What's the origin of 'Butter her up', i.e. to make her more amenable to my intentions?

I think origin is plainly related to sex. We never use this term in relation to men, do we? I also think that this might be the origin of the related term 'Butter wouldn't melt in her mouth!', which may refer to the question of where would it melt, then?; implying that this female is so innocent that butter wouldn't melt anywhere on her body - not even in her mouth!

Maybe this was / is a term used by ordinary people. The vulgar sexual meaning might be the reason that no author ever has - to my knowledge - clearly explained it.
This seems, to me, to be the most obvious meaning and origin. Any counter-suggestions or comments?

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    Actually most sources refer to an old Indian religious custom rather than something related to sex: an ancient Indian custom of "throwing butterballs of ghee (clarified butter commonly used in Indian cooking) at the statues of the gods" to seek favor. Additionally, the Tibetan tradition of creating butter sculptures for the New Year "can be traced to the Tang Dynasty and the belief that such offerings would bring peace and happiness for the full lunar year – user66974 Dec 13 '16 at 11:43
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    "Butter wouldn't melt in her mouth" means she's is inhumanly cold. – michael.hor257k Dec 13 '16 at 12:11
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    I think origin is plainly related to sex. which may say more about your thinking process than about the term. – Spagirl Dec 13 '16 at 12:18
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    It's a comment on the question itself which springs from a basic premise which you have not supported. Questions should explain what research the asker has carried out themself, if all you've done is assume and think, my comment is justified. If you've done more than that you need to include it in the question. I'm blowed if i can see where you get misandry in my comment. – Spagirl Dec 14 '16 at 19:06
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    Regarding "I think origin is plainly related to sex." - this is not how this site works. You should provide citations for your premise and answer should do the same, otherwise this would be a site for opinions. – Kristina Lopez Dec 14 '18 at 16:19

We never use this term in relation to men, do we?

Yes, we do:

A: Who’s your professor this semester?
B: Professor Ornstein.
A: Oh, he’s really tough. If you want to get a good mark, you’d better start buttering him up!
B: How should I do that?
A: Start by telling him he is the best professor you’ve ever had. Then keep going….


My coworker, hoping for a raise, is always buttering up the boss.
If we butter up the bartender, maybe he'll buy us a drink.

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of Phrasal Verbs

If you butter up Dad, he'll let you borrow the car.

This last one, quoted from The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms, not only puts an end to your theory, it also adds an explanation:

This term transfers the oily, unctuous quality of butter to lavish praise. [c. 1700]

cf. grease the wheels


This may perhaps better explain the term "Butter her up" more precisely. The quote is taken from Variety 10th Dec.2016.

The director addressed the non-consensual rape scene in a recently resurfaced interview from 2013. “Last Tango in Paris” director Bernardo Bertolucci confessed that he and Marlon Brando conspired against actress Maria Schneider during a rape scene in which the actor used a stick of butter as lubricant to simulate sex.

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    Welcome to the ELU. Good answers are encouraged, but you haven't answered 'what is the origin of 'butter her up'?' Can you show a link between the phrase and film. In published use 'butter him up' predominates and goes back to 1840. books.google.com/ngrams/… – Spagirl Dec 13 '16 at 13:47

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