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Il-Malti: Here Are All The Different Ways You Can Refer To One Species Of Butterfly In Maltese

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Like all other languages, Maltese has changed significantly over the years as a result of various foreign influences.

The Maltese commonly spoken today, with its English-derived words, is considerably different from the more Semitic Maltese of the past.

With this in mind, Lovin Malta has decided to embark on a new series exploring our vast and colourful language.

We’re going to start with the Maltese word for butterfly. As many of you probably know a butterfly is ‘farfett’ in Maltese, but what you likely don’t know is that there is an endless list of Maltese names for just one endemic species of butterfly.

Back in 1989, a young student by the name of Carmen Busuttil dedicated her dissertation to exploring all the different terms from different localities for butterflies.

Through her work, she encountered an endemic species, the Papilio Machaon Melitensis, commonly known as Swallow Tail, which has dozens of Maltese names depending on the locality.

Photo credit: Stephen Mifsud

Photo credit: Stephen Mifsud

Let’s have a look through them all:

1. Tal-Fejġel

2. Kavallier

3. Tal-Lira

4. Ir-Re

5. Tal-Bużbież

6. Gallina

7. Tar-Reġina

8. Tal-Fjuri

9. Taz-Żebbuġ

10. Tal-Għalqa

11. Gardell

12. L-ikkulurit

13. Tal-Kaboċċi

Il-Kavallier and Tal-Lira were most commonly used in the areas of Mqabba, Ħal Safi, and Qrendi, around the time that the studies were made.

Ir-Re, was most commonly used in Gudja, Dingli, and Żurrieq.

So next time you see a wild Swallow Tail, you now have thirteen other ways to refer to it in Maltese.

Lovin Malta is here with another series of articles, and this time we’re looking into different varying dialects across multiple locations in Malta. Stay tuned for more to come, as part of our ‘Il-Malti’ series. 

Get in contact with [email protected] if you would like to discuss anything related to our language.

Have you ever heard any of these terms being used? 

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When Sasha (formerly known as Sasha Tas-Sigar) is not busy writing about environmental injustice, she's probably fighting for women's rights. Follow her at @saaxhaa on Instagram, and send her anything related to the environment, art, and women's rights at [email protected]

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