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A History of English common names
1 - British butterflies
2 - Foreign butterflies
British Butterflies

The butterfly known in Britain as the Camberwell Beauty, has at various times in history been known as the Grand Surprise, the Willow Beauty, the White Petticoat, and in the USA is known as the Mourning Cloak. Two butterflies, known to early entomologists as the Selvedged Heath Eye and the Golden Heath Eye, were later discovered to be the male and female of a single species which then became known as the Gatekeeper, but is now known as the Small Heath Coenonympha pamphilus. The name Gatekeeper is now applied to an entirely different species Pyronia tithonus, which was previously called the Hedge Brown, and in earlier days was also known as the Hedge Eye, or Large Heath. However the butterfly which we now know as the Large Heath is yet another species - Coenonympha tullia - previously known as the Manchester Argus, or Marsh Ringlet.

The instability of English names, and the fact that creatures have entirely different names in other countries, is one of the reasons why Linnaeus invented a system of classifying all animals and plants by scientific names.

Below is a chart giving the former names of British butterflies :

Current name

species

former names

Adonis Blue

bellargus

Clifden Blue ( 1775 )

Bath White

daplidice

Vernon's Half Mourner

Berger's Clouded Yellow

alfacariensis

separated from Pale Clouded Yellow by Berger 1947

Black Hairstreak

pruni

current name since 1828

Black-veined White

crataegi

The White butterfly with Black Veins ( 1667 )

Brimstone

rhamni

Butter-coloured Fly, known as Brimstone since 1658

Brown Argus

agestis

current name since 1717

Brown Hairstreak

betulae

Golden Hairstreak

Camberwell Beauty

antiopa

Grand Surprise, Willow Beauty, White Petticoat

Chalkhill Blue

coridon

 

Chequered Skipper

palaemon

Arctic Skipper ( in North America )

Clouded Yellow

croceus

Saffron ( male ), Spotted Saffron ( female )

Comma

c-album

current name since 1766

Common Blue

icarus

 

Dark Green Fritillary

aglaia

Queen of England Fritillary

Dingy Skipper

tages

 

Duke of Burgundy

lucina

Mr Vernon's Small Fritillary

Essex Skipper

lineola

current name since 1888

Gatekeeper

tithonus

Hedge Brown, Hedge Eye, Large Heath

Glanville Fritillary

cinxia

Dullidge Fritillary, Plantain Fritillary

Grayling

semele

Rock Underwing

Green Hairstreak

rubi

current name since 1666

Green-veined White

napi

current name since 1666

Grizzled Skipper

malvae

The Grizzle, Mr Dandridge's Dark Fritillary

Heath Fritillary

athalia

Pearl Border Likeness, May Fritillary

High Brown Fritillary

adippe

current name since 1717

Holly Blue

argiolus

Blue Speckt Butterfly with Black Tips, Wood Blue

Large Blue

arion

current name since 1795

Large Copper

dispar

current name since 1795

Large Heath

tullia

Manchester Argus, Manchester Ringlet, Marsh Ringlet

Large Skipper

venata

current name since 1717

Large Tortoiseshell

polychloros

 

Large White

brassicae

current name since 1666

Long-tailed Blue

boeticus

Brighton Argus, Pea-pod Argus, Pea Blue

Lulworth Skipper

acteon

current name since 1832

Marbled White

galathea

Our Half-Mourner, Marmoris, Marmoress

Marsh Fritillary

aurinia

Greasy Fritillaria, Dishclout

Mazarine Blue

semiargus

current name since 1710

Meadow Brown

maniola

 

Monarch

plexippus

Milkweed

Mountain Ringlet

epiphron

Small Mountain Ringlet

Northern Brown Argus

artaxerxes

Scotch White-spot, Scotch Argus, Castle Eden Argus

Orange tip

cardamines

Lady of the Woods

Painted Lady

cardui

current name since 1766 but known since 1272

Pale Clouded Yellow

hyale

 

Peacock

io

current name since 1766

Pearl-bordered Fritillary

euphrosyne

April Fritillaria

Purple Emperor

iris

current name since 1766

Purple Hairstreak

quercus

 

Queen of Spain Fritillary

lathonia

Lesser Silver-spotted Fritillaria, Riga Fritillary

Red Admiral

atalanta

The Admirable

Ringlet

hyperantus

current name since 1766

Scotch Argus

aethiops

 

Short-tailed Blue

 

Bloxworth Blue

Silver-spotted Skipper

comma

Pearl Skipper

Silver-studded Blue

argus

Lead Argus

Silver-washed Fritillary

paphia

Greater Silver-streaked Fritillaria

Small Blue

minimus

Bedford Blue, Little Blue

Small Copper

phlaeas

Common Copper

Small Heath

pamphilus

Selvedged Heath Eye ( m ) Golden Heath Eye ( fem )

Sm. Pearl-bordered Fritillary

selene

Small Pearl Border Fritillaria

Small Skipper

sylvestris

 

Small Tortoiseshell

urticae

 

Small White

rapae

current name since 1666

Speckled Wood

aegeria

Enfield Eye, Wood Argus

Swallowtail

machaon

Royal William

Wall Brown

megera

Wall

White Admiral

camilla

White Admirable

White-letter Hairstreak

w-album

Dark Hairstreak

Wood White

sinapis

current name since 1666

 

 

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