34 Appalachian Words You Didn’t Know Existed

sunset in the smoky mountains
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Whether you’re exploring the historic cabins at Cades Cove or traveling off the beaten path to see other old buildings in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, there’s plenty of places to experience traditional mountain culture.

(Related Article: Influential People in Smoky Mountain History)

Create Your Own Smoky Mountain Sentence

We thought it would be fun to put together a list of words that families would have used in the pioneer days of the Smoky Mountains, long before the mountains became a national park. At the bottom of this post, you will find a comments section. Try using some of these Appalachian words in a sentence of your own!

Your Guide to Speaking Like a True Appalachian Pioneer:

  • Bald – A treeless area on a mountain
  • Blackberry Winter – Time where there is cool weather at the same time as the blooming of wild blackberry shrubs in May
  • Blind House – Windowless cabin
  • Blockading – Making illegal whiskey or moonshine
  • Booger – Ghost
  • Boomer – Red squirrel
  • Branch – Small stream
  • Cove – Small valley surrounded by mountains (Cades Cove)
  • Dogwood Winter – Time of cold weather at the same time as the blooming of dogwood trees in mid-April
  • Dome – A mountain with a rounded top (Clingman’s Dome)
  • Foxfire – Something that glows in the dark, like certain mushrooms
  • Gaum – A mess
  • Gap – Low spot along a ridge or mountain range (Newfound Gap)
  • Granny Woman – Midwife
  • He-balsam – Spruce tree
  • Hollow – Small sheltered valley (holler)
  • Jag – Small amount
  • Leather Britches – Green beans dried in the pod by threading on a string and hanging
  • Lick – To hit with a hammer or axe
  • Long Sweetening – Maple syrup
  • Painter – Mountain lion
  • Poke – Small bag
  • Poor Do – Boiled cornmeal
  • Ramp – Wild garlic
  • Shamp – To cut hair
  • She-balsam – Fir tree
  • Short Sweetening – Sugar or honey
  • Simples – Medicinal herbs
  • Slaunchwise – Crooked, sideways, slanting diagonally
  • Slick-faced – Without a beard
  • Sorry – Something of little or no value
  • ‘Tater Hole – cold cellar under the cabin floor where foods are stored
  • Wish Book – Mail-order catalog
  • Varmint – Wild animal

So, go ahead, give it a try. Come up with your own sentence or two, and share them with us in the comments section below.

When you’re planning your trip to the Smoky Mountains, to experience the history and Appalachian traditions of families who once lived in the national park, take a look at our ‘Where to Stay’ page on our website. There, you’ll find all of the great accommodations throughout the beautiful towns in the Smokies.

A complete list of words and definitions can be found in the ‘Historic Areas’ pamphlet produced by the Great Smoky Mountains Association and the National Park Service. The pamphlet is available at visitor centers in the Great Smoky Mountains.

Photos courtesy of: The National Park Service


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11 thoughts on “34 Appalachian Words You Didn’t Know Existed

  1. Avatar for Patricia Bivens
    Patricia Bivens says:

    them there, over younder,take them there,frid tators,spurce up the house , wash your head,hollor for the pigs,slop the pigs,and so on.

  2. Avatar for Sandra Hardin
    Sandra Hardin says:

    Some of the words I didn’t know but grew up here and we still use some of them. Sears even called their Christmas catalog the wish book for years. And we still shoot varmints like ground hogs and pesky raccoons.


  3. Avatar for Strange1
    Strange1 says:

    Whole passel (bunch or many). Vittles (food), Yander (fur piece, distant). Ok, I could go on forever, but that’s ‘God’s a Plenty’ for now.

  4. Avatar for Phyllis Burroughs
    Phyllis Burroughs says:

    We used to live in a hollow and we have heard coyotes, and once we heard a painter. Don’t know which is worse, a painter or a booger. They will both make ya hurt yourself.

  5. Avatar for Patty
    Patty says:

    good Lord, most of these are still used here in the western mountains of NC, I make leather britches every year, so do a lot of others in our community.

  6. Avatar for Patty Cuoco Lipari Schoen-Jone
    Patty Cuoco Lipari Schoen-Jone says:

    Love these! As a transplanted Jersey Girl living in the Northwest Georgia Mountains on the Tennessee state line , I am still learning many of these definitions .

    • Avatar for GigiReg
      GigiReg says:

      Make sure no one takes you “snipe” hunting. There are no snipes! It is a ruse to lure city slickers out to the woods, preferably at night, and run off leaving you to find your way home!

  7. Avatar for Melissa Chandler
    Melissa Chandler says:

    Forgot dope. We would go to the store and get a dope (coke in a bottle) and a bag of tater chips.

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