Amish Glossary - words you won't read elsewhere

Many times readers, friends, and neighbors ask me, "Has your son-in-law or others taught you Amish words?"

"Yep, I know a few."

Like the time our family hosted a French exchange teen, we sat around the table laughing and teaching phrases and words. I now know some Deutch. Some not so proper. You know, the slang. Thanks Harvey. Or the, uh, curse words. Thanks Monroe! And I know some typical household ones, too. Bahaef dich.

I think Amish - or Deutch or German - is a pretty language. I'm not a linguist but I've heard it referred to as Deutch or German, and a combination thereof. Did you know . . .
  • Amish is an oral language? It's not recorded. Children learn from hearing their parents.
  • There are various dialects? Depending on the area of our country - Amish may have different accents just like non-Amish with southern or northern accents. Think New Yorkers vs those in Alabama.
I penned a post about their accent - of which many are sensitive. You'll enjoy how they say some of our English words. To me their accent is endearing.

Here I share a glossary of Amish words. Some have different spellings because, being an oral language, there's no right way to spell them. Often a word is spelled phonetically. Ask an Amish or ex-Amish to help you with pronunciation.

My ex-Amish friends helped me with these so you know they're accurate:
  • Dawdy (daudy or dawdi) = Grandpa
  • Mommi (maumy) = Grandma
  • Maam = Mom
  • Gma (Gmay) = Church
  • Maan = Husband
  • Englischer = non-Amish
  • Frau = Wife or woman
  • Humli = Calf
  • Gut = Good
  • Lobe = Praise
  • Kapp = Head covering
  • Vee bisht du hight? = How are you today?
  • Shay = Nice
  • Sex = Six (seriously!)
  • Bahaef dich or Behave dich = Behave yourself
  • Kotz = cat
  • Shtup gucka = Stop staring 
  • Du bisht shay = You're pretty
  • Ich liebe dich = I love you
  • Kissy = Pillow
  • Buch = Book
  • Kutza = Vomit
  • Buss = Kiss
  • Schup-kaech = Wheelbarrow
  • Shnuck = Cute
  • Liebe = Love
  • Roth = Red
  • Laufa = Walking
  • Dawdi Haus = Home built on the family farm for grandparents to live.
  • Vee gehts = How's it going?
On this last one, our church has a greet time where the congregation stands to shake hands with those nearby. Our son-in-law Harvey (former Amish) attends the church and once joked, "I'm going to shake hands and ask vee gehts."

Random adds - Want an interesting speaker? Your audience will love hearing my stories of the customs/beliefs/behaviors of the Amish and fingering through my suitcase of authentic Swartzentruber Amish clothes. Talk to me about speaking at your next event - speaker2parents @ juno.com.

Nearly 200K readers worldwide come to here for accurate details or entertaining stories about the Swartzentruber (and sometimes Old) Order Amish. Even Amish fiction authors subscribe.

Get each post in your email inbox or on iPhone by typing your email address on the right side of homepage BrendaNixonOnAmish.blogspot.com.

(C)Copyright, 2014, Brenda Nixon. All rights reserved. Duplication prohibited.


  1. Always interesting as well as entertaining, Brenda! Thanks for sharing.

    1. Thanks Stephanie! Some Amish fiction authors follow this blog and I'm going to guess it's to help them develop more authentic characters. This post will help with penning correct Amish words in the story line :-}

  2. Love this glossary! Thanks for sharing. :)

  3. I've seen/heard their language referred to as Deitsch, Amish, or German. I've never seen nor heard it called Deutsch, which is the modern standard European German word for "German".

    Maybe it's different with Swartzentrubers?

    A Google search https://www.google.com/search?q=learn+pennsylvania+dutch+language yields lots of options for starting to learn.

    There is a neat website http://penndeitsch.wordpress.com if anyone wants to develop more comfort with the language as they learn it.

    Also http://amishamerica.com/tag/pennsylvania-dutch-language/ has various discussions about the language.

    1. Interesting Erik. Yes, all the former Amish I know refer to their language as either Amish or Deutsch. Having originated in Europe, I'd guess that their language originates from a combination of German, Swiss, and Dutch.

    2. Well, your guess is close, but wrong in one part: There's no Dutch in it. The "Dutch" in "Pennsylvania Dutch" is just an old way of saying "Dutch (Low Dutch) and/or German (High Dutch)".

      It's mostly German -- specifically, a version of the Palatine German dialect, with a bit of Allemanic influence (not exactly Swiss, but from the dialect family to which Swiss German belongs), and of course some influence and a bunch of vocabulary from English.

      A good place to learn the basics of the language is http://padutch101.wikispaces.com/

      Mark Louden has written what promises to be an excellent book about the language, its past, present, and future -- scheduled for release in January 2017: http://padutch.net/book/

  4. I have been told, but have not personally verified this, the the Pennsylvania Deutch that is spoken by the Amish is a dialect very similar to one being spoken in Austria yet today. I used to think that it is a mixture of English and German and a corruption of both, but apparently not.

    1. Austria is a bit further southeast. The dialect of Manheim, in southwestern Germany, is said to be the closest.

    2. It is true that Pfaltzich (sp?)--the language where our PA Deitsch came from is still spoken today in the Palatinate region of southern Germany. Who knows? It could be spoken in Austria somewhere too?

    3. Good question, I dunno. Thanks for reading Ellen.

    4. Yes it is true that it is a dialect spoken somewhere there that is very similar to what the Amish speak. I can not verify right now whether it is in the Palatinate region or in Austria. I know from traveling in Switzerland that we could underestand the dialect spoken in Zurich better than the one spoken further south in the Emmenthal.

    5. I am from Austria/Vienna and most of the phrases sound like the local dialect. Normal Greeting I use every day is "Wie geht's" (vee gehts) The number six is "sechs" and pronounced like sex, which leeds to numerous jokes at school. My cat is "a kotz" and quite vulgar word for vomit it is "kotzen". "Ich liebe dich" is gramatically correct modern german. I, personally do have a problem to understand the Swiss, as their dialect is so very different.
      A few month ago I watched a documentation about a very modern amish settlement in Montana. They dubbed when they spoke english and stopped it when they spoke pennsylvania dutch, because it was such a good german. To mee it sounded like an austrian dialect with a heavy english accent.

    6. Actually each Amish community has a slightly different dialect, the stricter ones are closer to German than the more liberal communities

  5. I have friends from Berne, IN. and they speak a Swiss dialect, different from most Amish dialects. from settlement to settlement the dialects are a little different, such as Holmes County, OH, with their CH's for J's and from Davies County, IN with a thick Southern Indiana accent on top of the Amish dialect.

  6. I am Dutch. Some words I read here seem very Dutch. Praise here: praise in Dutch is loven. And head covering is here kapje :-)

    Interesting to read. Thanks

  7. I just want to start by saying I hope I don't offend anyone. We were in Lancaster this weekend and while traveling through Amish country, we came upon some graffiti on bales of hay. It said gopsup Levi. Can anyone tell me what that means?

    1. I have no idea its meaning Antoinette. I'll ask several of my ex-Amish pals to see what they think. Please come back to learn the answer :-)

    2. I've asked several ex-Amish and nobody knows this expression. One even asked if it is Amish? Another suggested it could be related to Lebanon Levi on that TV "reality" show. That's all I can tell ya.

    3. Im former Amish, and I cant figure it out. I googled that word and came up empty. There was a "gopshup" in India, but I have no idea how that would be related to PA Dutch.

    4. Ive heard gopshup used to refer to a tattletale...but have no idea what gopsup would be. To gopshup would be to tell tales on others, or air others "dirty laundry". lol LynnB.

  8. Can you tell us the words for thank you?

    1. Danke - pronounced dangi (kinda like handkee but with a d a g)

  9. Ich liebe dich = I love you

    I would say "ich glach dich" was a more common phrase, which litterly translates as "I like you".

  10. Wycliffe Bible Translators has put the Amish language in written form, in order to give them the Bible in the language of their heart. I don't know if it's now considered a standard or not. If so, variations will likely remain among the people. Hank Hershberger is the guy I knew who worked on this project from his home in Holmes County. I met him about 22 years ago when I helped finish his basement for missionaries on furlough, so my information is not current. If you happen to know Vernon Shoup in Fountain Nook, OH, he would be a good person to ask about Wycliffe. Tell him his mason helper sent you. :) -Karen Regling