We use cookies to enhance your experience on our website. By continuing to use our website, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Find out moreJump to Main NavigationJump to Content
  • Text size: A
  • A

butterfingered, adj.

Frequency (in current use): 
Origin: Formed within English, by compounding. Etymons: butter n.1, fingered adj.1

 1. Having a tendency to let things fall or slip from one's hands; characterized by such clumsiness. Also figurative: clumsy, bumbling. Cf. butterfingers n. 1.Frequently in contexts relating to cricket or baseball.

1615   G. Markham Eng. Hus-wife in Countrey Contentments ii. ii. 39   (She must not be butter fingered, sweet-toothed, nor faint hearted); for, the first will let euery thing fall, [etc.].
1789   E. Wynne Diary 18 Aug. in A. Fremantle Wynne Diaries (1935) I. i. 10   Our butterfingered coachman let fall a jug with four bottles of wine in it.
1841   Fraser's Mag. June 671/1   I, alas! was too short-legged for a good leaper, and butterfingered at a catch.
1884   Christian Commonw. 14 Feb. 428/3   A discreet Christian meets with few rebuffs; a blundering butter-fingered one with many.
1964   R. Angell in New Yorker 24 Oct. 235/1   Tim McCarver hit a three-run homer after some further butterfingered work by the Yankee infield.
1996   Big Issue 5 Aug. 30/3   August boasts an undeniable allure.., yet nonetheless winds up a pretty half-cocked, butter-fingered affair.
2006   Kiplinger's Personal Finance Jan. 79/2   To complain about brusque flight attendants or butterfingered bag handlers, write to the airline's CEO.

1615—2006(Hide quotations)


2. English regional. Unable or unwilling to handle hot items with one's bare hands. Obsolete.

a1825   R. Forby Vocab. E. Anglia (1830)    Butter-fingered,..unable to handle hot substances; as if the surface of the fingers were melted, and so lost the power of retention.
1828   W. Carr Dial. Craven (ed. 2)    Butter-fingered, he who is afraid of touching any heated vessel or instrument.
1841   C. H. Hartshorne Salopia Antiqua Gloss. 343   Butter fingered, incapable of holding any thing hot, as though the mandibles were melted by the heat of what they touched.

a1825—1841(Hide quotations)


This entry has been updated (OED Third Edition, September 2018).