Floating Between Vanessa and Monarch: Butterfly Baby Names

by You Can't Call It "It"! on June 12, 2008

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

Leanira- Leanira

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”

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Lola June 12, 2008 at 2:29 pm

Thanks Elisabeth! You’ve given me another reason to love Xerxes amd Mimosa. (and thank you so very much for sparing us Nevaeh is Slavic for butterfly!) :D
And how surprising to find Edward on this list!

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2 Jess June 12, 2008 at 2:38 pm

I love the name Gray but always just associated it with the color. Now I’m rethinking it as you just showed me that it has more meaning. Thanks!

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3 Mummie June 13, 2008 at 9:12 am

Who knew butterflies could provide such a refreshing list of names?

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4 Bek pumpkin.patch June 13, 2008 at 11:53 am

It’s funny, I went through a did a list like this for a friend of mine a while back. It really was fascinating to see so many names that have subtle associations with the beautiful butterfly :)

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5 youcantcallitit June 13, 2008 at 6:46 pm

Bek, did you come up with the same names???

I think Gray and Mimosa are totally viable and wonderful, but Xerxes is a bit OTT, no, Lola? :-)

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6 youcantcallitit June 13, 2008 at 6:49 pm

Xerxes was on our short list for a German Shepherd. If you love it L, I have no doubt you can pull it off!

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7 prisoner January 28, 2010 at 9:00 am

Thula means little girl. Indian meaning; Balance, or the finnish meaning(Tuula); Wind. :)

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