butt

Definitions

General English

Construction

  • A short length of roofing material.
  • The thick end of a shingle.

Military

  • noun the part of a rifle which a person places against his or her shoulder when firing

Wine

  • a large wine barrel that can contain around 490 litres, or 130 gallons, of wine and is normally used to store sherry.

Origin & History of “butt”

there are no fewer than four distinct words butt in English. The oldest, ‘hit with the head’ (12th c.), comes via Anglo-Norman buter from Old French boter. this can be traced back through vulgar Latin *bottāre ‘thrust’ (source of English button) to a prehistoric Germanic *buttan. Old French boter produced a derivative boteret ‘thrusting’, whose use in the phrase ars boterez ‘thrusting arch’ was the basis of English buttress (13th c.).

Butt ‘barrel’ (14th c.) comes via Anglo-Norman but and Old French bot or bout from late Latin buttis ‘cask’ (a diminutive form of which was the basis of English bottle). A derivative of the Anglo-Norman form was buterie ‘storeroom for casks of alcohol’, from which English gets buttery ‘food shop in a college’ (14th c.). Butt ‘target’ (14th c.) probably comes from Old French but ‘goal, shooting target’, but the early English sense ‘mound on which a target is set up’ suggests association also with French butte ‘mound, knoll’ (which was independently borrowed into English in the 19th century as a term for the isolated steep-sided hills found in the Western states of the USA).

Butt ‘thick end’ (15th c.), as in ‘rifle butt’ and ‘cigarette butt’, appears to be related to other Germanic words in the same general semantic area, such as Low German butt ‘blunt’ and middle Dutch bot ‘stumpy’, and may well come ultimately from the same base as produced buttock (13th c.). (The colloquial American sense of butt, ‘buttocks’, originated in the 15th century.)

The verb abut (15th c.) comes partly from Anglo-Latin abuttāre, a derivative of hutta ‘ridge or strip of land’, which may be related to English butt ‘thick end’, and partly from Old French aboter, a derivative of boter, from which English gets butt ‘hit with the head’.
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