A Hair in the Butter: Definition, Meaning, and Origin

Last Updated on
November 17, 2023

The idiom "a hair in the butter" means a problem or a problematic situation that spoils something otherwise enjoyable or smooth. It expresses annoyance, frustration, disappointment, or disgust.

In short:

  • It refers to something that goes wrong and ruins a good moment.

What Does "A Hair in the Butter" Mean?

The idiom "a hair in the butter" means an issue or a troublesome circumstance that takes away the enjoyment of something. For example, having a nice dinner with your friends and finding hair in your butter would ruin your appetite and mood. The phrase can express annoyance, frustration, disappointment, or disgust.

Where Does "A Hair in the Butter" Come From?

The idiom "a hair in the butter" comes from the French expression "un cheveu dans le beurre," which means "a hair in the butter." This expression dates back to the 19th century and is related to making butter. Butter was traditionally made by churning cream until it separated into solid butter and liquid buttermilk. The butter was then washed with cold water to remove any remaining buttermilk and impurities. However, sometimes hairs from animals or people could get into the cream or the water and end up in the butter. This would make the butter unappealing and unhygienic and lower its value and quality.

10 Examples of "A Hair in the Butter" in Sentences

Here are some examples of how to use this idiom in sentences:

  • Oh, snap. He spilled coffee on his report. A hair in the butter!
  • She burned her toast and set off the fire alarm. A hair in the butter!
  • She broke her glasses right before the exam. What a hair in the butter.
  • About last night, she ran out of gas on the highway. A hair in the butter!
  • He left his wallet at home and couldn't pay for his lunch. A hair in the butter!
  • Talk about being unlucky. He missed his train by a minute. A hair in the butter!
  •  A hair in the butter. She forgot her password and locked herself out of her account.
  • I had a lovely day until I got a flat tire on the way home. That was a hair in the butter!
  • I was having such a great day until I got a parking ticket. That was a hair in the butter.
  • She thought she had found her dream house, but there was a hair in the butter: it was infested with termites.

Examples of "A Hair in the Butter" in Pop Culture

  • "A Hair in the Butter" is a song by Querpp, a musician and game developer who creates electronic music and soundtracks for his games. The song is part of the soundtrack for his game Off The Rails, an endless arcade train shooter made for the 9th Bored Pixel Game Jam.
  • In the movie Home Alone, Kevin McCallister is left behind by his family when they go on a vacation. He has to deal with two burglars who try to rob his house. That's "a hair in the butter" for him.

Other Ways to Say "A Hair in the Butter"

Here are some synonyms and alternative ways to say this idiom:

  • A snag
  • A hitch
  • A glitch
  • A sour note
  • A monkey wrench

10 Frequently Asked Questions About "A Hair in the Butter"

Here are some common questions and answers about this idiom:

  • What does "a hair in the butter" mean?

The idiom "a hair in the butter" means a problem or a problematic situation that spoils something otherwise enjoyable or smooth. It expresses annoyance, frustration, disappointment, or disgust.

  • What is the origin of the phrase "a hair in the butter"?

The idiom "a hair in the butter" comes from the French expression "un cheveu dans le beurre," which means "a hair in the butter." This expression dates back to the 19th century and is related to making butter.

  • What is the difference between "a hair in the butter" and "a fly in the ointment"?

Both expressions mean something that spoils or ruins something good or desirable, but they have different origins and connotations. "A hair in the butter" comes from French and implies something unpleasant or disgusting, while "a fly in the ointment" comes from the Bible and means something annoying or irritating.

  • Is "a hair in the butter" a compliment or an insult?

"A hair in the butter" is neither a compliment nor an insult but rather an expression of dissatisfaction or frustration. It is used to describe a situation or a problem, not a person. However, it can be used to criticize someone indirectly by implying that they are responsible for or involved in the issue.

  • How do you use the idiom "a hair in the butter" in a sentence?

You can use the idiom "a hair in the butter" in a sentence to describe a situation that is difficult or unpleasant. For example, "I was having a great day until I got a flat tire on the way home. That was a hair in the butter!"

  • Is the phrase "a hair in the butter" common or rare?

The idiom "a hair in the butter" is not very common, but it is not rare either. It is mainly used in informal contexts and by native speakers of English. It may not be familiar to non-native speakers or learners of English.

  • What are some antonyms for "a hair in the butter"?

Some antonyms for the idiom "a hair in the butter" are "a piece of cake," "a walk in the park," "a breeze," "a cinch," and "a snap."

  • What are some synonyms for "a hair in the butter"?

Some synonyms for the idiom "a hair in the butter" are "a spanner in the works," "a monkey wrench in the works," "a fly in the ointment," "a thorn in one's side," and "a pain in the neck."

  • What are some related phrases to the idiom "a hair in the butter"?

Some related idioms to the idiom "a hair in the butter" are "out of the frying pan and into the fire," "when it rains, it pours," "Murphy's law," "no pain, no gain," and "every cloud has a silver lining."

  • How do you learn more about the expression "a hair in the butter"?

You can learn more about the idiom "a hair in the butter" by reading books, articles, blogs, or websites that explain or use this idiom.

Final Thoughts About "A Hair in the Butter"

The idiom "a hair in the butter" is an expression that means a problem or a challenging situation. It is often used to describe something that spoils a situation's mood or harmony.

Key points to remember about the phrase:

  • It comes from the French expression "un cheveu dans le beurre," which means "a hair in the butter."
  • It has some synonyms, antonyms, and related expressions that can be used interchangeably.
  • It has been referenced and appeared in various forms of popular culture.

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