Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. A widely distributed butterfly (Vanessa cardui) having brown, black, and orange markings. Also called cosmopolite, thistle butterfly.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A cryptic patterned butterfly, Vanessa cardui, of the family Nymphalidae.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • adj. a bright-colored butterfly. See Thistle butterfly.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. The thistle-butterfly, Vanessa (or Pyrameis) cardui, of an orange-red color spotted with white and black. See cut in next column.
  • n. The sweet pea, Lathyrus odoratus.

Etymologies

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  • it's a 1997 movie title and several book titles.
    I remember seeing a movie in the 70's where it referred to a tattooed lady.

    Criminal Slang: The Vernacular of the Underground Lingo (1913) - Page 170
    http://books.google.ca/books?id=nN81uyN8WmIC

    March 1, 2013

  • "We're always looking for new Painted Ladies: Victorians painted in three or more colors that highlight the architecture's ruffles and flourishes."
    - paintedladies.com

    That's Victorian (and Edwardian) houses and buildings. A few in the visuals.

    March 1, 2013

  • I always thought this was an archaic euphemism for a prostitute. Can't find any citations right now though.

    March 1, 2013