites thrillings of delightful hope in the gentle hearts of buttermongers' daughters.
1890   E. H. Barker Wayfaring in France 251   In the markets, the butter-sellers stand in rows, holding their baskets in front of them.
1912   Bull. Internat Labour Office 7 87   The work..performed by a woman in a butter factory, viz :—(1) churning; (2) butter-washing; (3) butter-salting; (4) butter-kneading.
1953   Quick 9 Mar. 16   Butter producers mapped a ‘fight back’ against substitutes which have made inroads into the butter market.
1983   D. Armstrong Insider's Guide to Health Foods ix. 173   Sad to say, butter lovers, our favorite spread is high in cholesterol.
2000   M. McDonald Shadows in Glasshouse xiii. 123   I had skills that were wanted here as a planter's wife, in baking, butter-churning, and cheese-making.
2016   Business Times (Singapore) (Nexis) 26 Mar.   There's only one artisanal butter maker.

1587—2016(Hide quotations)

 

 c. Similative, with the sense ‘like butter’, as butter-bright, butter-smooth, butter-soft, etc.

1868   G. M. Hopkins 17 July in Jrnls. & Papers (1959) 176   The sun coming out..with a butter-bright lustre.
1920   J. Galsworthy In Chancery ii. v. 170   His grandfather's first gold hunter watch, butter-smooth with age.
1941   M. Seeley Chuckling Fingers vii. 92   Her butter-pale, sagging cheeks mottled with an unpleasant blue.
1960   Newsweek 2 May 31/1   A butter-bland performer with no ascertainable talent beyond the ability to mouth amiable inanities.
1980   Field & Stream Oct. 116/3   Wading through swirling pools and climbing over butter-slick boulders.
2011   C. Moran How to be Woman (2012) ix. 207   They will all be made of butter-soft leather.

1868—2011(Hide quotations)

 
 C2. In the names of types of food and drink in which butter is a main ingredient.

  butter ale   n. now hist. and archaic a drink consisting of ale boiled with sugar, spices, butter, and sometimes eggs.More commonly called buttered ale.

1666   S. Pepys Diary 17 Mar. (1972) VII. 75   Home, having a great cold..so to bed, drinking butter-ale.
1908   E. R. Emerson Beverages, Past & Present II. x. 248   Butter-ale was most plentiful in the seventeenth century.
2016   D. Polansky City Dreaming ii. 74   ‘Fresh butter ale?’ he asked. ‘Absolutely,’ M said.

1666—2016(Hide quotations)

 

  butter bake   n. orig. Scottish a sweet biscuit made with butter.

1817   D. MacKillop Orig. Poems & Songs 33   An' butter baiks, an' penny baps.
1850   A. M'Gilvray Poems & Songs 88   Pies, parlies, tarts, and butter bakes.
2015   @alinicebuns 6 Jan. in twitter.com (O.E.D. Archive)    Viennesse [sic] whirls, ‘old skool’ butter bakes sandwiched with vanilla frosting and raspberry jam.

1817—2015(Hide quotations)

 
 

  butter bread   n.  (a) bread made from dough enriched with butter;  (b) bread spread with butter; buttered bread; a slice of this.

1718   Illustrious Mod. 13   By the way, 'tis only to make a Butter-Bread.
1852   Englishwoman's Domest. Mag. 1 Nov. 212/2   He returned to the girl of his heart with a butterbread adorned with caviar and sausage.
1909   Lincoln (Nebraska) Daily Star 21 Sept. 6/4   There is nothing that can supplant butter-bread.
1995   Re: Whew! am I Tired in rec.food.cooking (Usenet newsgroup) 7 Dec.   The chance that a butterbread will fall on the carpet with the buttered side down is exponetially [sic] proportional to the value of the carpet.
2015   @WhiskeyDed 25 Feb. in twitter.com (O.E.D. Archive)    I, in all my life, have never been so ready to buy a loaf of butter bread.

1718—2015(Hide quotations)

 

  butter cake   n. a light, moist, usually leavened cake containing butter, sugar, flour, and eggs.

1616   T. Scot Irish Banquet in Philomythie sig. I7   So they call their butter cakes.
1827   Standard 9 July 1/3   I gave her a butter-cake to dinner, and some beer.
2014   Time Out Kuala Lumpur Mar. 30/2   He steers clear of butter cakes and focuses on..alcoholic mousse cakes.

1616—2014(Hide quotations)

 

  butter chicken n. an Indian dish consisting of pieces of chicken, usually cooked in a tandoor, served in a mild, creamy curry sauce.

1978   Washington Post Mag. 15 Oct. 45/2   Butter chicken, a lovely buttery stew with bits of onion, green pepper and tomato over the tandoori-roasted chicken.
1995   C. Panjabi Great Curries India 9   Khyber served Punjabi food with favorites like tandooris, butter chicken and choles.
2015   N.Y. Mag. 7 Sept. 80/2   The predictably lustrous butter chicken, which Singh and his cooks prepare with milk and fenugreek folded with fried shallots, tomatoes, and generous chunks of free-range bird.

1978—2015(Hide quotations)

 

  butter cookie   n. U.S. A plain, crisp biscuit whose chief ingredients are butter, flour, and sugar.

1879   Daily Evening Bull. (San Francisco) 20 Dec. 6/4   Butter Cookies. One cupful of sugar, one cupful of butter, two eggs.
1957   Washington Post 15 Nov. c6/2   At Yuletide the cookie jar is filled with..the mouth watering butter cookie from Scandinavia.
2015   N. Solomon Love Bk. xxiv. 228   She walked through the front door..with a tin of butter cookies.

1879—2015(Hide quotations)

 
 

  butter crust   n. pastry made with butter (as opposed to lard, suet, etc.); esp. such pastry used for the crust of a pie, etc.

1845   E. Acton Mod. Cookery xvii. 439 (heading)    Butter crust for puddings.
1936   Washington Post 18 Apr. 12/2   They [sc. apple dumplings] are tempting to look at, tempting to eat, with their rich, golden brown butter crust, filled with spicy flavored apples.
2018   Premium Official News Newswire (Nexis) 25 Jan.   We'll learn the basics of pie making techniques starting with a homemade butter crust.

1845—2018(Hide quotations)

 
 

  butter icing   n.  (a) a paste made from butter and flour, used to decorate savoury dishes (obsolete rare);  (b) a soft paste, often flavoured or coloured, made by beating icing sugar into butter and used as a topping or filling for cakes.

1862   I. Williamson Pract. Cookery & Pastry (ed. 5) 187   Butter Icing for Ornamenting Cold Fowls, Tongues, and other Meats. Beat over a stove till smooth half a pound of white fresh butter; then add three ounces of fine sifted flour.
1874   A. Gouffé tr. J. Gouffé Royal Bk. Pastry & Confectionery ii. viii. 262   Flavour some Butter Icing..with coffee, put it into a paper cone, and press it out on each cake and round the crust.
1966   Times 21 Nov. (Women's Features section) 13/5   Use a chocolate finger biscuit and secure with butter icing.
2003   M. Satz Heirloom Cookbk. 73/2   Frost one-half of cookies with a vanilla butter icing, and the other half with a cocoa icing.

1862—2003(Hide quotations)

 

  butter pecan   n. U.S. a flavour of ice cream (or other dessert), typically made with roasted pecans, butter, and vanilla; frequently attributive.

1923   Monroe (Louisiana) News-Star 29 Oct. 4/6 (advt.)    Bond's Barker Bakery..complete line of fancy cakes..butter pecan rolls..fruit pies.
1951   Wichita Daily Times (Wichita Falls, Texas) 8 May 8/5   Put one chocolate-covered Brazil nut in the bottom of a glass dish, add one..dipper of butter pecan ice cream.
2014   C. Levy Running with Big Dogs x. 88   I had to go with my favorite, butter pecan, and Maggie picked cookie dough.

1923—2014(Hide quotations)

 

  butter pie   n.  (a) U.S. a dessert pie or tart made with sugar, flour, and butter;  (b) English regional (Lancashire) a savoury pie consisting of potatoes, onions, and butter.

1874   Catholic Standard (Philadelphia, Pa.) 23 May 6/3   Butter pie... Take a piece of fresh butter the size of an egg, two-thirds cup of sugar, one of sweet cream, one tablespoon of flour, and sugar together, then stir in the cream.
1951   Bedford (Pa.) Gaz. 25 Sept. 5/7   Just before we left, Mr. Bird gave me a popular community recipe for a Butter Pie.
1999   Butter Pies in alt.music.manics (Usenet newsgroup) 7 Jan.   Since going veggie, my favourite pie is a butter pie.
2015   @Mike_Jung 22 Oct. in twitter.com (O.E.D. Archive)    Come on, I ate 3 pieces! The butter pie presented psychic hurdles—no illusions to it, 100% fat & sugar.
2016   Independent (Nexis) 20 July   The rest of May's new team wouldn't recognise a butter pie if it hit them in the face.

1874—2016(Hide quotations)

 

  butter sauce   n. a sauce containing butter as a main ingredient.

a1665   K. Digby Closet Opened (1669) 223   Boil Whitings as if you would eat them in the Ordinary way with thick Butter-sauce.
1733   V. La Chapelle Mod. Cook III. 119   You may..dish them up with a small Remoulade, a Butter Sauce, or a Ravigotte.
1871   Fun 25 Feb. 86 (caption)    They be artichokes for squire's dinner—they serve them wi' butter sauce in silver dishes.
1953   W. A. Roberts Havana 252   One of the best styles is almendrina, which means a covering of crushed almonds with a butter sauce.
2010   New Yorker 12 July 20/3   A delicate grilled branzino was made less so by a thick butter sauce.

a1665—2010(Hide quotations)

 

  butter tart   n. Canadian a tart with a filling of butter, eggs, and brown sugar, typically with raisins, walnuts, or pecans.

1941   Brandon (Manitoba) Daily Sun 2 May 5/7 (advt.)    Fresh Pies... Butter Tarts, Cake, Doughnuts.
1972   Globe & Mail (Toronto) 7 Aug. 25/4   Do you serve butter tarts with coffee?
2005   R. Aubert Red Mass vii. 113   He tried to balance hot chocolate and a butter tart in one hand, as he observed the others doing.

1941—2005(Hide quotations)

 
 

  butter tea   n. a drink made with tea and butter, widely consumed in the Himalayan regions of Nepal, Bhutan, India, and Tibet. Traditionally made with butter from yak's milk.  [Compare Chinese sūyóu chá   (a1609 or earlier; < sūyóu   butter + chá   tea: see cha n.); in Tibetan, it is called ja srun-mo, lit. ‘tea which is mild’ (made ‘mild’ by mixing with butter and salt) and bod ja, lit. ‘Tibetan tea’.]

1907   Wisconsin Valley Leader 26 Sept. 2/2   We made the stage to Bakmed before noon and had a refreshing meal of barley flour and butter tea.
1990   Nat. World Spring 29 (advt.)    Have you ever thought of... Drinking butter tea with Tibetan monks?
2008   M. Akester tr. T. Khétsun Memories Life in Lhasa under Chinese Rule xi. 137   She shed tears as she welcomed me, and right away made some tasty, nourishing butter tea.

1907—2008(Hide quotations)

 

  butter toast   n. now chiefly U.S. toast spread with butter; buttered toast.

1757   E. Kimber Juvenile Adventures David Ranger I. xi. 287   Davy..found him poring over his schemes of traffick, and munching his butter toast.
1826   R. Polwhele Trad. & Recoll. II. 381   I found time to..treat him with butter-toast for his supper, and butter-toast for his breakfast.
1904   Hotel Monthly July 31/2   Dry or butter toast.
2017   @Tylerjayholden 31 Jan. in twitter.com (O.E.D. Archive)    I have been living on butter toast these last few days.

1757—2017(Hide quotations)

 
 C3.

  butter-and-egg man   n. U.S. slang a dairyman; a provincial farmer or businessman characterized as unsophisticated or easily duped.

1867   Dundee Courier & Argus 28 Jan.   He say he get me in as a porter to a cheesemonger or butter and egg man, a Misser Thomson-Brown-Smit.
1882   Rocky Mountain News (Denver) 5 Mar. 4/3   The editor's eye Just happened to spy The butter-and-egg-man's bright look.
1948   Antioch Rev. Spring 105   The ‘butter-and-egg’ man who startles the foreign lecturer with blunt questions.
1995   H. Roth Mercy of Rude Stream iii. viii. 358   You were a liberated, vanguard bohemian; you sneered at the Babbitts and the big butter-and-egg men.

1867—1995(Hide quotations)

 

  butter badger   n.  [ < butter n.1 + badger n.1] orig. English regional and Irish English (northern) an itinerant trader who buys butter from farmers to sell wholesale.Now only in historical contexts.In quot. 1739   as the name of a racehorse.

[1739   in J. Cheny Hist. List Horse-matches Run 17   Butter-Badger.]
1839   Penny Mag. 15 June 228/1   A butter-badger is still an essential personage in every little isolated community. He is a person who collects butter from house to house weekly.
1857   Fraser's Mag. Sept. 355/2   His father was at one time a butter-badger.
1999   V. León Uppity Women of Renaissance 100   Being a wholesaler was no holiday. Edith was only street-legal for a year—after which, she had to apply and pay again to be a bloomin' butter Badger.

1839—1999(Hide quotations)

 

butterbag   n. slang (derogatory) Obsolete a Dutchman.With reference to the fact that the Dutch were regarded as prolific eaters of butter. Cf. butterbox n.   and butter-mouth n.

1645   J. Howell Epistolæ Ho-elianæ ii. xi. 13   The butterbag Hollander.

1645—1645(Hide quotations)

 
 

  butter barrel   n.  (a) a barrel used to store butter;  (b) English regional and Irish English a barrel fitted with a paddle that may be rotated by means of a handle in order to churn cream into butter; a barrel churn.

1608   Closet for Ladies & Gentlewomen 59   When it is almost cold, put in a hundreth of Cowcumbers into that liquor, into a butter barrel & keepe them al the yeare.
1757   State of Process Earl of Galloway against Earl of Morton 164   He does now, and always, since his Father's Death, has made the Butter Barrels and Half-barrels by the same Gauge by which his Father made these Casks.
1844   W. Barnes Poems Rural Life in Dorset Dial. 46   The butter-barrel An' cheese-press.
1942   J. E. Lips Tents in Wilderness i. 28   There were..canned goods and tea packages, flour bags and butter barrels.
2015   Irish Daily Mail (Nexis) 23 July   Butter barrels and cheese presses are used to demonstrate the basics of cheese, cream and yoghurt-making.

1608—2015(Hide quotations)

 

  butter-basher   n. slang (depreciative) a person who has recently taken up work as a taxi driver, esp. during a strike.On the (uncertain) origin of the term see note at butter boy n.

1939   H. Hodge Cab, Sir? xv. 216   Contemptuous cabmen, therefore, called these blacklegs ‘Butter-Bashers’.

1939—1939(Hide quotations)

 

butterbitten adj. Obsolete rare (perhaps) given to biting butter (perhaps cf. bitten adj. 2).Perhaps with reference to the fact that the Dutch were regarded as prolific eaters of butter.

1573   G. Gascoigne Hundreth Sundrie Flowres sig. Ddii   The Dutche with butterbitten iawes.

1573—1573(Hide quotations)

 

  butter boat   n.  (a) a jug used for serving melted butter;  (b) figurative (colloquial) excessive or insincere flattery (cf. sense 2b).

1747   George Faulkner Dublin Jrnl. 7 Feb.   A large parcel of china tea pots and china bowls, china jars, butter boats, a large parcel of coffee and chocolate cups, and several other sorts of china.
1807   Byron To Miss Pigot 5 July   Upset a butter-boat in the lap of a lady.
1866   J. E. H. Skinner After Storm I. 181   He praised some things and gave advice about others, using the butter-boat less freely than is customary at volunteer inspections.
2008   A. S. Martin Buying into World of Goods 1   Mrs. George Callaway's purchases in the previous year included porcelain cups and saucers, a pinch box (for snuff), and a butter boat and stand.

1747—2008(Hide quotations)

 

  butter boy   n. slang (depreciative) a person who has recently taken up work as a taxi driver.Explained in the source quoted in quot. 1939   as originally alluding (like butter-basher n.) to new drivers during a strike in 1913 who were thought to be underqualified and perceived as until recently employed as assistants in groceries and food shops; however, later explained (cf. quots. 1960, 2012) as alluding to new drivers taking the ‘bread and butter’, or means of subsistence, from established drivers. Perhaps cf. also earlier butterfly n. 2d.

1939   H. Hodge Cab, Sir? x. 134   During my ‘butter-boy’ period.
1960   C. Ray Merry Eng. 26   [The] owner-driver..is called a ‘butter-boy’ when he first appears on the rank, taking the butter from the older hands' bread, they say.
2012   Guardian (Nexis) 10 Dec. (G2 section) 11/2   We're known as ‘butter boys’ in the trade, because we take the bread and butter from the mouths of established drivers' families.

1939—2012(Hide quotations)

 

  butter cloth   n. a thin, loosely woven cloth with a fine mesh used for various purposes, esp. to wrap butter and to strain the whey from the curd during cheese-making; (also) a piece of such cloth; cf. cheesecloth n. at cheese n.1 Compounds 2.

1540   Inventory in Lisle Lett. (1981) VI. 209   Item iij Chese clothys & iij buttor clothes.
1658   Archimagirus Anglo-gallicus 69   Boile a pottle of milk and a quart of creame together, and when it is cold, set it to come with Runnet, when it is come, whey it in a butter cloth very well, then breake it small with some good cream.
1885   O. Wilde Lett. (1962) 172   My wife has a huge bill against you—for your meat-safe and the buttercloth.
1910   H. B. Wilkinson Old Hanging Ditch x. 88   Shipments of salt Cork butter packed in butter-cloth and surrounded by salt and pickle, were made to the Antipodes.
1999   B. Ciletti Making Great Cheese at Home 46   Pour the curds into a colander lined with cheesecloth or buttercloth.

1540—1999(Hide quotations)

 

  butter cooler   n. a container used for keeping butter cool.

1784   Caledonian Mercury 29 Nov.   Butter coolers.
1875   G. H. Lewes Probl. Life & Mind II. 135   The china service and glass butter-cooler.
2005   Independent (Nexis) 3 Dec. 49   A skilled thrower making, among other items, small jugs, porridge bowls, egg-bakers, soup pots, eggcups, butter coolers and jam pots.

1784—2005(Hide quotations)

 
 

  butter cow   n. a cow yielding rich cream from which superior butter can be made.

1819   Morning Post 18 Aug. (advt.)    Guernsey Butter Cows.
1877   4th Rep. Vermont State Board Agric. 1876–7 46   We..believe that the Jersey as a butter cow has the advantage of at least the average life time of man.
1916   Guernsey Breeders' Jrnl. 15 Sept. 241/1   She is a wonderful butter cow, and..her descendants ought to prove very valuable.
1980   Agric. Hist. 54 330   Other Chelsea meetings witnessed debates on..whether Jerseys or Holsteins made the superior butter cow.

1819—1980(Hide quotations)

 

  butter cross   n. a cross, spire, or covered building within a marketplace, indicating the area designated for the sale of dairy foods and other home produce.

1677   R. Thoroton Antiq. Notts. (caption)    Butter Cross.
1883   F. Marryat Moment Madness III. 170   Their old-world institutions and buildings—their butter crosses and market steps.
2001   Birmingham Post (Nexis) 10 Nov. 54   In the centre of the village is the ancient Butter Cross dating from the days when this was a bustling market town.

1677—2001(Hide quotations)

 
 

  butter curler   n. a serrated kitchen utensil used to shave butter to make decorative, curled shapes.

1868   Farmer's Mag. Sept. 222/2   Variety of butter prints for farm and private houses, boxwood butter beaters and slices, butter curlers, boards, trainers, skimmers, laders.
1938   Daily Mail 6 July 19   This ingeniously simple butter curler costs only sixpence.
2013   O. Zanini De Vita & M. B. Fant Sauces & Shapes 105   Using a butter curler or small knife, curl or scrape all the butter and strew the pieces evenly over a plate.

1868—2013(Hide quotations)

 

  butter factor   n. now hist. a tradesman who buys butter from farmers to sell wholesale.

1696   L. Meriton Pecuniæ obediunt Omnia lxxv. 55 (heading)    On butter buyers or factors.
1808   C. Vancouver Gen. View Agric. Devon viii. 230   The butter-factors at Honiton.
1908   Irish Times 15 Feb. 7/3   A Dublin butter factor stated yesterday that not being able to buy Irish butter a fortnight ago he bought danish at 1s. 1½d. a pound wholesale.
2016   Dungog (Austral.) Chron. 27 May   Now there would be less than 20 suppliers in the area and the butter factor is long gone.

1696—2016(Hide quotations)

 

  butterfat   n. the natural fat contained in milk and dairy products.Butterfat is a mixture of triglycerides, particularly those derived from fatty acids such as palmitic, oleic, myristic, and stearic acids.

1871   Lancet 3 June 759/1   Whilst genuine butter ought to contain upwards of 83 per cent. of real butter fat, certain kinds of butter contain very much less.
1906   Macmillan's Mag. June 612   If wanting in butter-fat, it [sc. milk] was not fit for the purpose for which it had been sold.
1998   Guardian 21 Nov. (Weekend Suppl.) 78/1   You can sometimes find cream with a butterfat content as low as 12 per cent, but single cream normally has 18 per cent, and double cream 48 per cent.
2011   N.Y. Times (National ed.) 11 Sept. (Travel section) 8/2   The secret to the superiority of the cheese in this region..is the high butterfat content of the milk produced by brown swiss cows.

1871—2011(Hide quotations)

 

  butter knife   n. a blunt knife used for cutting or spreading butter.

1729   R. Bradley Gentleman & Farmer's Guide iii. 190   Many other necessary Utensils are made of Horn; as Spoons, Butter-Knives, &c.
1870   ‘F. Fern’ Ginger-snaps 54   Some houses contain only silver soup-ladles, others a superabundance of butter-knives.
2011   J. Feather Wedding Wager xvii. 351   Her mother contented herself by attacking her toast with the butter knife.

1729—2011(Hide quotations)

 

  butter lamp   n. a goblet-shaped lamp with a central wick, traditionally fed with clarified butter instead of oil.Used especially as a devotional offering in Tibetan Buddhist temples.  [Compare Chinese sūyóu dēng (18th cent. or earlier; < sūyóu butter + dēng lamp) and Tibetan mar me ( < mar butter + me fire).]

1852   W. Hazlitt tr. E. R. Huc Trav. in Tartary, Thibet & China II. ix. 279   At the end of the saloon were three colossal statues of Buddha, before which were placed large butter lamps [Fr. lampes à beurre] and censers.
1883   J. Gilmour Among Mongols vi. 83   The altar on which a butter-lamp was then burning.
2006   D. Trussoni Falling through Earth (2007) xvi. 307   Hundreds of plaques (embossed with prayers) stood next to black-and-white photographs. Incense and butter lamps burned below them.

1852—2006(Hide quotations)

 

butter-letter   n. Obsolete a letter issued on ecclesiastical authority giving permission to eat butter in Lent.

1873   R. B. Drummond Erasmus II. xiii. 15   In Switzerland the Pope's pardons were commonly known as ‘butter-letters’, it being understood that their chief effect was to permit people to eat butter and eggs upon fast days.
1893   Westm. Gaz. 25 Feb. 5/3   In Italy, butter is prohibited [in Lent]... The Northerners, however,..would have none of this, and special ‘butter-letters’ were consequently dispatched to them from the obliging Vatican.

1873—1893(Hide quotations)

 

  butterman   n.  (a) a man who makes or sells butter;  (b) Nautical a topsail schooner whose topgallant yard is raised and lowered by halyards as required, rather than forming a fixed part of the vessel's rigging; cf. butter-rigged adj.   (obsolete).Recorded earliest as a surname.

1296–7   in L. M. Midgley Ministers' Accts. Earldom of Cornwall (1945) II. 187   Et de 2s. de domo que fuit Ricardi buttermon.
1301   in W. Brown Yorks. Lay Subsidy (1897) 51   Thoma Butterman.
1581   in J. D. Marwick Extracts Rec. Burgh Edinb. (1882) IV. 218   Gilbert Primrose, butterman.
1758   Centinel 28 Apr. 82   It is directed ‘to the reverend Mr. Hurden in Clare market, cheesemonger and butterman, London’.
1885   Daily Tel. 26 Nov. 8/4   ‘There,’ said I one day, pointing to a very smart schooner that was passing, ‘goes a pretty little vessel.’ ‘Aye,’ answered the 'longshoreman whom I had addressed, ‘a butterman.’
1925   I. Gershwin Ukulele Lorelei (song) in Compl. Lyrics (1993) 64/3   Beggar man and duke, Butter men from Dubuque, Ev'ryone surrenders when you play your uke.
2000   Guardian 6 June i. 17/1   Yesterday the Office for National Statistics (ONS) deleted coal pickers, buttermen..and several other manual jobs from its official list of occupations.

1296–7—2000(Hide quotations)

 

butter mark   n. Obsolete a stamp of carved wood for marking butter pats.

?c1475   Catholicon Anglicum (BL Add. 15562) f. 20v   A Buttir marke.
1735   J. Atkins Voy. Guinea 66   The Impress of a Butter mark on Putty.
1857   Huddersfield Chron. & W. Yorks. Advertiser 7 Feb.   Dairy utensils, viz., barrel churn, wood bowl, butter-mark, sieve..cans, &c.

?c1475—1857(Hide quotations)

 
 

  butter market   n.  (a) an area or building in a marketplace designated for the sale of dairy goods and other home produce (now chiefly hist.); (now usually) an area or building in a city or town formerly used for this purpose;  (b) the economic sector concerned with commercial dealings in butter.

1615   J. Stephens Satyrical Ess. 267   You must conceiue amisse of the shambles, or butter-market vpon her honesty.
1754   R. Denson New Travellers Compan. v. 131   The butter market has nothing remarkable but a square building where goods are weighed.
1849   Maine Farmer 4 Jan.   We believe that, especially in our large cities, one of the most active causes of domestic infelicity lies in the fluctuant state of the butter market.
1917   Scotsman 5 Nov. 8/4   At the Carlisle butter market on Saturday there were tumultuous scenes caused by the shortage of butter supplies and an attempt by dealers to buy wholesale.
1992   Holiday Which? Sept. 189/2   The open-sided buttermarket with a fine beamed ceiling, is in the centre of the town.
2004   Livestock, Dairy, & Poultry Outlook (U.S. Dept. Agric.) 27 July 5/2   Butter markets are expected to remain unsettled.

1615—2004(Hide quotations)

 

  butter mould   n. a hollow container, often of a decorative design, in which butter is left to set so that it assumes the container's shape.

1834   Metrop. Mag. Oct. 168   Churns of mahogany, and butter-moulds of satin-wood were seen in one place.
1932   L. I. Wilder Little House in Big Woods ii. 23   On the loose bottom of the wooden butter-mold was carved the picture of a strawberry with two strawberry leaves.
2001   C. H. Wendel Encycl. Antique Tools & Machinery 57/1   Likewise, such items as butter molds are often very expensive when made of wood.

1834—2001(Hide quotations)

 

  butter-mouth   n.  (a) a Dutchman (obsolete);  (b) a person who disarms and persuades others through the artful, ingratiating, or disingenuous use of language.In sense (a)   with reference to the fact that the Dutch were regarded as prolific eaters of butter (cf. butterbox n.   and butterbag n.).First used in quot. a1549   as the humorous first name of a fictitious casuist.  [Compare earlier, probably independent, use as a personal name or nickname in Middle English, as Johannem Butermuth (1218), Rob. Buttermouth (1327).]

a1549   A. Borde Fyrst Bk. Introd. Knowl. (1870) 147   I am a Flemyng, what for all that?.. ‘Buttermouth Flemyng’, men doth me call.
1617   F. Moryson Itinerary iii. i. iii.50   Because they [sc. the Netherlanders] feede much on butter, they are called butter mouthes.
1865   Latter-day Saints' Millennial Star 26 Apr. 533/2   The said book, nevertheless, is not to be understood literally, to mean what it says or say what it means, but it must be subjected to the spiritualizing and commentating process of modern priests, such as the Rev. Buttermouth Poundtext.
1896   Milwaukee (Wisconsin) Sentinel 1 Nov.   He's too gol-dang polite, that feller is; I don't like such butter-mouth chaps.
2004   M. T. Anderson in M. McCafferty Sixteen 282   I held out my hand. I said, ‘Any friend of Pyrrho's is a friend of ours.’ Dipsus sprang back. ‘Don't you try that on Dipsus, butter-mouth!’

a1549—2004(Hide quotations)

 

  butter muslin   n. a thin, loosely woven cloth with a fine mesh used for various purposes, esp. to wrap butter and to strain the whey from the curd during cheese-making; (also) a piece of such cloth.

1884   Colman's Rural World 29 May 174/2   The top of tub of butter is smoothed, a clean piece of ‘butter-muslin’ is neatly laid on.
1906   C. W. Walker-Tisdale & T. R. Robinson Buttermaking 55   Place a damp butter-muslin over the roller and butter-board.
2003   E. Powell tr. S. Jamal Arabian Flavours 42   If the cucumber is large, you must put the slices in some butter muslin or a colander to get rid of the juice, squeezing them with your hands.

1884—2003(Hide quotations)

 

  butter oil n.  (a) oil obtained from butter; (in later use spec.) oil obtained by processing butter to remove water and milk solids;  (b) a refined oil obtained from cotton seed, used to make margarine (now hist. and rare).

1844   J. F. W. Johnston Lect. Applic. Chem. & Geol. to Agric. (new ed.) xx. 559   Butter oil. The liquid fat expressed from butter has the appearance of an oil, sometimes colourless, but often tinged of a yellow colour.
1881   Atlanta (Georgia) Constit. 9 Dec. (advt.)    Cotton Butter Oil, Manufactured from Refined Cotton Seed Oils.
1902   Internat. Lib. Technol.: Cottonseed Oil & Products §41. 5   One great outlet for cottonseed oil is its use in the manufacture of oleomargarine, or, as it is commonly known, butterine. The quality of oil used for this purpose is that known as butter oil.
1911   Bull. Kansas State Board Health 7 121   It [sc. evaporated milk] should contain no added butter or butter oil incorporated either with whole milk or skimmed milk..at any stage of manufacture.
1922   National Provisioner 12 Aug. 35/1 (advt.)    Cottonseed Oils..Union Choice Butter Oil, Supreme White Butter Oil.
1929   Cotton Oil Press Sept. 50 (advt.)    Refiners of White butter oil—Yellow cooking oil—Salad oil.
1998   Bakers' Rev. Mar. 46/4 (advt.)    Suppliers of butter, butteroil and fractionates, sweetened condensed milk and a full range of standard and specialised milk powders.

1844—1998(Hide quotations)

 

  butter paper   n. any of various types of semi-transparent waterproof paper used in cooking or to wrap food; (also) a piece of such paper.

1727   E. Smith Compl. Housewife 131   Butter Papers three double, one white, two brown.
1898   J. A. E. Roundell Pract. Cookery Bk. x. 386   All Sandwiches which have to be packed either for sportsmen or for travellers should be packed in butter paper.
2016   Times 24 Sept. (Weekend) 15   At home he would cook it [sc. venison] gently in a pan, then protect it with butter paper and place it in a 150C/gas 2 oven.

1727—2016(Hide quotations)

 

butter-quean   n. derogatory Obsolete a woman who makes or sells butter, characterized as garrulous, argumentative, and bad-tempered.Cf. butter whore n.   For a similar derogatory portrayal of female butter sellers, see quots. 1639 for butter wife n., and a1616 for butter-woman n.

1613   T. Jackson Eternall Truth Script. i. ii. §3. viii. 162   This Synode vseth this Apology better beseeming a scolding butter queane then such as should be reuerend Fathers.
1650   H. More Observ. Anthroposophia Theomagica 44   You..bark and scold into the air (that is in general) more cursedly and bitterly then any butter-quean.
1693   T. Rymer Short View Trag. sig. H3v   His words flow in abundance; no Butter-Quean can be more lavish.
1752   True Briton 11 Oct. 180   Each scolded, as bad, as a—Butter-Quean Woman.

1613—1752(Hide quotations)

 

  butter-rigged adj. Nautical designating a topsail schooner whose topgallant yard is raised and lowered by halyards as required, rather than forming a fixed part of the vessel's rigging; cf. butterman n.  [So called because this type of craft was commonly used by traders to carry butter from the Netherlands.]

1881   W. C. Russell Ocean Free-lance III. iv. 121   The little wooden cabin of a butter-rigged schooner.
1885   Daily Tel. 26 Nov. 8/4   A butter-rigged schooner's a vessel that sets her t'gall't sail flying. The yard comes down on the taw'sa'l yard, and the sails is furled together.
1948   B. Lubbock in C. E. Fayle et al. Trade Winds iv. 95   There are probably few people today who can say what was meant by a butter-rigged schooner. A butter-rigged schooner set her topgallant sail flying; the topgallant yard had no lifts, and when the sail had to be taken in the yard was lowered down on to the topsail yard, and the sail furled in with the topsail.

1881—1948(Hide quotations)

 

  butter salt n. now hist. fine common salt in small crystals obtained by rapid evaporation of brine, used in salting butter.

1749   Wealth Great Brit. in Ocean 52   The Dutch prepare two kinds of refined salt, the one of a small grain, which they call butter salt, which is for domestic use.
1884   R. Holland Gloss. Words County of Chester (1886)    Butter salt, salt-making term. A fine boiled salt, not stoved, used specially for making up butter.
2016   Archaeol. Ireland 30 iv. 24/3   Salt-producers in Cheshire in the early decades of the 1900s made..dairy or butter salt.

1749—2016(Hide quotations)

 
 

  butter scale   n. (in singular and plural) a device used for weighing butter; (also, in singular) the pan or surface on which butter is placed in scales consisting of two pans and a beam.

1615   E. S. Britaines Busse sig. Bv   Wodden Butter-scales a paire.
?1801   Irish Agric. Mag. 1 No. 4. 357   The butter scales are then taken out of the salt water..and evenly balanced with butter.
1845   Christian Advocate & Jrnl. 17 Sept. 24/3   He then took a lump of the forfeited butter from the basket, and put it in a scale against a pound weight, and up flew the butter scale.
1849   Liverpool Mercury 26 Jan. 2/5   John Sinclair, provision dealer, 7, Wood-street, 1 dr. [=dram] copper under butter scale, £1.
2001   Financial Times 18 Aug. (Weekend FT section) p. iv/3   His uncle's farm shop used flat, fossilised remains of sea urchins as weights for the butter-scales.

1615—2001(Hide quotations)

 

  butter scoop   n. a wooden scoop used to extract butter from a churn or container.

1781   Catal. Houshold Goods H. Brownrigg (J. Braxton, Auctioneer) 82   A paste mould, and eight scollop shells. Three ditto with handles, a turnip, and butter scoop.
1872   O. W. Holmes Poet at Breakfast-table i. 2   As the market people run a butter-scoop through a firkin.
1995   A. McAllister in J. Dailey et al. Marry me, Cowboy! (1997) iv. 329   ‘And that,’ she said as the woman picked up a hand-size squared-off wooden scoop, ‘is a butter scoop.’

1781—1995(Hide quotations)

 

  butter slide   n. a surface which, as a practical joke, has been lubricated with butter (or occasionally other substances) so that it is too slippery to walk on; also figurative.

1843   Punch 12 Aug. 72/1   Nor shall the clown in future make butter slides before the doors of respectable shopkeepers,..to throw down those customers by whom they get a livelihood.
1887   O. Wilde in Court & Society Rev. 2 Mar. 207/2   He met with a severe fall, through treading on a butter-slide, which the twins had constructed.
1927   W. E. Collinson Contemp. Eng. 20   Ice to make slides (if very slippery sometimes called a butterslide).
1953   N. Frye in Hudson Rev. 6 443   This determinism is then projected historically as the Great Western Butterslide,..which..has finally landed us all in that Pretty Pass in which we are today.
2003   Spectator (Nexis) 18 Oct. 54   Boisterous singing and often dangerous horseplay (‘butter slides’ et al.) brighten up dull days, of which there are many.

1843—2003(Hide quotations)

 

  butter spade   n.  (a) a wooden spatula used to work butter; a small shovel used to remove butter from a churn or container;  (b) a wooden paddle used (as one of a pair) to shape butter; a butter pat (butter pat n. 1).

1851   H. Stephens & J. P. Norton Farmer's Guide Sci. & Pract. Agric. II. 279/2   A butter spade of a shape long used in a dairy, the face being 4 inches square, and the handle 4 inches long.
1906   Chambers's Jrnl. Jan. 119/1   An old Dublin butter-spade with ivory handle.
2013   Helensburgh (Scotl.) Advertiser (Nexis) 8 May   A 70-year-old pair of butter spades, a family heirloom that comes with the story of the lost art of making bespoke butter pats.

1851—2013(Hide quotations)

 

  butter stamp   n. an engraved wooden block used to imprint decorative motifs on butter; a butter print (butter print n. 1).

1820   New-Eng. Galaxy & Masonic Mag. 4 Feb. 67/4 (advt.)    Butter Stamps.
1926   Wisconsin Mag. Hist. 9 372   An iron kettle, butter stamp, snuff box, spectacles, and articles of clothing.
2011   P. Shelton Fruit of All Evil xvii. 174   At the end of the machine, on large worktables, were butter stamps that pressed designs into finished butter.

1820—2011(Hide quotations)

 

butter stick   n. Obsolete a wooden implement used to work butter.

1830   Edinb. New Philos. Jrnl. 8 364   This milk is then beaten with a kind of butter stick, and poured into an earthen pot or other vessel.
1921   Ann. Rep. Amer. Hist. Assoc. 1918 342   It is then beaten and worked well with a butter stick or paddle several different times in the course of the day untill [sic] all the fluid is pressed out.

1830—1921(Hide quotations)

 

  butter substitute   n. any of various substances used as a spread or in cooking as an alternative to butter, esp. one simulating its properties.

1834   Berrow's Worcester Jrnl. 16 Oct. (advt.)    Imperial Jambonade (or Butter Substitute).
1906   Macmillan's Mag. June 607   What are termed ‘butter-substitutes’,—in other words, fraudulent adulterants.
1955   B. C. L. Kemp Elem. Org. Chem. (ed. 2) x. 150   For many years butter substitutes have been in use under the collective name of margarine.
2017   @KatherineHunt15 5 Feb. in twitter.com (O.E.D. Archive)    Always had a spreadable butter substitute in our refrigerator until my husband showed me an article on how it's made.

1834—2017(Hide quotations)

 

  butter tongs   n. a pair of tongs used for picking up and transferring butter.

1866   Amer. Artisan 15 Aug. 236/3   In combination with the plates or pads, D, of the butter tongs, as described, I claim the indentations or ridges, c, formed in or upon said plates, as and for the purposes set forth.
1913   Hotel Monthly Dec. 7/2   In the pantry of Greene's Hotel, Philadelphia, there is a big sign which reads: Keep fingers off butter. Use butter tongs.
2004   D. Cosper Wedding Season 15   Who cares, I argued, whether I eat my salad with the salad fork or the oyster fork or the butter tongs?

1866—2004(Hide quotations)

 

  butter trier   n. U.S. a metal implement consisting of a long tube or curved blade used for taking samples of butter in order to assess its freshness and consistency.

1825   Providence (Rhode Island) Patriot 21 Dec. 1/2 (advt.)    Cheese and butter Tryers.
1923   National Poultry, Butter & Egg Bull. July 2/1 (advt.)    Special Butter Trier for cold storage work, extra heavy, with brass handle.
2009   R. L. Bradley & M. Smukowski in S. Clark et al. Sensory Eval. Dairy Products (ed. 2) vi. 145   The judge should grasp the butter trier firmly in hand and insert the sampling device as near as possible to the center of the butter sample.

1825—2009(Hide quotations)

 

  Butter Week   n. a festival celebrated by Eastern Slavic countries and communities, esp. those belonging to the Orthodox Church, in the week preceding Great Lent.Meat is prohibited during Butter Week, and it is the last week that dairy products can be consumed prior to the Lent fast.  [After Old Russian, Russian Maslenica (1543 or earlier; < maslenyj (adjective) of or relating to butter + -ica suffix forming nouns); compare also the considerably rarer Maslenaja nedelja, lit. ‘butter week’ (14th cent. or earlier).]

1589   A. Jenkinson in R. Hakluyt Princ. Navigations ii. 337   The weeke before Shroftide, they call the Butter weeke.
1762   P. Murdoch tr. A. F. Büsching New Syst. Geogr. I. 384   The Butter-week..when eating of flesh is forbidden and butter is allowed, is the week immediately preceding the great Fast of Lent.
1843   tr. J. G. Kohl Russia & Russians, 1842 II. xxv. 136   ‘Forgive me! it is the Butter-week!’ is the excuse invariably pleaded by every tipsy person.
2013   @ATasteOfUkraine 16 Mar. in twitter.com (O.E.D. Archive)    Have you had a chance to stop by and celebrate Butter week with us today? We have fresh hot blini.

1589—2013(Hide quotations)

 

butter weight   n. Obsolete the full measure of something and then some; literal a measure of butter in which the quantities used exceed customary units.Prior to the mid 19th cent. butter was often sold at a rate of 18 ounces to the pound (or above); cf. note at pound n.1 1a.

1733   Swift On Poetry 28   Yet, why should we be lac'd so straight; I'll give my [monarch] Butter-weight.
1829   Trans. Highland Soc. Scotl. 1 355   The largest size should not exceed 84 lb. gross, or 3 stones Aberdeen butter weight, that being the size used in Ireland, and most convenient and saleable in the London market.
1878   Notes & Queries 23 Nov. 410/1   Butter-weight means full legal weight and something more.
1906   Bedford (Indiana) Weekly Mail 11 May   Be sure to give me butter weight, now, for I've been a long time customer of yours.

1733—1906(Hide quotations)

 

butter whore   n. Obsolete a woman who makes or sells butter, characterized as garrulous, argumentative, and bad-tempered.Cf. butter-quean n.   For a similar derogatory portrayal of female butter sellers, see quots. 1639 for butter wife n., and a1616 for butter-woman n.

1592   T. Nashe Strange Newes sig. G3v   Thou arrant butterwhore, thou cotqueane, & scrattop of scoldes.
1680   M. Stevenson Wits Paraphras'd 111   Foaming at mouth, think how I rore, And bait thee like a Butter-whore.
1776   J. Leacock Fall Brit. Tyranny iv. vii. 52   Scolding and quarrelling like a parcel of damn'd butter whores.

1592—1776(Hide quotations)

 

  butter wife   n. now hist. a woman who makes or sells butter; cf. butter-woman n.

?1542   H. Brinkelow Complaynt Roderyck Mors vi. sig. B8   Not so moch as the poore butter wife, but she is spoyled.
1639   J. Clarke Paroemiologia 275   To scould like butter-wives.
1891   J. M. Barrie Little Minister (1900) v. 38   The stones on which the butter wives sat have disappeared, and with them the clay walls and the outside stairs.
2014   W. T. Vollmann Last Stories 405   Butterwives who'd sold their fat sweet cows for next to nothing.

?1542—2014(Hide quotations)

 

  butter-woman   n. now hist. a woman who makes or sells butter; cf. butter wife n.

1612   J. Webster White Divel sig. D3   Reapers and Butter-women, amongst Fishmongers And thousand other trades, which are annoyed By his excessiue heate.
a1616   Shakespeare All's Well that ends Well (1623) iv. i. 41   Tongue, I must put you into a Butter-womans mouth..if you prattle mee into these perilles.  
1748   H. Walpole Let. 3 Sept. (1941) IX. 75   He there made her discover her family, a butter woman in Craven Street.
1883   Punch 24 Feb. 87   The five Royal Commissioners in their butterwoman's cloaks.
2007   P. Doherty Poison Maiden v. 125   Two butter-women involved in a shouting match over who should sell their goods where.

1612—2007(Hide quotations)

 

  butter worker   n. a hand-operated device for pressing the buttermilk out of butter, consisting of a roller or paddle attached to a tray fashioned to allow drainage.

1839   W. W. Townsend Dairyman's Man. 74   We have used his butter-worker and churn for some years.
1885   J. J. Manley in Brit. Almanac 18   The butter-milk and water are carefully pressed out in one of Bradford's butter workers.
2007   Portland (Maine) Press Herald (Nexis) 25 Sept. b1   ‘It squishes all the liquid out of it,’ Elijah explained as he turned the crank on an antique butter worker.

1839—2007(Hide quotations)

 

  butter working   n. the removal of moisture from butter; (also) the moulding of butter into pats or decorative forms.

1843   Ann. Rep. Commissioner Patents 1842 113 (table) in U.S. Congress. Serial Set (27th Congr., 3rd Sess.: House of Representatives Doc. 109) II   Butter-working, machines for.
1906   Daily Chron. 25 Sept. 2/6   One is reluctantly obliged to conclude that butter-working is a lost art amongst grocers' assistants.
2016   V. B. Alvarez in R. C. Chandan et al. Dairy Processing & Quality Assurance (ed. 2) xix. 474/2   Observable patches or streaks of butter with a darker or lighter shade of yellow are the main characteristics of this defect. Insufficient butter working will cause this problem.

1843—2016(Hide quotations)

 

  butter yellow   n. now hist. a yellow azo dye derived from dimethylaniline, used as a food additive.

1887   Jrnl. Soc. Chem. Industry 31 Oct. 657 (table)    Butter yellow. Aniline-azodimethyl-aniline.
1956   Nature 24 Mar. 576/2   Rat liver tumours induced by butter yellow.
2014   H. Stoff in T. Ortiz-Gómez & M. J. Santesmases Gendered Drugs & Med. (2016) i. 28   In the case of butter yellow, not only the..biochemical experts but also the women's organisations, reacted strongly against the azo dye.

1887—2014(Hide quotations)

 
 C4. In the names of plants and animals.Cf. butterbur n., buttercup n. and adj., butterfish n., butterflower n., butterfly n., butterwort n., etc.

  butter and eggs n. any of various plants having flowers in two shades of yellow; esp. yellow toadflax, Linaria vulgaris.

1756   J. Hill Brit. Herbal 109/1   Linaria vulgaris. Our common people, from the mixture of a very pale and deep yellow, call it Butter and eggs.
1880   R. Jefferies Round about Great Estate 83   In shady woodlands the toadflax or butter-and-eggs is often pale,—a sulphur colour.
1930   Dept. Agric. & Immigration Virginia Bull. No. 274. 23/1 (advt.)    Jonquils, butter and eggs, narcissus, tiger lilies 25c–12; $1.50–100.
2008   Independent 17 July (Extra section) 9   The gorgeous yellow and orange of this snap-dragon-like flower has earned it the nickname Butter and Eggs.

1756—2008(Hide quotations)

 

  butter and tallow tree   n. now rare a large evergreen West African tree, Pentadesma butyracea (family Clusiaceae), with seeds yielding a solid fat used as a source of food; also called butter tree, tallow tree.

1795   Acct. Colony Sierra Leone Sierra Leone Company 235   Butter and Tallow Tree. This is common in low lands about Freetown.
1896   Let. 4 Apr. in Bull. Misc. Information (Royal Gardens, Kew) (1897) No. 130. 312   I have the honour to forward by this mail steamer, a box containing seeds of Pentadesma butyracea, the butter and tallow tree of Sierra Leone.
1911   Bay View Mag. Nov. 142/1   The butter and tallow tree sometimes attains a height of seventy feet.
2006   J. F. DeMouthe Nat. Materials iv. 89   In western Africa, Pentadesma butyracea is called the tallow tree or the butter-and-tallow tree because the oil derived from its fruit is used like butter.

1795—2006(Hide quotations)

 

butter-back   n. U.S. Obsolete the bufflehead duck, Bucephala albeola, which acquires a layer of fat in the autumn.Cf. butter-duck n., butterball n. 2a, butterbox n. 3.

1791   W. Bartram Trav. N. & S. Carolina ii. x. 295   A[nas] minor picta; the little black and white duck called butterback.
1796   J. Morse Amer. Universal Geogr. (new ed.) I. 213   Little black and white duck, called Butter Back (Anas minor picta).
1925   J. C. Phillips Nat. Hist. Ducks III. 334   Vernacular Names. English: Buffle-head, Butter-ball, Butter Duck, Butter-back, Butter-box, [etc.].

1791—1925(Hide quotations)

 

  butter bird   n. chiefly Caribbean (now rare) the bobolink, Dolichonyx oryzivorus, which was formerly used as food.

1790   Short Journey in W. Indies II. 90   It is of the size of a large pigeon and as fat as a butter bird, but its flavour is peculiar.
1883   Standard 26 Dec.   They [sc. bobolinks]..grow so fat that they receive the name of ‘butter birds’.
1956   M. Jeffrey-Smith Bird-watching in Jamaica 77   Not many would recognise the Bobolink of Canada..as our own Butter Bird or October Pink.
2014   W. Young Fascination of Birds vii. 19   Bobolinks used to be called butter birds by hunters who killed the fat birds for meat, especially in the Caribbean.

1790—2014(Hide quotations)

 

  butterbush   n.  (a) U.S. the buttonbush, Cephalanthus occidentalis;  (b) Australian any of several pittosporums native to Australia; spec. Pittosporum phillyraeoides, which has hard, pale timber, yellow flowers, and orange fruit with dark red seeds; cf. cheesewood n.

1843   J. Torrey Flora State N.Y. I. 313 (heading)    Cephalanthus occidentalis, Linn. Butter-bush, or Pond-Dogwood.
1885   J. E. Brown Forest Flora S. Austral. v. 25   Pittosporum phillyræoides (De Candolle). The Poison-Berry Tree... In the far north,..it is called ‘Butter Bush’.
1936   I. L. Idriess Cattle King xxviii. 252   The rabbits had killed all the white wood, apple-bush and butter-bush.
1978   Phosphate Leasing Osceola National Forest Florida: Final Environmental Impact Statement (U.S. Dept. Interior) ii. 51/2   Under story—greenbriar, Virginia willow, sweet pepperbush, butter bush and large gallberry.
2011   Austral. Financial News (Nexis) 11 June 52   The butterbush—a native pittosporum—is extremely drought and frost tolerant but can become a pest in protected and tropical areas.

1843—2011(Hide quotations)

 

  butter clam   n. chiefly Canadian a large edible bivalve mollusc, Saxidomus gigantea (family Veneridae), occurring off the Pacific coasts of North America.  [Apparently so called on account of its suitability for eating.]

1899   Industr. Freedom (Edison, Washington) 1 Apr. 4/2   Oyster creek empties into the bay and the butter clam is found along the beach.
1957   M. Sharcott Troller's Holiday 79   They were fat butter clams, four or five inches across the shell, but there weren't enough of them.
2006   Canad. Geographic Sept. 52/1   You tell them, I want a butter clam, a horse clam, a littleneck, and they'll go get them.

1899—2006(Hide quotations)

 

butter-cutter   n. Obsolete rare a small insect that attacks plant shoots.  [An error for bud-cutter n. at bud n.1 Compounds 2.]

[1693   J. Evelyn tr. J. de La Quintinie Compl. Gard'ner ii. v. x. 100   To have the end of their new Shoots..cut off by a little black round Insect, call'd Bud-Cutter.]
1704   G. London & H. Wise J. de la Quintinie's Compl. Gard'ner (ed. 4) II. v. x. 162   The end of their new Shoots intirely cut off by a little black round Insect, called Butter-cutter.

1704—1704(Hide quotations)

 

butterdew   n. Obsolete a dark greenish or yellowish-brown gelatinous substance found on damp ground, probably colonies of the cyanobacteria Nostoc (see nostoc n.).Nostoc swells up when exposed to moisture and therefore becomes more visible after wet weather. For this reason, it was formerly believed to be a type of rain or dew.Also called witches' butter.

[1696   Philos. Trans. 1695–7 (Royal Soc.) 19 223   For a good part of last Winter and Spring, there fell in several places, a kind of thick Dew, which the Country People called Butter, from the Consistency and Colour of it.]
1724   W. Nicolson Irish Hist. Libr. 14   Bishop Ash's and Mr. Van's account of Butter-Dew, &c. 1695, 1696.
1841   Gardener's Chron. 23 Oct. 700/3   This Butterdew is probably of the same nature as that substance which in Scotland is called Witch's-butter.

1724—1841(Hide quotations)

 

  butterdock   n. any of several dock plants (genus Rumex), esp. R. obtusifolius, having large leaves which were formerly used to wrap butter; (also occasionally) the common butterbur, Petasites vulgaris.Cf. butter leaves n.

1688   R. Holme Acad. Armory ii. vi. §xxv. 102/2   Butter Dock, or Rubarbe,..having a large crumpled leaf..with long stalks.
1807   T. Martyn Miller's Gardener's & Botanist's Dict. (rev. ed.) II. ii. at Rumex   R[umex] acutus... The leaves were formerly much used for wrapping up butter; and that hence this species was commonly known by the name of Butter Dock.
1950   C. Porteous Derbyshire v. 53   By the stream a robust display of butter docks, their plump blossoms just freshly out and their leaves unworn.
2002   Daily Tel. 18 Jan. 10/5   Butterbur, also known as exwort, bog rhubarb and butterdock, grows in Europe, north Africa and south west Asia.

1688—2002(Hide quotations)

 

  butter-duck   n. U.S. a duck that acquires a layer of fat in the autumn; esp. the bufflehead, Bucephala albeola.Cf. butter-back n., butterball n. 2a, butterbox n. 3.

1853   F. A. Pulszky & T. W. Pulszky White, Red, Black II. iv. 115   Dark butterducks, disturbed by the paddling of the steamer, flutter up in advance of the boat.
1857   J. G. Swan Northwest Coast 357   The Colonel saw a ‘butter-duck’ in a shallow creek... These ducks are the black surf-duck (Fuligula perspicillata).
1989   Peterson's Hunting Ann. 1990 63/2   Ringneck ducks, lesser scaup, redheads, and buffleheads (or butter ducks as some old-timers call them), probably frequent small ponds more than any other species of diving ducks.
2006   N. Vida Texicans (Electronic ed.)    He watched the prairie dogs flick out of their burrows and the cranes and quail and butter-ducks flutter across the tree-shrouded stream.

1853—2006(Hide quotations)

 

  butterflip   n. now rare and chiefly hist. the avocet, Recurvirostra avosetta.  [The motivation for the name is unclear.]

1802   G. Montagu Ornithol. Dict. at Avocet—Scooping   Provincial [names]. Butter-flip. Scooper. Yelper. Picarini. Crooked-bill. Cobler's-awl.
1905   A. R. Forbes Gaelic Names Beasts ii. 234   Avocet... Avoset; Black and white avocet, butterflip; Clinker, cobbler's awl or awlduck.
1961   Entomologist 94 249   Among the names of birds, for instance, there is the ‘butterflip’ (Recurvirostra avocetta).

1802—1961(Hide quotations)

 
 

  butter fruit   n.  [in sense (a)   after Malay buah mentega ( < buah fruit + mentega butter)]  (a) a tropical persimmon tree native to the Philippines and Sri Lanka, Diospyros discolor, which produces a reddish-brown fruit with velvety skin and pale flesh;  (b) an avocado; = butter pear n. (b).

1902   Agric. Bull. Straits & Federated Malay States 1 532   The Butter fruit, Mabola of the Philippines, Diospyros discolor... The flesh [of the fruit] is cream coloured, and when properly ripened is of the softness of butter, whence its name.
1902   Carpología Mexicana (Boletin de la Sociedad Agricola Mexicana) 3   Ahuacate chico.—Persea gratissima. Gaert var.—Vegetable butter fruit.—Fruit d'avocatier.
1927   Overland Monthly Oct. 305/3   The ‘butter-fruit’ salad which you so much enjoy today will, doubtless, be far inferior to the brand which will be consumed by your children in the years to come.
1987   Perennial Edible Fruits of Tropics (U.S. Dept. Agric. Handbk. No. 642) viii. 239   The mabolo (also known as velvet apple and butter fruit), Diospyros disolor Willd. (family Ebenaceae), is perhaps the best of the tropical persimmons.
2015   J. S. Denker Carrot Purple 30   It has been variously called alligator pear, avocado pear, butter fruit, and butter pear.

1902—2015(Hide quotations)

 
 

  butterhead   n. (more fully butterhead lettuce) any of several varieties of lettuce typically having a head of loosely bunched, tender leaves with a sweet, mild flavour; = butter lettuce n.The names butter, Boston, and bibb lettuce are often used interchangeably.

1840   Mag. Hort. Dec. 468   Lettuce of yellow Butterhead, Palantine, and white Cos kinds.
1928   Cornell Extension Bull. No. 176. 48 (caption)    Big Boston, the best variety of butterhead lettuce for New York.
1991   Shepherd's Garden Seeds Catal. 29/2   Butterheads are gaining precedence here. Their gently folded heads of butter-flavored undulating leaves are prized for delicate texture and flavor that melts in your mouth.
2007   Times 13 July (times2 Section) 10/4   I usually follow with a floppy butterhead lettuce salad to wipe round the plate.

1840—2007(Hide quotations)

 

butterjags   n. English regional Obsolete either of two leguminous plants with yellow flowers, bird's-foot trefoil, Lotus corniculatus, and yellow medick, Medicago falcata.  [The second element is probably the plural of jag n.1, perhaps on account of the resemblance of the flowers to the garments described at jag n.1 1a.]

1691   J. Ray N. Country Words in Coll. Eng. Words (ed. 2) 12   Butter-jags, the Flowers of the Trifolium siliqua cornuta.
1776   W. Withering Bot. Arrangem. Veg. Great Brit. II. 461   Yellow Medick. Butterjags.
1815   Encycl. Londinensis XIII. 682/2   Lotus corniculata... In Yorkshire it is said to be called cheesecake-grass, and in some other counties, butterjags, and crow-toes.
1903   Country Life 21 Mar. 375/2   The mere clumsiness of such titles as ‘Butter-jags’ for the lady's slipper [sc. bird's-foot trefoil]..carries a ring of genuineness.

1691—1903(Hide quotations)

 

  butter leaves   n. now hist. and rare either of two herbaceous plants having (large) leaves which were formerly used to wrap butter: garden orache, Atriplex hortensis, and monk's rhubarb, Rumex alpinus; (also) the leaves themselves; cf. butterdock n.

1789   W. Marshall Rural Econ. Glocestershire I. 285   What the dairywomen call ‘butter leaves’; namely, the leaves of the Atriplex hortensis, or garden orach; which dairywomen in general sow in their gardens, annually, for this purpose [i.e. for packing butter in].
1878   W. Dickinson Gloss. Words & Phrases Cumberland (ed. 2) 13/2   Butter leaves, the leaves of the mountain dock, Rumex alpinus, used for packing pounds of butter in the market-basket.
1933   House & Garden Nov. 74/3   Orach is a tall, somewhat branched annual formerly grown as a green. Its other English names are Butter Leaves, and Mountain Spinach.
2016   E. Khosrova Butter i. v. 97   Provincially called butter leaves, the plant was sown annually in the garden just for the purpose of enveloping and protecting butter.

1789—2016(Hide quotations)

 
 

  butter lettuce   n. any of several varieties of lettuce typically having a head of loosely bunched, tender leaves with a sweet, mild flavour; = butterhead n.

1828   N.-Y. Farmer & Hort. Repository Oct. 239/1   I sow about the 10th of September, seed of the White Dutch, Simpson's Selisias, and the Butter or Lazey Lettuce.
1966   Sunset Salad Bk. (ed. 3) 52/2   1 large head butter lettuce, broken in bite-sized pieces.
2011   Yuma (Arizona) Sun 8 May b2/   Butter lettuce is very fragile. Select unwilted leaves with no signs of damage or yellowing.

1828—2011(Hide quotations)

 

  butter pear   n.  (a) any of several varieties of pear which have sweet, juicy flesh with a soft, buttery texture; = beurré n.1;  (b) an avocado; = butter fruit n. (b).  [In sense (a)   after Middle French, French beurré  , lit. ‘buttered’, in similar use (see beurré n.1).]

1600   R. Surflet tr. C. Estienne & J. Liébault Maison Rustique iii. xlix. 537   Garden, tender and delicate peares, such as..butter peare [Fr. beurree].
1719   G. London & H. Wise J. de la Quintinie's Compl. Gard'ner (ed. 7) 52   The Burree..It's call'd the Butter Pear, because of its smooth, delicious, melting soft Pulp.
1861   N. Amer. & U.S. Gaz. (Philadelphia) 18 Sept.   Mrs. George Liggett..exhibited a dish of butter pears..—a fruit of surpassing beauty as well as flavor.
1886   Jrnl. Amer. Geogr. Soc. N.Y. 18 222   The gardens were..enclosed in high walls, above which rose the rich dark foliage of the ‘butter-pear’ and evergreen trees.
1947   C. M. Wilson Liberia iii. 31   The Liberian ‘butter pear’..makes all other avocados seem insipid.
1997   Los Angeles Mag. May 78/1   A couple of French butter pears with prosciutto de Parma and goat cheese before bed.
2010   Salt Lake Tribune (Nexis) 17 July   Also known as ‘butter pears’, avocados are actually large berries belonging to the same plant family as cinnamon and camphor.

1600—2010(Hide quotations)

 

butter-root   n. Obsolete the common butterwort, Pinguicula vulgaris.

1597   J. Gerard Herball ii. 645   In Yorkshire..it is called Butterwoorts, Butter roote, and white roote.
1791   E. Baylis New & Compl. Body Pract. Bot. Physic xxvii. 386   Usually Sanicula eboracensis, or Yorkshire Sanicle... It is termed in English Butter-wort, and Butter-root, because of the unctuosity of the leaves.
1901   J. Weathers Pract. Guide Garden Plants ii. 729/2   P. vulgaris (Bog Violet; Butter-root). A pretty British and Irish species, with bluntly oblong fleshy leaves.

1597—1901(Hide quotations)

 

  butter tree   n. any of various tropical or subtropical trees having seeds from which a soft, oily fat is obtained; esp. shea, Vitellaria paradoxa; cf. butter and tallow tree n.shea butter tree: see the first element.

1798   St. James's Chron. 16–19 Jan.   There is another tree, which he [sc. Mr. Park] calls the butter-tree, because the kernels of its nuts afford a substance exactly resembling butter.
1808   W. Roxburgh in Jrnl. Nat. Philos., Chem., & Arts 19 Suppl. 372 (heading)    A botanical and economical account of Bassia butyracea, or the East India Butter Tree.
1912   Sci. Amer. 24 Feb. 175/1   To the plants yielding such oils has been applied the name of ‘butter-trees’.
2016   Australian (Nexis) 23 July (Travel section) 9   Products are made using natural-origin, organic-certified shea butter extracted from the kernels of butter trees (Butyrospermum parkii).

1798—2016(Hide quotations)

 
 

  butterweed   n. any of various herbaceous plants of the family Asteraceae, esp. of the genera Erigeron and Senecio, which are native to the Americas and have yellow flowers; also with distinguishing word.

1800   W. Dalrymple Treat. Culture Wheat 41   If Wheat, on Strong land, be sown too early, Black Bents and Butterweed will make their growth.
1911   Jrnl. Royal Soc. Arts 60 65/2   Erigeron Canadensis, called by the Canadians by the names of ‘Fleabane’, the name in England of E[rigeron] acre; and ‘Butter-weed’.
1986   Washinton Post (Nexis) 17 Oct. n4   The grasses begin to flatten into a dense mat patterned with yellow clumps of butterweed.
2004   C. Gurche Washington's Best Wildflower Hikes 79   Dwarf mountain butterweed, also a yellow composite, flourishes in the rocky rubble.

1800—2004(Hide quotations)

 
 C5.
 a. With of in the names of various substances resembling butter in appearance or consistency.

  butter of almonds   n. now hist. a creamy dessert made with sweetened ground almonds; = almond butter n. 1.

?c1425   Recipe in Coll. Ordinances Royal Househ. (Arun. 334) (1790) 447   Botyr of Almondes. Take almonde mylke, and let hit boyle, and in the boylinge cast therto a lytel wyn or vynegur.
1754   New & Compl. Dict. Arts & Sci. I. 102/1   Butter of almonds, made by adding blanched almonds to a preparation of cream and the whites of eggs boiled together.
1861   Our Eng. Home 151   Almonds..were boiled until the liquor became a delicious cream, from which was made the famous butter of almonds.
1956   E. Cavanna & J. Welton Gourmet Cookery for Low-fat Diet 28   One hundred fifty-one almonds were boiled to a cream from which emerged the famous butter of almonds.

?c1425—1956(Hide quotations)

 

  butter of cacao   n. now chiefly hist. the pale yellow fat extracted from the seeds of cacao or related trees; also called cacao butter, cocoa butter.

1746   tr. J. Astruc Gen. Treat. Dis. Children 229   An ulcer in the lungs, with some balsams, or butter of cacao.
1887   Boston Post 15 Sept. 12/7 (advt.)    Baker's breakfast cocoa..is made from selected cocoa, with the excess of butter of cacao removed.
1998   Pharmacy in Hist. 40 142/1   A formula by Griffith and Maisch listed..a demulcent butter of cacao mixture for catarrh.

1746—1998(Hide quotations)

 

  butter of mace   n. now rare a fixed oil obtained from nutmegs, occurring as a soft, pale yellow solid; also called nutmeg butter, oil of mace.

1694   W. Salmon Pharmacopœia Bateana ii. iii. 884/1   Add Balsam of Amber ℥j. Butter of Mace ℥ß. Petrolæum, Oil of Spike, A. Ʒij. mix them.
1870   Proc. 17th Ann. Meeting Amer. Pharmaceut. Assoc. 143   Butter of mace becomes suddenly solid at 33°C.
1965   Econ. Bot. 19 197/1   The fixed oil of nutmegs is known by many names..: nutmeg butter, balsam of nutmegs, oil of mace, butter of mace, banda soap, and Oleum Myristicae Expressum.

1694—1965(Hide quotations)

 

butter of wax   n. Obsolete an oil obtained from wax by distillation, occurring as a butter-like solid; also called wax butter.

1662   H. Stubbe Indian Nectar 176   After it was cold, it became thick, like to the Oyl or Butter of Wax for consistence.
1735   T. Dallowe tr. H. Boerhaave Elements Chem. II. iii. xxxvi. 108   Butter of wax..excellently secures the Skin from being dried and chapp'd in the Winter.
1824   J. C. Loudon Encycl. Gardening (ed. 2) i. ii. 152   Sometimes it [sc. vegetable wax] has the consistency of butter, and is denominated butter of wax, as butter of coco, butter of galam.

1662—1824(Hide quotations)

 

 b. Chiefly Chemistry. With of and following word. Denoting a chloride of the metal or substance specified, as butter of antimony, butter of arsenic, butter of bismuth, butter of tin, butter of zinc, etc. Now chiefly hist.Used to describe anhydrous chlorides that are soft or oily in texture, with the metal typically in its lowest oxidation state (as antimony( iii) chloride, zinc( ii) chloride, etc.).

1651   J. French Art Distillation iii. 71   Oil or Butter of Antimony.
1674   M. Lister Let. 7 Jan. in H. Oldenburg Corr. (1975) X. 427   I take it to be yt wch van Helmont calls ye Gur or Bur ye butter of Minerals; 'tis in tast sweetish, only it has a vitriolick & iron like twang wth it.
1708   tr. J. P. de Tournefort Materia Medica iv. i. 180   If you pour fair Water upon the Butter of Antimony, you will obtain a very fine white Powder..call'd the Powder of Algaroth.
1785   T. Beddoes tr. T. Bergman Diss. Elective Attractions xx. 124   That which is collected in the receiver, consists of butter of arsenic, and marine acid unmixed.
1802   R. Chenevix in Philos. Trans. (Royal Soc.) 92 164   The muriatic salts, formerly known by the strange name of butters of the metals.
1812   H. Davy Elements Chem. Philos. 407   The only known compound, bismuth and chlorine..called butter of bismuth.
1922   T. M. Lowry Inorg. Chem. xliv. 872   Crude zinc chlorine which distils solidifies in the receiver to a soft waxy mass known as butter of zinc.
1940   G. H. J. Adlam & L. S. Price Higher School Certificate Inorg. Chem. (ed. 2) xxxviii. 331   On adding water, a semi-solid mass is obtained, which contains one or more hydrates of the chloride, e.g. SnCl4.5H2O. This is known as ‘butter of tin’.
1994   Times (Nexis) 24 Nov.   In the past, antimony was prescribed as tartar emetic (antimony potassium tartrate) or in veterinary work as butter of antimony.
2002   W. R. Newman & L. M. Principe Alchemy tried in Fire iii. 104   Corrosive sublimate and antimony (mercuric chloride and antimony trisulphide) were heated together, first providing a distillate of butter of antimony (antimony trichloride).

1651—2002(Hide quotations)

 

Derivatives

 

  ˈbutter-like adj.

1600   R. Surflet tr. C. Estienne & J. Liébault Maison Rustique iii. lxxxiv. 625   You shall take this butter like matter and put it into the retort hauing first made it very cleane.
1700   W. Salmon Pharmacopœia Bateana (ed. 2) i. ix. 380/2   A Butter-like Oil.
1869   A. R. Wallace Malay Archipel. I. v. 85   A rich butter-like custard highly flavored with almonds.
1961   M. Waldo Cook as Romans Do i. 28   Bel Paese is the classic ‘mild’ cheese... It has a creamy yellow butterlike consistency.
2006   B. Greene Best Life Diet (2007) 105   If you must have some kind of butter-like spread on your toast, look for one of the margarine spreads with labels stating ‘0 g trans fat’.

1600—2006(Hide quotations)

 

This entry has been updated (OED Third Edition, September 2018).

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