We’re all familiar with the practice of taking names from nature: Lily, Violet, Iris, and Hazel grace our playgrounds as much as they do our gardens. But what of butterflies?
I began to focus on butterflies as to me they symbolize a quiet, delicate strength. Transforming from caterpillar to chrysalis to their eventual manifestation, butterflies represent a constant renewal and rebirth. They are tremendous voyagers, flying thousands of miles in their short lives, and have a symbiotic relationship with flowers as they aid in pollination. I am reminded of the line in “The Sound of Music” when Louisa sings “I flit, I float, I fleetly flee, I fly…”
A quick search on www.behindthename.com lists a few female names as having the meaning “Butterfly”: Chou & Chouko (Japanese), Flutura (Albanian), Kelebek (Turkish), Parvana (Iranian), and Vanessa (English), and listed Papillion as a French male name which I’m not so sure about. Aside from Flutura which might be an interesting futuristic choice, or Parvana which has a liliting quality, none of these were very satisfying options for me. So I went in search of more names associated with this lithe and lovely creature. My quest was limited to the butterflies of North America. Some of these are common first names, some are surnames likely named after the discoverer, some are likely derived from the flowers they surround themselves with. A few just sound like they could be bestowed onto a human being, and where these are concerned, gender was arbitrarily assigned based on sound. I’ve also heard Mariposa, the Spanish word for butterfly, being bandied about. Though it sounds pretty, it is a Spanish slur and thus might not be a very neutral choice.
If a theme is what you’re after, this compilation might be an understated one. It could be fun for sisters to share a hidden theme, and some of the male options are scrumptous, butterfly or no! Where there is no definition below, only the butterfly of that name was found. The name of the actual butterflies are in italics. I’ll spare you Mangrove, Goatweed, and the like.
Acacia- Acacia Skipper; Greek “thorn, point”, like the tree of the same name.
Alberta- Alberta Arctic; English “bright, nobility.” Queen Victoria’s husband was Prince Albert, and she decried that all her descendants would have a form of either Victoria or Albert in their name.
Alexandra- Queen Alexandra’s Sulphur; Greek, “defender of mankind”
Anicia- Anicia Checkerspot. Possibly related to Anise?
Anise- Anise Swallowtail; English, from the herb of the same name.
Antonia- Empress Antonia; Ancient Roman, “of inestimable worth.”
Aryxna- Aryxna Giant Skipper
Astarte- Astarte Fritillary; Greek form of Ashtoreth, the Phoenician goddess of love, war, and fertility. Also Ishtar.
Aster- Aster Checkerspot; A form of Esther, meaning “star.” Also a star-like flower.
Atala- Atala; 152 Atala is an asteroid. There is also a novel Atala, by Francois-Rene de Chateaubriand.
Avalon- Avalon Hairstreak; related to the Welsh “afal”, meaning Apple. Also King Arthur’s heaven.
Carolina- Carolina Satyr; Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, English, “warrior.”
Cestri- Cestri Hairstreak
Chara- Chara Checkerspot; Greek “happiness, joy”
Coral- Coral Hairstreak; from the Greek, “maiden of the sea
Diana- Diana; Roman Mythology, “heavenly, divine”
Dorcas- Dorcas Copper; Greek, “gazelle”
Edith- Edith’s Copper, Edith’s Checkerspot, Old English, “rich, blessed + war”
Elada- Elada Checkerspot; Latinized version of the Greek Hellados, meaning “from Greece”
Eufala- Eufala Skipper
Fatima- Fatima; Arabic “to abstain”; Muhammed’s daughter
Ferentina- Ferentina Calico; The patron goddess of the city Ferentium, Latium. She was protector of the Latin commonwealth, and was also closely associated with the Roman Empire
Flora- Empress Flora; Latin “flower.” The Roman goddess of flowers and spring, the wife of Zephyr the west wind
Georgia- Georgia Satyr; English, Greek “farmer”
Julia- Julia, Julia Skipper; Ancient Roman, “youthful” or “downy-bearded”
Juniper- Juniper Hairstreak; English, from the tree of the same name
Lantana- Larger Lantana Butterfly, Smaller Lantana Butterfly; flowering plants
Laure- Laure; French “laurel”
Laviana- Laviana Skipper; an autonomous community on the northern coast of Spain
Leda- Leda Hairstreak; Greek mythology, possibly means “woman.” The mother of Castor, Pollux and Helen, by Zeus, who discovered her in the form of a swan
Leilia- Empress Leilia; Ancient Roman, a type of orchid
Lilac- Lilac-banded Longtail; a type of flower
Louisa- Empress Louisa; English, “famous warrior”
Magdalena- Magdalena Alpine; Biblical, “of Magdala”
Melissa- Melissa Arctic; Greek “honeybee”, a nymph from Greek mythology
Mimosa- Mimosa’s Yellow; after the flowering trees; a pretty name, if you can get beyong the drink
Mylitta- Mylitta Crescentspot, Mylitta Greenwing
Nivalis- Nivalis Copper; also an Arctic Finch otherwise known as Snowbird
Olive- Olive Hairstreak; from the tree, and a symbol of the goddess Athena
Olympia- Olympia Marblewing; Greek, the mountain Olympus was the home of the Greek gods
Pahaska- Pahaska Skipper
Pearl- Pearly Marblewing
Phoebe- Phoebus Parnassian; Greek mythology, Biblical, meaning “bright, pure”
Saffron- Saffron Skipper; English, from the Arabic. A spice from the crocus flower, orange-yellow in color.
Sierra- Sierra Skipper; Spanish, English, “mountain range”
Sara- Sara Orangetip; Hebrew “princess”
Sonora- Sonora Skipper; a state in Mexico
Telea- Telea Hairstreak
Theona- Theona Checkerspot; Greek mythology, Dymus’ daughter, Hecuba’s sister, Amycus’ wife and Mimas’ mother
Thula- Thula Sulphur
Titania- Titania’s Fritillary; English, “of the Titans”
Vesta- Vesta Crescentspot; Roman goddess of the hearth
Violet- Violet-banded Skipper, Violet-patch Skipper; English, after the purple flower
Xami- Xami Hairstreak
Zebina- Zebina Hairstreak
Zela- Zela Metalmark; Ancient city in Asia Minor, and site of the battle where Julius Caeser recalled “Veni, vidi, vici” (“I came, I saw, I conquered”)
Zerene- Zerene Fritillary
Zilpa- Zilpa-banded Longtail; Zilpah is Hebrew for “frailty”
Araxes- Araxes Skipper; River that is the border between Iran and Azerbaijan
Becker- Becker’s White
Behr- Behr’s Sulfur
Cassius- Cassius Blue; Ancient Roman “empty, vain”
Cyneas- Cyneas Checkerspot
Dakota- Dakota Skipper; “friend” in the Dakota language
Edward- Edwards’ Hairstreak, Edwards’ Fritillary; English, “rich guard”
Gray- Gray Marble, Gray Comma; from the surname and the color
Hayden- Hayden’s Ringlet; Old English, “hay valley”
Harris- Harris’ Checkerspot; English surname “son of the ruler of the home”
Henry- Henry’s Elfin; English, “ruler of the home”
Hessel- Hessel’s Hairstreak
Horace- Horace’s Duskywing; Ancient Roman, “hour, time, season”
Leonard, Leonardo- Leonardus Skipper; “Brave Lion”
Lorquin- Lorquin’s Admiral
Mitchell- Mitchell’s Marsh Satyr; from the surname, meaning “who is like God”?
Nelson- Nelson’s Hairstreak; English, “son of Neil”
Ocher- Ocher Ringlet; yellow-red color and soil
Oreas- Oreas Anglewing
Orseis- Orseis Crescentspot
Otto- Ottoe Skipper; German, “wealth, fortune”
Sachem- Sachem; Native American (some), the chief of a tribe
Sedge- Sedge Skipper; a kind of brushy herb
Teleus- Teleus Longtail
Theano- Theano Alpine
Thoas- Thoas Swallowtail
Uhler- Uhler’s Ringlet
Wright- Wright’s Metalmark; surname meaning “carpenter”
Xerxes- Xerces Blue; Greek from the Persian “ruler over heroes”
Zephyr- Zephyr Anglewing; Greek mythology, “the west wind”