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Someone who is clumsy and often drops things or else fails to catch something. I dropped another plate! I'm such a butterfingers today. Coach, don't put that butterfingers Jimmy in the outfield!

have butterfingers

To be clumsy, usually momentarily, by dropping or failing to catch something. I dropped another plate! I guess I just have butterfingers today. Coach, don't put Jimmy in the outfield—he has butterfingers!
See also: butterfingers, have

butter (one's) bread on both sides

1. To benefit or profit from two or more separate and often contradictory or incompatible things or sources. The CEO buttered her bread on both sides, secretly investing in oil companies while publicly backing green energy initiatives to gain popular support.
2. To live comfortably, especially wastefully or in lavish, indulgent excess. The duke was accused of buttering his bread on both sides, adorning every inch of his home in gold and jewels and holding feasts far too large for the people who attended them.
See also: both, bread, butter, on, side

a hair in the butter

A problem or challenging situation (likened to trying to pick a single hair out of a slippery substance like butter). Things were going smoothly enough on our road trip until we found out that every hotel in town was booked for the night. Talk about a hair in the butter! Forgetting my textbook at school has proved to be a real hair in the butter for my study plans.
See also: butter, hair

butter-and-egg man

A wealthy, unworldly person who spends freely when in the big city. The person is typically from a rural locale, as highlighted by "butter-and-egg." The phrase is thought to have originated in the 1920s, when newly-minted millionaires were eager to display their wealth. Sam always wants to show off his money when he comes to visit us in the city, but he can't fool me—I know he's really just a butter-and-egg man!
See also: man


One who strikes other people with one's head. You are becoming known as a headbutter, so unless you want the league to suspend you, I suggest that you stop playing dirty!

bread always falls on the buttered side

Prov. When things go wrong, they go completely wrong. Not only did my phone break, but it broke today—today of all days, when I'm expecting a really important call. The bread always falls on the buttered side. When the painting fell off the wall, it landed on a priceless porcelain vase and broke it. The bread always falls on the buttered side.
See also: always, bread, butter, fall, on, side

bread-and-butter letter

a letter or note written to follow up on a visit; a thank-you note. When I got back from the sales meeting, I took two days to write bread-and-butter letters to the people I met. I got sort of a bread-and-butter letter from my nephew, who wants to visit me next summer.
See also: letter

butter someone up

 and butter up to someone
to flatter someone; to treat someone especially nicely in hopes of receiving special favors. (See also spread something on thick; soft soap.) A student tried to butter the teacher up. She buttered up the teacher again.
See also: butter, up

butter wouldn't melt (in someone's mouth)

Prov. Someone is acting as if innocent. By the time her parents came home, Emily had cleaned up all evidence of having broken the valuable figurine, and she looked as though butter wouldn't melt in her mouth. Jane: How can you suspect George of playing that practical joke on you? He looks so innocent. Jill: Yes, butter wouldn't melt, I'm sure.
See also: butter, melt

Fine words butter no parsnips.

Prov. Just because someone promises something does not guarantee that he or she will do it. (Can be used as a rebuke, implying that the person you are addressing is promising something he or she will not do, as in the second example.) Sue: Tom promised he would buy me any house I want if I marry him! Jane: Fine words butter no parsnips. Fred: Sweetheart, I'm very sorry I've been so short-tempered. I'll never, never be like that anymore. Ellen: Fine words butter no parsnips.
See also: butter, fine, word

know which side one's bread is buttered on

Prov. to be aware of where your money comes from; to be loyal to the person or thing that will benefit you the most. Wife: Please be sure not to upset Grandma. You know we can't do without the money she sends us every month. Husband: Don't worry. I know which side my bread is buttered on.
See also: bread, butter, know, on, side

look as if butter wouldn't melt in one's mouth

Fig. to appear to be cold and unfeeling (despite any information to the contrary). Sally looks as if butter wouldn't melt in her mouth. She can be so cruel. What a sour face. He looks as if butter wouldn't melt in his mouth.
See also: butter, if, look, melt, mouth

someone's bread and butter

Fig. someone's basic income; someone's livelihood—the source of one's food. I can't miss another day of work. That's my bread and butter. I worked as a bartender for a year, and it was the tips that were my bread and butter.
See also: and, bread, butter

your bread and butter

something that provides you with regular income Our customers are our bread and butter, so treat them with respect.
See also: and, bread, butter

butter somebody up

also butter up somebody
to praise someone in order to get them to like you or do what you want The magazine tried to get her to write an article by buttering her up.
See also: butter, up

somebody's bread and butter

a job or activity that provides you with the money you need to live Teaching at the local college is his bread and butter.
See also: and, bread, butter

butter wouldn't melt in somebody's mouth

if butter wouldn't melt in someone's mouth, they look as if they would never do anything wrong although you think they would She looks as though butter wouldn't melt in her mouth but I've seen her fighting with the younger kids.
See also: butter, melt, mouth

cut/go through something like a (hot) knife through butter

to cut something very easily A laser beam can cut through metal like a hot knife through butter.
See also: butter, cut, knife, like

know which side your bread is buttered (on)

to be careful not to upset people who you know can help you Ollie won't refuse to come with us. He knows which side his bread is buttered.
See also: bread, butter, know, side

bread and butter

1. The essential, sustaining element, as in The quality of the schools is the bread and butter of town property values. This idiom alludes to a basic food, bread spread with butter. [c. 1700]
2. Means of livelihood, as in John's job is the family's bread and butter. [First half of 1700s]
3. Ordinary, routine, as in Don't worry about it; this is just a bread and butter assignment. [Second half of 1800s]
See also: and, bread, butter

bread-and-butter letter

A thank-you letter from guest to host. For example, Mother always had to remind the children to send Grandma a bread-and-butter note. [c. 1900]
See also: letter

butter up

Excessively praise or flatter someone, usually to gain a favor. For example, If you butter up Dad, he'll let you borrow the car. This term transfers the oily, unctuous quality of butter to lavish praise. [c. 1700]
See also: butter, up

butter wouldn't melt in one's mouth

Be overly coy or demure; be insincere. For example, She looked quite innocent, as though butter wouldn't melt in her mouth, but we knew better . Already a proverb in John Heywood's collection of 1546, this metaphoric expression alleges that one is literally so cool that butter inside the mouth would not melt.
See also: butter, melt, mouth

know which side of one's bread is buttered

Be aware of where one's best interests lie, as in Jerry always helps out his boss; he knows which side of his bread is buttered. This expression alludes to the more favorable, or buttered, side of bread and has been used metaphorically since the early 1500s.
See also: bread, butter, know, of, side

butter up

To praise or flatter someone in order to make him or her more receptive or willing: My coworker, hoping for a raise, is always buttering up the boss. If we butter up the bartender, maybe he'll buy us a drink.
See also: butter, up

bread and butter

n. one’s livelihood. It’s bread and butter to me. I have to do it.
See also: and, bread, butter


mod. good; really fine. This guy Walter, he’s butter, totally butter.

butter face

n. a very ugly woman; a woman with everything just right but her face. Nice shape, but she’s a butterface.
See also: butter, face


n. vomit. God, you got lung-butter on my shoe!
References in classic literature ?
They had been obliged to put Tom Kitten into a hot bath to get the butter off.
And do you carry the butter to market when you've made it?
On this severe matron, as she returns to her task of scraping the butter and cutting the bread, falls the shadow of her brother, looking in at the window.
He was my true son," repeats the old gentleman, folding his bread and butter on his knee, "a good accountant, and died fifteen years ago.
I never saw two men do more with one-and-twopence worth of butter in my whole life than they did.
Well, I'm going to try, for I'm very hungry," she decided, and took a thin slice of the white breast of turkey which the shaggy man cut for her, as well as a bit of bread and butter.
Very good; don't forget the bread and butter presently.
At this fresh mention of the bread and butter, the five little boys looked very eager, and followed the waiter out, with their eyes; meanwhile Mr Squeers tasted the milk and water.
He emptied his plate of meat and her plate into the frying pan, likewise the roll of butter and the slice on the table, and on top he poured the contents of the coffee canister.
I want to chuck Oakland just as hard as you wanted to chuck the beefsteak, the coffee, and the butter.
It was true that after his regrettable collision with Heinrich, the waiter, he had discovered butter upon his person, but it was only one pat.
Will you try,' said my opposite neighbour, handing me a dish of potatoes, broken up in milk and butter, 'will you try some of these fixings?
At eight o'clock, the shelves being taken down and put away and the tables joined together, everybody sat down to the tea, coffee, bread, butter, salmon, shad, liver, steak, potatoes, pickles, ham, chops, black-puddings, and sausages, all over again.
I found the outer front courtyard, often mentioned here, metamorphosed into a butter shop; and I then almost gave up every brick of the jail for lost.
Bolter having had his laugh out, took a series of large bites, which finished his first hunk of bread and butter, and assisted himself to a second.