The German translation for ‘butterfly’ is, I must concede, rather less delicate than its English, Spanish (mariposa), or French (papillon) counterparts.
But Schmetterling has an interesting etymology. It derives from the east central German word schmetten, meaning ‘cream’, with the diminutive suffix -ling. It was believed that witches metamorphosed into butterflies to steal cream and other dairy products. Examples:
Es gibt ungefähr 20,000 Arten von Schmetterlingen weltweit.
There are about 20,000 species of butterfly around the world.
Der Schmetterling ist das Lieblingstier meiner Tochter.
Butterflies are my daughter’s favourite animal.
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