How Did The Ladybug Get Her Name?
October 14, 2021 1:58am CST
To begin with, ladybugs are not really bugs. They are beetles known as Ladybird beetles by entomologists. The ones we know here in North America are the seven-spotted ladybugs with shiny red and black bodies. They actually come in many colors and patterns but, the black and red ones are the ones we are most familiar with. Europeans farmers prayed to the Virgin Mary for help with ridding their cops of pests. Ladybugs came and cleared out the insects. The farmers named them "beetle of Our Lady." This name was eventually shortened to "ladybug". Image courtesy of Freeweekly.com
14 people like this
• Cambridge, England
It's only in North America (a minority of English speakers, incidentally) that the insect is called a 'ladybug', The rest of the English speaking world calls it a 'Ladybird' (even though it is not a bird). Other European names for it similarly associate it with the Virgin Mary. Although Mary is usually depicted wearing a blue cloak, the earliest mediaeval paintings show her wearing a red cloak and the bright scarlet beetle seems to have been named so because of this. The seven black spots are supposed to represent the seven joys and seven sorrows. I am not sure that I give any credence to a supposed plague of aphids, which would have been an infrequent event. The symbolism of the red and the number of spots seems much more likely to me. As to the epithet 'bird', nobody seems to have an answer! Various other languages describe it as a 'beetle', a 'cow' and a 'hen' and some make it belong to Our Lord, rather than Our Lady. It seems that only the Germans identify it correctly as a beetle (Marienkaefer). We had a favourite childhood rhyme for whenever we found one: Ladybird, Ladybird, fly away home! Your house is on fire and your children are gone.
8 people like this
I am glad you came in to confirm that ladybug is American and not English. The Italian name is coccinella and Italians think that if one fly on your arm it will bring you luck. It is one of the "lucky symbol" we place on the first of the year table (with the figurine of a chimney sweeper and a little pig). The 7 spots were said to symbolise Mary seven joys and seven sorrows.
May be UK farmers prayed the Virgin Mary and they called them "beetle of Our Lady". Only in English this beetle is called ladybug, we call them coccinella in Italy cocinelle in Franch. I searched and I found the real origin of the name, nothing to do with farmers praying, but interesting.
Many years ago there was a plague of ladybugs in Brighton, a town on the south coast of England. They were virtually everywhere. Bus drivers had to use the windscreen wipers to clear the front windws so that they could see the street! They don't bite or sting human beings, but I can tell you that it is not a nice feeling to have them sitting all over your skin which isn't covered by clothing.
@LadyDuck Is this comment for me? I don't understand what you're telling me. Of course, it isn't called 'ladybug' in German. Germans speak German, not English. The German term is 'Marienkäfer'. 'Marien' is a form of 'Marie' which is 'Mary' in English. 'Käfer' means 'beetle', so it is exactly the same thing. --- (From the net): "'marienkäfer' etymology. From Marien- (cf. genitive forms: Mariens, Mariä, Marias, der Maria (i.e. of the Mary)), a bound morpheme derived from Maria (“ Maria, Mary ”) +? Käfer (“ beetle ”). Compare ladybird and ladybug, where “ lady ” refers to the ***Virgin Mary***.
• St. Catharines, Ontario
I remember way back at the dawn of time (before my family moved from Lakeview to Elora) one Saturday a ladybug landed on my youngest sister's finger (she was maybe 5 or 6). She was delighted until it spread its outer wings and flew away. Then she (my sister) started screaming... she thought it exploded.