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[buht-er] /ˈbʌt ər/
the fatty portion of milk, separating as a soft whitish or yellowish solid when milk or cream is agitated or churned.
this substance, processed for cooking and table use.
any of various other soft spreads for bread:
apple butter; peanut butter.
any of various substances of butterlike consistency, as various metallic chlorides, and certain vegetable oils solid at ordinary temperatures.
verb (used with object)
to put butter on or in; spread or grease with butter.
to apply a liquefied bonding material to (a piece or area), as mortar to a course of bricks.
Metalworking. to cover (edges to be welded together) with a preliminary surface of the weld metal.
Verb phrases
butter up, Informal. to flatter someone in order to gain a favor:
He suspected that they were buttering him up when everyone suddenly started being nice to him.
Origin of butter
before 1000; Middle English; Old English butere < Latin būtȳrum < Greek boútȳron
Related forms
butterless, adjective
butterlike, adjective
unbuttered, adjective
Can be confused
budder, butter. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for buttering
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • "He is buttering the bread of millions upon millions," said Mr. Stistick.

    The Bertrams

    Anthony Trollope
  • Then I would imitate the acts of cutting the slices and buttering them.

    Story of My Life Helen Keller
  • "You won't find it, Gadgem," replied St. George, buttering the toast.

    Kennedy Square F. Hopkinson Smith
  • Just watch my speed, returned Terry, buttering a slice of bread.

    Gypsies of the Air Bess Moyer
  • Of course he is, answered Dan, buttering another piece of bread.

    Four Afloat Ralph Henry Barbour
  • Jennie was back at her buttering again; apparently he was to do the telling.

    The Tower of Oblivion Oliver Onions
  • While buttering and rolling, do every thing as quickly as possible.

  • After buttering slab and bars, pour the candy into the enclosure.

    Candy-Making Revolutionized Mary Elizabeth Hall
  • "The news of the war, Uncle John," added Beth, buttering her toast.

British Dictionary definitions for buttering


  1. an edible fatty whitish-yellow solid made from cream by churning, for cooking and table use
  2. (as modifier): butter icing, related adjective butyraceous
any substance with a butter-like consistency, such as peanut butter or vegetable butter
look as if butter wouldn't melt in one's mouth, to look innocent, although probably not so
verb (transitive)
to put butter on or in
to flatter
See also butter up
Word Origin
Old English butere, from Latin būtyrum, from Greek bouturon, from bous cow + turos cheese
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for buttering



Old English butere "butter," general West Germanic (cf. Old Frisian, Old High German butera, German Butter, Dutch boter), an early loan-word from Latin butyrum "butter" (source of Italian burro, Old French burre, French beurre), from Greek boutyron, perhaps literally "cow-cheese," from bous "ox, cow" (see cow (n.)) + tyros "cheese;" but this might be a folk etymology of a Scythian word.

The product was used from an early date in India, Iran and northern Europe, but not in ancient Greece and Rome. Herodotus described it (along with cannabis) among the oddities of the Scythians. Butter-knife attested from 1818.



Old English buterian "spread butter on," from the same source as butter (n.). Figurative meaning "to flatter lavishly" is by 1798 (with up (adv.), in Connelly's Spanish-English dictionary, p.413). Related: Buttered; buttering.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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buttering in Medicine

butter but·ter (bŭt'ər)

  1. A soft yellowish or whitish emulsion of butterfat, water, air, and sometimes salt, churned from milk or cream and processed for use in cooking and as a food.

  2. A soft solid having at room temperature a consistency like that of butter.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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Slang definitions & phrases for buttering



Flattery; cajolery; soft soap (1823+)


(also butter up) To flatter shamelessly and fulsomely (1700+)

Related Terms

like shit through a tin horn

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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Idioms and Phrases with buttering
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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