Buttercup Flower Meanings & Symbolism

Buttercups are flowers that are cherished for their beauty and resilience. They are often spotted in front gardens because of their pleasing look that was first brought to England by the Romans, who considered them a symbol of peace. Buttercups have a long history and are associated with many cultural traditions and beliefs.

So, what does a buttercup flower stand for? Buttercups symbolize happiness. Joy, neatness, childishness, youthfulness, innocence, humility, peace, love, beauty, and good luck. Although buttercups are wildflowers, you will see most home gardens and bouquets with the flower because we adopted them. 

The traditional yellow buttercups have varied meanings in different cultures dating back to the medieval era. However, most people today know buttercups from childhood summer games and rhymes. The stories behind the meaning and symbolism of buttercups are quite interesting so stick around to learn more.

Buttercup

Enthusiastic Ranunculus plants grow mostly in North America with most of the blanket fields and roadside mid-summer sunny yellow flowers. Often found with daisies and growing up is a favorite child. Under the buttercup’s jaw, observe the reflected gold is known to know you like butter.

What Does the Buttercup Flower Mean?

Buttercup and Kid

The buttercup flower is more than a kid’s flower and has symbolism of its own. Under normal circumstances, the buttercup means:

  • Humility
  • Neatness
  • Childishness
  • “Your charm dazzles me.”

Buttercup Flower Meaning in English

Buttercup and Cow

The word buttercup comes from the Old English word butter-cuppe, which means cow’s cup. This reference comes from the fact that cows often graze in buttercup fields. Additionally, the flower is also nicknamed the Crowfoot. This is because buttercups have lobes and leaves that resemble the shape of a crow’s cleft.

Scientifically, buttercups belong to the Ranunculus genus. Ranunculus comes from the Latin words Rana, meaning frog, and unculus, meaning little. Some sources say the flower was given this name because it grows in soggy habitats like little frogs. Others say that it is because the green leaves of buttercups have low growth habits.

Origin Stories and Meanings of Buttercups

There are two main stories that tell the origin of the buttercup flower and its meaning.

1. Persian Mythology

Persian Buttercup

The story of the ranunculus in Persian mythology is one of love and happiness but with a tragic ending. A young prince who wore green and yellow (buttercup flower colors) had the voice of an angel and loved to sing.

One day, he fell in love with a nymph and decided to charm her with his beautiful voice by singing to her day and night. But unfortunately, the nymphs grew tired of hearing his voice and turned him into a buttercup.

Another version of the story says that the nymph rejected the prince’s advances, and he died of a broken heart. After his death, a large buttercup grew in his place. Another source says that when the prince sang, it also made him happy, and his constant singing overwhelmed him with joy leading to his death. Afterward, a buttercup grew in his place so his love would gaze upon it in remembrance.

2. Native American Legend

Native American Legend

The second story is from Native American mythology about a trickster called Coyote. Coyote would play with his eyes by throwing them in the air and catching them to entertain himself. One fateful day, when he was playing with his eyes, an eagle grabbed them mid-air leaving the coyote blind.

To solve his sight issue, he plucked two buttercup flowers from a nearby field and used them as his eyes. Some Native American communities still refer to the flower as Coyote’s eyes to this day.

The above stores show how the buttercup is associated with love, childish play, peace, and happiness. Singing for love made the prince happy until he turned into a buttercup. When the eagle stole his eyes from him, Coyote took the next best thing he could play with, a buttercup as his eyes.

3. The Miser and the Fairies

The Miser and the Fairies

In this story, the buttercup is associated with punishment and anger. A miser was crossing the meadow carrying a bag full of gold. He came across some fairies who asked him for alms, but the miser refused. This angered the fairies, so they decided to punish the miser by poking a hole in the miser’s bag.

Gold would fall out through this hole, but the fairies were afraid that the miser would notice. So, to cover their tracks, the fairies made buttercups grow in place of the gold that fell out of the bag. The fairies would also hide among these buttercups to avoid being noticed by the miser.

Buttercup Flower Meaning in Victorian Era

Victorian Era Pink Buttercup

During the Victorian era, buttercups were mainly associated with childishness and youthful nature. This is because buttercups were children’s favorite in games and rhymes. The message would differ depending on how many buttercups you received.

If someone sent you a bouquet of buttercups, it meant that they appreciated and liked your youthful spirit. On the contrary, if someone sent you a single buttercup, it was an insult, meaning you are too grown to be acting childish.

Buttercup Flower Symbolism in Childhood Games and Rhymes

Buttercup Childhood Games

Did you ever pick up a buttercup and hold it under your chin as a child? This was one of the common games among children in the past. Buttercups are highly reflective so that they can bounce light on your skin. In the game, when the yellow color of the buttercup reflects on your skin, it can mean that you are in love or like butter.

Buttercup Spiritual Meaning

Buttercup Spiritual

Spirituality is about seeking a connection with something higher than yourself. Different religions have given the higher self numerous names over the years. However, in modern society, people can connect to a higher being through yoga or meditation.

As mentioned earlier, buttercups are wildflowers and can grow anywhere in the world. This means they have been associated with different religions in various cultural settings. Spiritually, the buttercup has been attached to elements like water and earth and associated with deities like Lakshmi in Hinduism and Kuan Yin in Buddhism.

Below is a table summarizing the various spiritual meanings of buttercups.

Spiritual DenominationButtercup Flower Meaning
BuddhismAssociated with the element of water and the goddess of mercy, Kuan Yin. The flower symbolizes, purity, innocence and compassion.
ChristianityButtercups are believed to resemble the chalice Jesus drank from before crucifixion. It also represents, joy, happiness, hope, new beginnings
HinduismAssociated with the goddess of wealth and prosperity, Lakshmi. The flower symbolizes, enlightenment, good luck, and purity.
IslamHappiness, re-birth, hope, joy
JudaismAssociated with the resilience of the Jewish people. Buttercups in Judaism symbolize, faith, resilience, hope, and new beginnings.
Feng ShuiButtercups are associated with the earth. The flower represents, stability, grounding, support, joy, happiness, vitality, good luck and positive energy.
TaoismButtercups are associated with the water element. The flower represents, cleansing, renewal, optimism, happiness, and new beginnings.
Meditation and YogaEnlightenment, growth, purity, positive energy, life and hope.

 Buttercup Flower Tattoo Meaning

Buttercup Tattoo

Flower tattoos are very common among women. However, depending on the meaning, anyone can get a flower tattoo as they are symbolic. In this case, a buttercup tattoo represents courage, power, honor, eternal love, loyalty, friendship, happiness, hope, and peace.

While many people get tattoos in honor of someone else, you can get a buttercup flower tattoo to represent self-worth, happiness, and optimism for your new beginning.

Buttercup Flower Colors and Their Meaning

Buttercup Bouquet

Buttercups come in two natural colors, yellow and green. However, there are other colors like red, pink, and orange, but these are man-made. Below is a table summarizing the various colors and their meaning.

Buttercup ColorMeaning
YellowJoy, happiness, youthfulness, health, friendship
GreenOptimism, good fortune, health, growth, success
RedWealth, love, passion, healing, romantic love, devotion
PinkRomantic interest, gentleness, platonic love, youthfulness
OrangePositive energy, recovery, strong emotion, enthusiasm, friendship, power

Buttercup flowers are not tied to a specific occasion meaning you can get them for someone at any time. Instead, they are a general sign of goodwill and can help spread love and cheer on any day, including weddings. Normally, people put them in a bouquet or home garden with other wildflowers.

Etymological Meaning of the Buttercup Flower

Persian Buttercup

The buttercup belongs to the genus Ranunculus L. and includes at least 93 species or subspecies. While buttercups range in size and height they are all yellow or gold flowers with green centers. There are many legends explaining how the buttercup got both its scientific and common name.

  • Legend of Ranunculus: According to this ancient legend, a Libyan youth named Ranunculus was known for his beautiful singing voice and stunning attire of yellow and green silk. His voice had the power to entrance any who heard him sing. One day when singing to a group of wood nymphs, he became so entranced by his own voice that the collapsed and gave up the ghost. To honor the fallen youth, Orpheus transformed him into the tiny buttercup that has been known as Ranunculus ever since.
  • Cow’s Milk: This legend claims the buttercup earned its name from the quality of milk it produced in cows. Supposedly, cows that grazed on buttercups produced the sweetest and most flavorful milk rich in cream. Farmers soon began referring to this lovely yellow flower as a buttercup. This isn’t true, of course, because buttercups are toxic to cows, but that doesn’t stop some people from believing it.
  • The Miser and the Fairies: According to another legend, fairies are responsible for buttercups. When a group of fairies saw an old miser crossing a field with a sack of gold, they stopped him to ask for alms. Not wanting to share his gold, the old miser refused and continued on his way. However, the clever fairies cut a hole in his sack with a blade of grass before he continued on his way. As the he crossed the field, his coins dropped from the bag and were scattered among the grass. Buttercups sprang forth wherever the coins touched the earth.
  • The Coyote: One day when coyote was tossing his eyes in the air and catching them again, an eagle swooped down and stole his eyes. Poor coyote did not know what to do and fashioned new eyes from the dainty buttercup. To this day, the buttercup flower is referred to a coyote’s eyes in many areas of the U.S.

Symbolism of the Buttercup Flower

Buttercup Weed

The buttercup’s primary meaning is that of lightness and joy, but in some rural areas where the buttercup is considered a noxious weed, it can sometimes symbolizes ingratitude.

Buttercup Flower Color Meanings

Yellow-Green Buttercup

Buttercups come in shades of yellow with green centers and take on the color meaning for these colors.

Yellow

  • New Beginning
  • Joy
  • Happiness
  • Friendship

Green

  • Optimism
  • Renewal
  • Good Fortune
  • Health
  • Youth

Meaningful Botanical Characteristics of the Buttercup Flower

Ranunculus contains toxic compounds and causes stomach discomfort in farm animals. Often, cattle grazing in the buttercup plant leaves it. Use caution when showing cauliflower in a child or pet that may ingest flowers or leaves.

Aboriginal roots of the buttercup plant are used for wet compresses to treat sores, eczema, warts and other skin problems. Ranunculus essential oils used in aromatherapy and are thought to restore your inner child, bringing calm, joy and sweetness into your life.

Special Occasions for the Buttercup Flowers

Buttercup Bouquet

Buttercups are appropriate for informal entertaining and gift giving. Consider buttercups in combination with other wildflowers for these special occasions.

  • Welcome Home Celebrations
  • Housewarmings
  • Friendship Bouquets
  • Family Reunions

Recap: Buttercup Flower Meaning

White Buttercup on vase

The news of flowers is usually one of joy and happiness, especially for those who love wildflowers. Ranunculus can be regarded as a symbol of the recipient’s goodwill. Ranunculus can be stuffed into the vase with bright colors of daisies and other wildflowers added to the bouquet.

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