Definition of fritillary in English:



  • 1A Eurasian plant of the lily family, with hanging bell-like flowers.

    Genus Fritillaria, family Liliaceae: numerous species, in particular the snake's head

    • ‘Here, the dancers adorn their sleeves with purple and yellow ribbons, the colours of a rare local flower, the snake's head fritillary.’
    • ‘In spring the fritillaries flower, turning the meadow into a mass of purple and white.’
    • ‘While it is perhaps best known for the amazing spring spectacle of thousands of fritillaries in flower, there is something of interest to see at North Meadow throughout the year.’
    • ‘But thousands of people are expected to visit the reserve between now and mid-May to catch a glimpse of the snake's head fritillaries, which flower annually at this time of year.’
    • ‘On to Oxfordshire, where it turns out that some of my in-laws own one of the last fritillary meadows in the country; and the fritillaries are in full flower!’
    • ‘It is believed that some 80 per cent of the UK population of snakes head fritillaries are found at North Meadow.’
    • ‘This year we have a white fritillary as well as the more usual purple ones.’
    • ‘Both the bright red adults and their larvae can strip the foliage from lilies and fritillaries in days.’
    • ‘I would ram this point home by finding a suitably similar image of mine, and comparing and contrasting them, but regrettably I do not have a picture of a fritillary.’
    • ‘With the cold weather on the doorstep, it could be time to start planning a road trip just to make sure that the variegated fritillaries down south are ok.’
    • ‘You just get this extraordinary purple haze because all the snakeshead fritillaries are out at once.’
    • ‘There are now believed to be only 12 places in the country where the fritillary thrives, and Cricklade North Meadow has the highest proportion of the blooms.’
    • ‘As well as the old favourites, try bluebells, snowflakes, grape hyacinths, lily of the valley, fritillaries, alliums, lilies of every kind and colour.’
    • ‘For example, wild chamomile is now lost from 23 of the counties where it grew wild, and the native fritillary is now found in an area only one quarter of its previous size.’
  • 2A butterfly with orange-brown wings that are chequered with black.

    Subfamilies Argynninae and Melitaeinae, family Nymphalidae: Argynnis and other genera, and numerous species

    • ‘Butterflies, such as the Marsh fritillary and Chalkhill blue, and wildflowers, such as Deptford pink and Meadow clary, depend on these grasslands and are also in decline.’
    • ‘Gulf fritillaries prefer the nectar of red and white flowers, such as Spanish needles and Lantana.’
    • ‘The site is also an important home for fritillary butterfly, including the rare and declining high brown and pearl-bordered fritillaries.’
    • ‘Without bogs we would lose astonishing plants like sundews, sphagnum mosses and cotton grass; beautiful insects like marsh fritillary butterflies; and spectacular birds like hen harriers and short-eared owls.’
    • ‘The marsh fritillary was once common across Britain and Europe, but has been in sharp decline over the past century because of loss of habitat.’
    • ‘The marsh fritillary is an extremely variable butterfly, with 34 subspecies described from Europe alone.’
    • ‘Some wildlife species of high conservation importance, especially butterflies such as pearl-bordered and marsh fritillaries, actually depend for their survival on grazed areas in woodland.’
    • ‘Some butterflies they attract are spicebush swallowtails, monarchs, fritillaries, whites, skippers, and a host of others.’
    • ‘Conservationists in Kerry have threatened High Court action to stop the development of constructed wetlands in the park, which is a breeding area for the marsh fritillary, a protected butterfly species.’
    • ‘To investigate this question, I raised my own Gulf fritillary and pipe-vine swallowtail butterflies so that I could study individuals that had never been exposed to flowers or colors.’
    • ‘The main cause for the decline of the regal fritillary is the loss of tallgrass prairie habitat.’
    • ‘En route she encounters buzzards, a peregrine and high brown fritillary butterflies, otters and kingfishers.’
    • ‘I saw fritillaries, red admirals, and a couple of kinds of skippers up there this afternoon.’
    • ‘Autumn's butterflies - fritillaries and migrating monarchs - match the burnt-orange mums just beginning to bloom.’
    • ‘Duchas says that the plant on which the marsh fritillaries live will survive the development of the constructed wetlands.’
    • ‘Variegated fritillary and common buckeye butterflies that the researchers captured, marked, and released in the central patch proved two to four times as likely to show up in connected patches as in unconnected ones.’
    • ‘I planted it, though, not for fritillaries but for one of their cousins, the Zebra Longwing.’
    • ‘After four years of negotiations, an environmental management agreement for Trerhos Common in Hayscastle - home to six rare plants and the marsh fritillary butterfly - has been secured.’
    • ‘With a similar pattern to the previous fritillaries, this butterfly is significantly smaller and has brighter orange and yellow underside.’
    • ‘Gulf fritillaries, buckeyes, and monarchs travel through the greenway on their annual trip to their winter grounds in Mexico.’


Mid 17th century: from modern Latin fritillaria, from Latin fritillus ‘dice box’ (probably with reference to the chequered corolla of the snake's head fritillary).