Is there a connection in meaning or etymology between schmettern (to fling, smash, hurl, spike, blare out) and Schmetterling (butterfly)?

2 Answers 2


Duden says:

aus dem Obersächsischen, wohl zu Schmetten; nach altem Volksglauben fliegen Hexen in Schmetterlingsgestalt umher, um Milch und Sahne zu stehlen

(possibly from the Upper Saxonian Schmetten; by old popular belief witches flew around in the form of butterflies to steal milk and cream.)

The article about Schmetten says that it’s another word for Sahne (cream) and comes from Czech, smetana.

So no, they are not related.

  • Are Schmetterling and Schmeißfliege related?
    – Titus
    Nov 20, 2016 at 16:46
  • @Titus I don’t think so. How should they be related?
    – idmean
    Nov 20, 2016 at 16:50
  • Irgendwie kamen mir schmettern und schmeißen mit einander verwandt vor. Laut dieser Quelle stammt der Name aber aus der Jägersprache (schmeißen = scheißen - der Eselsbrücke zuliebe bitte ich, die profane Wortwahl zu entschuldigen).
    – Titus
    Nov 20, 2016 at 17:01
  • Since the Schmetterling is unrelated to schmettern it also is unrelated schmeißen. Only similarity, Schmetterlinge were found in cream, Schmeißfliegen in scat. Nov 21, 2016 at 0:57

As idmean said Schmette means Cream.

You let the milk stay over night to let the cream settle on top of it in order to make butter out of it. If you didn't cover your bucket properly you had visitors in your Schmette, Schmetterlinge. That's exact the same origin and meaning of Butterfly.

The witchpart is new to me.

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