Do You Know These 10 PA Dutch Carpentry Words?

Most Amish speak a dialect known as Pennsylvania German or Pennsylvania Dutch as their primary language. It’s generally not used as a written tongue, though that doesn’t mean it’s not written, in one form or another, from time to time.

hammer-headAnd so today we have a list of terms for you to guess (or if you know PA Dutch already, this should be pretty easy). Ohio Amishman Mark Curtis has previously shared 25 PA Dutch kitchen terms (Part 1 and Part 2) and a list of 12 similar-sounding PA Dutch words.

Today Mark shares a list of 10 terms which you might hear a carpenter use. These are particularly relevant since carpentry and woodworking are such common professions among the Amish. Any idea what these mean?

10 Pennsylvania German Carpentry-Related Words

  1. nagel
  2. bolguh
  3. spahtta
  4. drote
  5. muottah
  6. schrab
  7. tsangli
  8. vingle aisah
  9. schravvah ziah
  10. weddah boaht

Special thanks to Mark’s father Don for getting these words to us.

Photo credit: raster/flickr

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    1. John Schmid

      Schreiner vattah

      1. Nail
      2. ?
      3. Rafter
      4. Wire
      5. Mud?
      6. Screw
      8. Square
      9. Screw driver
      10. Siding? (Weather board)

    2. Gisa

      2. girder?
      5. screw-nut?

    3. Oliver

      Schreiner vattah

      Some words I can clearly understand from German (Deutsch [doitsch]) dialects
      but some others not
      Schreiner === carpenter
      vattah = Wörter (words)
      1. Nagel ==== nail
      2. possibly not German
      3. Spachtel = scraper, spatuala
      4. Draht ==== wire
      5. Mutter === nut
      6. Schraube = screw
      7. Zange ==== pliers
      8. Winkeleisen = angle iron
      9. Schraubenzieher = screw driver
      10. possibly not German

    4. Osiah Horst

      Pa German words

      #2 refers to joists
      #3 is rafters
      #5 is a nut
      #8 is a square
      #10 is wooden barn boards
      Trust me!

    5. Osiah Horst

      John's answers

      John nailed all the words except for #2 and #5. These are very common words in our area.

    6. Oliver Raendchen

      thank you Horst

      Horst, from my German background here in Berlin (Germany) I tried to understand the words.
      BTW, my father`s name is also Horst, but the name got old-fashioned since 60 years here in Deutschland.

      Vingle Aisah (Winkeleisen) was translated by google as “angle iron”,
      already I wondered a bit if this is correct English.
      Now it shows they have a Latin word for it (square).

      Imagine in automatic google translation
      they do not have

      they only have the one standard variant

      also interesting:
      Wetter=weather (and in ancient meaning is “wind”

      Thank you to the list and contributors, it was great fun, and I am keenly following the discussions on all spects of culture on this site.

      Oliver in Deutschland

    7. Oliver Raendchen

      bulgah = BALKEN (in deutsch) ; JOIST

      yes, of course if I would pronounce [balken] in southern German dialects it would come close to what you wrote,
      but your writing representation is just something own.

      as I deal with languages on a daily basis (Asian languages)

    8. Some of these words are similar to our Hutterisch ones. Others not so much. Always interesting to compare words between two related languages.

      1. Oliver Raendchen


        Dear Linda,
        in this case it is even a comparison between 3 German dialects
        (I am the representative of the High [modern] German dialect);
        and even English is a Germanic language
        which ist still quite close to Deutsch, but has adopted more Latin words.

    9. Alice Mary

      Beats me! But it’s always interesting to learn. As usual, I wish I could “hear” them, too.

      I’m being a little naughty, but some of them sound as though they could be used to replace some “naughtier” words, such as when you strike your thumb with a hammer! “DROTE!” 😉

      Alice Mary

    10. Marti

      “Vingle aisah” is such a thing:

      What is the correct English name for it?

    11. Marti

      Is the correct English name “L-Square Angle Ruler”?

      1. Don Curtis

        Vingle Aisah

        Well, I asked my son, Mark, about this. I don’t speak any Pennsylvania Dutch but he is quite fluent. He said that a vingle aisah in English is a carpenter’s square. Translated literally he says it means an angle iron. Aisah is Pennsylvania German for iron. For example he says a horse shoe is a hoof aisah. “Mein gaul hut si aisah schmissa.” My horse threw his shoe.

        1. Oliver Raendchen

          re: Don Curtis

          this small talk is so cute:
          it is a very
          lovely German dialect
          which also reflects a bit upon mentalities.

          In a search for German culture,
          I am comparing such kind of German dialects in Siebenbuergen (Romania), Austria, Swizzerland, Elsass (France), etc.
          which goes along with habits and approaches expressed therein.

    12. Harriet

      Happy Thanksgiving!

      Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!! And remember, “In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” Have a wonderful day!!!

    13. Official Answer Key - 10 PA Dutch Carpentry Terms

      Here are the answers from Mark.

      1. nagel – nail

      2. bolguh – beam

      3. spahtta – rafter

      4. drote – wire

      5. muottah – nut

      6. schrab – screw

      7. tsangli – pliers

      8. vingle aisah – carpenter’s square

      9 schravvah ziah – screwdriver

      10. weddah boaht – siding (weather board)

    14. Alfred A. Stutz

      Tüütsch und dütli...

      hi all,
      here a sample of swissgerman (around te town of Zürich)

      tsangli = zängeli (-li- means littel- diminuativ)
      vingle aisah = winkelise
      schravvah ziah = schruubezier
      schrab = schruube

      “Züritüütsch” isch e sproch wo am änglische ganz nöch chunt. Mir käned zum biispil kei vergangeheit.


    15. Oliver Raendchen

      comparative Deutsch dicalects

      I am very thankful that we now recieve still another diaclet (Swizz Deutsch)
      This was just what I meant,
      but it would just have been better to write successively the variants of the various dialects (including my standard Deutsch) in one single line…

      Even some Anglo-German expressions have been maintained from olden times, whereas others are plain Latin-French borrowings.

      So, this reflects on the ENGLISH language.

    16. Herman Zimmerman

      Lengeschter Kaunti Deitsch

      Eens Mehr’s Wie Eens

      Nagel Negel

      Bolke Bolke

      Schpahr Schpahre

      Droht Drohte

      Mutter Muttre

      Schrab Schrawwe

      Zengli Zenglin

      Winkeleissi Winkeleissin

      Schrawwezieher Schrawweziehre

      Waetterbohrt Waetterbohrte