Green’s Dictionary of Slang

butter v.

1. of a gambler, to increase one’s wager; thus buttering adj.

[UK]B.E. Dict. Canting Crew n.p.: Butter, to double or treble the Bet or Wager to recover all Losses.
[UK]J. Addison Freeholder No. 40 in Works (1821) 505: One of Mr. Congreve’s prologues, which compares a writer to a buttering gamester, that stakes all his winning upon one cast; so that if he loses the last throw, he is sure to be undone .
[UK]Grose Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue n.p.: butter a bet, to double or triple it.
[US]R. Waln Hermit in America on Visit to Phila. 2nd series 29: I hate to be bubbled;—everytime I buttered a bet, it was a Flemish account.

2. to flatter; thus to disguise with euphemism, flattery etc.; thus buttered, adj., flattered; buttering n., flattery.

[UK]Congreve Way of the World Prologue: The squire that’s buttered still, is sure to be undone.
[UK]New Canting Dict. n.p.: To butter, signifies [...] to cheat or defraud in a smooth or plausible Manner; as, He’ll not be so easily butter’d; He’s aware of your Design; You cannot beguile or cheat him; He’s upon his Guard, &c.
[UK]Bailey Universal Etym. Eng. Dict.
[UK]W. Scott Antiquary in Waverley (1855) II 218: Keep him employed, man, for half-an-hour or so – butter him with some warlike terms – praise his dress and address.
[UK]R.S. Surtees Handley Cross (1854) 68: [He] should know when to use the clean and when the dirty side of his tongue —when to butter a booby and when to snub a snob.
[UK]‘Cuthbert Bede’ Adventures of Mr Verdant Green (1982) II 135: The vulgar habit of personal flattery or [...] ‘buttering a party to his face in the cheekiest manner’.
[UK]Hotten Dict. of Modern Sl. etc. (2nd edn).
[UK]J. Greenwood Dick Temple III 35: It doesn’t matter how thick you butter me; they’ll swallow it.
[NZ]N.Z. Observer (Auckland) 18 Sept. 6/1: Once let the former discover that writer is reliable, and that he doesn't crack up trashy pieces or ‘butter’ incapable performers, and they will read and be guided by his criticisms.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 25 Apr. 18/3: Next he is paraded to move the Address in reply to the Governor’s speech, and, at Government House, his Excellency butters him a bit about his fine, manly speech […].
[Aus]Truth (Sydney) 7 Oct. 3/2: Haynes greased the people of Wellington [...] in the course of his speech on the butter question. He couldn’t help buttering them but there was no necessity to ‘rub it in’.
[UK]Boy’s Own Paper 24 Nov. 115: By fawning and buttering he’d made himself a favourite with Sarsons.
[Aus]Sun. Times (Perth) 10 Dec. 1/1: The buttering of Hackett as ‘pioneer cherry grower’ is tolerably powerful.
[US]K. Brush Young Man of Manhattan 175: I borrowed it to butter a house detective.
[US](con. 1948) G. Mandel Flee the Angry Strangers 107: Maybe they buttered me a mite too careful, too patronizin.
[UK]B. James Detective is Dead (1996) 45: She has this big-eyed way of buttering when she wanted something.
[UK]K. Sampson Powder 492: He didn’t even need to butter her. No patter, no nothing.

3. to whip, to thrash.

[UK]Partridge DSUE (1984) 165/1: from ca. 1820; ob. by 1930.

4. (US campus) to like.

[US]Eble Campus Sl. Sept. 2: butter – like: ‘I butter him’.

In derivatives

butterer (n.)

a flatterer.

[UK]R.S. Surtees Handley Cross (1854) 411: Take my adwice, and never employ a reg’lar butterer. Do it yourselves, or get a kind frind, wot knows your likin’s.

In phrases

butter up (v.) (also butter down, butter out)

1. to flatter, to ingratiate oneself; thus buttering up, excessive flattery.

[UK]‘One of the Fancy’ Tom Crib’s Memorial to Congress 40: This buttering-up, against the grain, We thought was curs’d genteel in BOB.
[UK]‘An Amateur’ Real Life in London I 557: The bilk is in such a hurry, can’t spare time to go to a shop to have the articles valued, but assures his intended victim, that, as they found together, he should like to smack the bit, without blowing the gap, and so help him God, the thing wants no buttering up, because he is willing to give his share for such a trifle. [Buttering up Praising or flattering].
[UK]Vidocq Memoirs (trans. W. McGinn) III 109: Come, Jules, you are buttering me down. You are trying it on!
[Ire]W. Carleton ‘The Hedge School’ in Traits and Stories of Irish Peasantry I (1868) 286: We’ll butther him up when he’s among us.
[Ire]C.J. Lever Harry Lorrequer 96: The way he has is this – he first butthers them up and then slithers them down!
[UK]Flash Dict. in Sinks of London Laid Open.
[UK]Trollope Duke’s Children (1954) 536: You see if I don’t butter them up properly.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 9 May 14/4: [W]e most decidedly think it would be misplaced kindness if, when we see glaring matters inimical to the furtherance of amateur rowing, we buttered them up in the ‘everything-passed-off-satisfactorily’ style of the daily Press.
[Aus]‘Rolf Boldrewood’ Colonial Reformer III 79: He would butter up the old man.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 28 July 13/4: When Sir George Bowen (an adept at ‘butthering-up and slithering-down’) was Governor of Victoria he had once to preside at some function in a Godforsaken country township.
E.F. Benson Mrs Ames (1984) 247: The biggest windbag in the country buttering up the greatest pig in the country.
[US]H.L. Wilson Ruggles of Red Gap (1917) 230: Mrs. Effie she butters me up with soft words every day.
[Ire]L. Doyle Dear Ducks 76: Henry is workin’ the sentimental end very sthrong, an’ buttherin’ her up about her looks an’ all that.
[UK]J. Campbell Babe is Wise 217: You don’t say! An’ here I’ve been buttering you up, coz I thought you might be first cousins t’ Henry Ford!
[US]P. Wylie Generation of Vipers 300: Ministers do not have any such natural honesty of approach [...] They therefore fawn on, drip over, and butter up their Lord.
[Ire]J.P. Donleavy Ginger Man (1958) 69: I know how you go and butter up your professors.
[US]Baker et al. CUSS 92: Butter [...] Butter up Curry favor with a professor.
[UK]P. Terson Apprentices (1970) II iv: Keeps the oil flowing. You’ve got to butter up them Sheiks.
[US]‘Iceberg Slim’ Pimp 157: Dig how he butters out the con.
[UK]R. Rendell Best Man To Die (1981) 75: She [...] stopped for a chat and a bit of buttering-up.
[UK](con. 1940s) O. Manning Battle Lost and Won 366: He buttered her up till he had her eating out of his hand.
[Ire]J. Morrow Confessions of Proinsias O’Toole 121: He’s doing his damnedest, buttering-up the Liberals and Independents like mad.
[UK]F. Taylor Auf Wiedersehen Pet Two 194: Butter ’em up and keep ’em out of harm’s way.
[US]Tarantino & Avery Pulp Fiction [film script] 122: I’m not a cobb of corn, so you can stop butterin’ me up.
[Aus]M.B. ‘Chopper’ Read Chopper 4 6: How come whenever you need to butter someone up I end up becoming the butter.
[US]A. Steinberg Running the Books 161: It occurred to me that sending a shout-out was a great way of buttering up a staff member.
[UK]V. McDermid Out of Bounds (2017) 201: The camera loved her. And she buttered up everybody.

2. of an inanimate object, to extol, to praise.

[UK]Kendal Mercury 9 Mar. 4/3: ‘He [...] will make a good cully. Just you butter up the life of a covey to him [...] and I’ll keep a watch for him, and ’tice him to the ’cademy’ [ibid.] ‘I’m in want o’ poopils for my ’cademy, and this [i.e. prison] is the place to get ’em’.

SE in slang uses

In phrases