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34 Appalachian Words You Didn’t Know Existed

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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. We want to help you learn more about the Appalachian words and phrases that were used throughout Smoky Mountain history!

(Related Article: Influential People in Smoky Mountain History)

‘Smoky Mountain English’

Historical mill at Cades CoveAppalachian dialect is a local English variety of southern Appalachia. In fact, it’s commonly referred to as “Smoky Mountain English.” Appalachian dialect is unlike any other. 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.

Your Guide to the Appalachian Language:

  • 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 (Clingmans 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

Try using some of these Appalachian words in a sentence of your own! If you’re looking for more Appalachian words and phrases, 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.

More Smoky Mountain History

historic barn in the Great Smoky Mountains National ParkNow that you know more about some of the top Appalachian words and phrases used throughout Smoky Mountain history, it’s time to learn more about the early days in the Smokies! Take a look at these top 10 moments in Smoky Mountain history.

Comments

  • Avatar for Patricia Bivens
    Patricia Bivens

    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.

    March 1, 2014 at 3:46 pm
  • Avatar for Sandra Hardin
    Sandra Hardin

    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.

    .

    March 1, 2014 at 3:48 pm
  • Avatar for Strange1
    Strange1

    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.

    March 1, 2014 at 4:51 pm
  • Avatar for momatad
    momatad

    don’t forget a ‘wooly booger’ is a bigfoot!

    April 9, 2014 at 6:56 pm
  • Avatar for Phyllis Burroughs
    Phyllis Burroughs

    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.

    April 9, 2014 at 10:07 pm
  • Avatar for Patty
    Patty

    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.

    May 17, 2014 at 7:53 pm
  • Avatar for Patty Cuoco Lipari Schoen-Jone
    Patty Cuoco Lipari Schoen-Jone

    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 .

    April 2, 2015 at 8:05 am
    • Avatar for GigiReg
      GigiReg

      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!

      October 5, 2016 at 12:36 am
      • Avatar for Jack Meinhoff
        Jack Meinhoff

        There certainly are snipes… Look it up.., It’s a beautiful bird…

        November 8, 2017 at 5:44 pm
  • Avatar for Melissa Chandler
    Melissa Chandler

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

    August 10, 2016 at 10:15 am
  • Avatar for GigiReg
    GigiReg

    Larapin, meaning, that food was great, just larapin.

    October 5, 2016 at 12:34 am

Comments are closed.