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Glossary of Mountain Speech

An Excerpt From Southern Mountain Speech by Cratis D. Williams

Edited with an introduction & Glossary by Jim Wayne Miller & Loyal Jones

Berea College Press, 1992

Note: Cratis Williams was born and grew up in Caines Creek in Lawrence County. He earned a PhD and became an authority in southern mountain speech. His books may be purchased at the book store at Berea College.

Southern Mountain Speech is not, contrary to popular opinion, an incorrect form of English. It is, rather, the oldest form of English still spoken today. It dates to the time of Chaucer.


a sight of a lot of
a-raisin’ the process of growing up (We didn’t have no fotch-on clothes when I was a-raisin'.)
abide to tolerate, endure     
acrost across
act up to misbehave
acting up the manifestation of symptoms of any physical disorder (My arthritis has been acting up lately.)
Adam’s off-ox the off-ox is the ox of a team of oxen which is farther from the driver as he walks or rides; used as a metaphor for the unfamiliar
addled confused
adopt contract (a disease)
afeard (afyeard) afraid
afore before
agg up egg on (to encourage a fight)
ag’in (agin, ‘gin) against (He leaned his gun agin a tree.); by the time (Agin ('gin) we get home, it will be dark.)
ailin’ sick
aim to intend (I aim to settle down.)
air are
airish breezy
akyfortis aqua fortis; literally strong water, hence liquor
all overs nervous or aggravated state (that woman gives me the all-overs.)
all to pieces an expression used to describe an acute state of anxiety
allers (allus) always
allow to think; suppose (What do you allow he’ll say to that?) to intend to (I 'low that I'll go tomorrow.)
almanick variant of almanac
alter to castrate
ambeer (ambrew) tobacco spittle
amen corber mourners’ bench, altar
ancher answer, to answer
anent close to or by
angry a sore that is infected and sensitive to the touch (I’ve got an angry sore on my arm.)
anti-godlin (anti-goglin) lop sided or crooked
antic joking, playful, ludicrous
antsy fidgety
anty-over a game in which a ball is thrown back and forth over a house
apern apron
ar-tickle article
argufy argue
arn iron, to iron, sometimes variant of earn
Arsh Irish
arter after
ary seen as related to e’er a (Ary one of us could do that.)
as who, that, which (Them as think they’s better than me can go jump in the lake.)
ashamed bashful
ast, astes (axes) ask, asks
atter or arter after
atwixt between
aunt (pronounced aint) term used to address any woman advanced in years
awfullest best
ax(e) to ask
axe to grind to hold a grudge
aye gonnies mild expletive; I’ll bet guineas (money).
Babtis’, babtize variants of Baptist and baptize
baby in the oven pregnant condition
babytears bluets
back to address (Back this envelope for me.)
back door trots diarrhea
back sass back talk
‘backer tobacco
backings whiskey produced from a second distillation of mash
backset setback, a relapse
bad blood poor social relations between people (There’s been bad blood between them for years.)
bad disease veneareal disease
bad mouth to say bad things
bad off real sick
bag to beg
bait food, generally a large amount (I eat a bait of black eyed peas and hog jowls New Year's.)
balk the space between furrows in a cultivasted field; refuse to go
ballet variant of ballad. Usually referring to one written down, as in a ballet book.
ballhoot to skid logs down slope
ballhooter a log roller from a lumber camp
banded up formed into a band, or group; bandaged
banjer banjo
banjo-picken-est indicating superlative degree
bank clothes miner’s clothes
bank postin’ mining timbers
banter to challenge, dare (He bantered him for a fight.)
bar bear; also barrow, a castrated male hog
baseborn illegitimate
bastard illegitimate; a woods-colt; also, an outsider
batch an amount
batter to batten (beat) clothes
battern the beater bar on a loom
battling block,       battling stick a smooth wooden block on which clothes are beaten with a battling stick while being washed
batty  crazy
bawl cry
be dom variant of "be damned"
be-dad or be-doz mild oath
bead bubbles appearing on surface of moonshine whiskey when the bottle or jar is shaken
bealin’ suppurating; a boil coming to a head and draining
bear down to try hard
beast usually a horse or mule
beastes plural of beast
beat exhausted
beatinest extraordinary, astonishing
bed it to lie abed
bed tick straw mattress
bedevil to worry or tease
bee-gum beehive, formerly made from a section of a hollow gum log
bee-line straight line
beer mixture of cornmeal and water that has fermented for distilling
begger’s itch scabies; a lice condition
begommed dirtied; made a mess of
begone kingly word spoken to an inferior; in Appalachia, to a dog (Be gone you mangy fleabag!)
begun used in all tenses for begin
behaps perhaps; as it may be
beholden obligated
bellin shivaree or wedding festivity
bell-tail a rattlesnake
belong suppose (I don’t belong to go with you.)
bemean to abuse or shame someone
benasty to soil oneself
ben-hickey-my-funker a term of disparagement
benighted detained after nightfall
bereft crazy, touched in the head
best should or had better (You best stay the night with us.)
betwixt between
beyance,beyanst,beyant beyond, behind
biddies chicks
biffed hit
bigged to make pregnant (He bigged her.)
big sticks forest wilderness
big-eye insomnia
biggety conceited or bigoted
bile to boil
biler boiler
biscuit pone a large cake of biscuit bread
bite a little; snack; light meal
bitty short for "bit of a" (a little bitty fellow)
blabber idle talk
blabber mouth a gossip
blackberry winter late cold snap when blackberries are in bloom
blackguard use obscene language
blackguarder someone who engages in verbal abuse of others
bless out to scold
blind billiards dizzy, nauseated condition
blind staggers a feeling of dizziness or lightheadedness; inability to walk due to intoxication
blind tiger a bootleg joint
blinky curdled or soured (milk)
blockade whiskey illegally distilled whiskey
blockade to make illicit whiskey
bloody flux bleeding from the rectm; menstruation
blossoms flowers
blow to brag
blowed preterit of blew
blowth the mass of blossoms that blow in the wind (There’s a good blowth on the fruit trees this year.)
blue-John skim milk; milk with low cream content
blue-tick kind of hound
blues mental depression
bluffs puzzles, surprises
bobble a mistake
bodaciously completely, totally
body a person (A body can’t stand such foolishness.)