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Pennsylvania Dutch versus Amish

Old_order_mennonite_ontario_canada
Are “PA Dutch” and “Amish” the same?

Here in the heavily-touristed areas of Lancaster County you see “Pennsylvania Dutch” (or just “Dutch” for short), or “Amish” attached to just about anything with something to sell. To take a few examples: “Jakey’s Amish BBQ”, “Amish Paradise Homestays”, “Dutch Delights”, etc.

Pennsylvania Dutch and Amish are often taken as synonyms, but they aren’t exactly one and the same.

Pennsylvania Dutch refers to both the people that settled in William Penn’s ‘holy experiment’ as well as the dialect they spoke – and which some continue to speak today. The people and the dialect are also known as Pennsylvania German.

Among the Pennsylvania Dutch were Lutheran, Reformed, and Catholic faithful as well as Anabaptists.  The dialect had gone into decline by the start of the 20th century.

Pennsylvania_german_distribution_3

Pennsylvania Dutch language map
red:  20 counties with highest number of speakers
blue:  20 counties with highest proportion of speakers
purple:  counts as both red and blue

Today, few outside the Old Order Amish and Mennonite community speak the Pennsylvania Dutch dialect.  In some communities, there is a fear that even the Amish may be vulnerable to losing it, as English words intrude and younger generations rely increasingly on English.

Hear Amish and Mennonites speaking Pennsylvania Dutch

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    20 Comments

    1. Natalya (talj)

      Great photo and interesting reading! I wonder if english will eventualy take over as the primary language? I think that would be a real shame!

    2. Will Amish adopt English over PA Dutch?

      Thanks Natalya! Due to my job’s long hours it’s hard for me to answer as often as I’d like but I appreciate your comments. While the Amish change and adapt I doubt English will ever take over as the Amish seem to be pretty vigilant on a few key points such as the buggy and work-free Sundays–and language is another thing that is just so crucial to their identity as a people that I wouldn’t really see it going away any time soon.

    3. Natalya (talj)

      Thats good to read! Traditions are a good thing and especially with something as important as language!

      Please, don’t apologise for being busy! I am very grateful that you take the time to answer my questions even though you have a lot going on!

      {HUGS} Hope you have a good week

    4. Dave Carrig

      Keep up the great work AA! I love reading about your experiences. You are right in my neck of the woods too!

      One thing – isn’t that picture of the black topped horse and buggie Old Order Mennonite vise Amish? I think most of the Amish in Lancaster County drive the grey topped buggies – but mayber there are one or two with the black topped. Sometimes it gets confusing!

    5. Thanks Natalya and Dave!

      Dave you’re exactly right–I included it here since the post concerned Mennonites as well. It’s actually not my own shot–it’s from wikipedia, I usually put a link/credit thing on the bottom of those that aren’t mine. Some of the Mennonite buggies I noticed today also seem to have the kick-plate sides, at least on the lower part of the buggy.

    6. Why

      Just read an article on Amish homebuilders. Of course they can do jobs cheaper. They don’t follow labor laws, or osha laws. If someone stops to inspect they speal “Dutch” and are closed when someone returns. If they were held to the same standards at least we’d be on a level playing field. They use their religion as an excuse, and are constantly in the state capital to influence their “right” to free religion. I speak from first hand knowledge as I have lived and worked with the Amish all my life. Don’t let them sucker you.

    7. miss mary

      anything and everything about the amish , interest me. thanks for all the info.

    8. Joshua Boyles

      Hello, my girlfriend is a former mennonite, her family is still mennonite. I think they hope she will come back and join the community. They speak Pennsylvania Dutch her and her family. I love her so much and will respeat her wishes. I was wondering is there any way that you have that I can learn how to speak, pronounce, write in Pennsylvania Dutch. This would mean so much to me thank you very much.

    9. Jim Barcaskey

      AA I just found your site. Very impressive and of interest to me. However one observation; I seriously doubt that Crawford County in Pennsylvania has more “Dutch” speakers than Mercer and/or Lawrence Counties have. From personal experience as I live and associate with some Amish. BTW you should interview Jacob Mast a young 30ish carpenter/contractor from Mercer County.
      Jim Barcaskey whose maternal grandmother spoke Pa Dutch

    10. Joanne Miller

      My husband had Amish parents but grew up Mennonite. We have an Amish guest room and want to have the word peace put above the door. I need to know the Pennsylvania Dutch word for peace.

    11. Tracie H

      Joanne: the German word for “peace” is “frith” but I’m not sure about PA Dutch

    12. Grdankl Strong

      The real German word for peace

      Actually, the real High German word for peace is Friede. Frith may be a derivative.
      GS

      1. anne rufiange

        cute pa dutch story

        i heard this story from my mom. He mother was irish lived in Alabama. a Pa Dutch man traveled with Bethlehem Stal to Ensley Ala. They met married moved to Allentown Pa.when she got there (she was 17 he was much older) he told her he had a son. i found him in 1880 census. sister Emma Snyder was raising the son Richard and she gave him back to charles Benevelt snyder wife Anne Barrett. so anne became a surprise stepma.On day the child who did not speak Englis only pa dutch came in kitchen and tried to talk to Anne my grandmother.she smiled tried to be nice as he only spoke Pa Dutch. she left room for minute after baking and frosting a cake. She came backin kitchen and he had licked all frosting off! she called husband in mad. He talked to son and and he thoughtcshe gave permission. my gma Anne was bad. father of child,her husban screamed at her called her a Dealdeglum!!! i may be spelling wrong…it meant sh was a dirty old clothepin!! old family story from Pa.Wish i could find a snyder family member i have never ever met one! His name was charles Benevelt Snyder he was once in military at the mexican border and ran the house area. Anne Rufiange

    13. I would be so happy if someone out there in Pa. Dutch land can tell me what the herb ‘boona griedel” that was used in dishes with green beans and ham and others as well is in English! It was a staple in my grandmas cooking and I do not n=know what it is in English! Can anyone please help me?

    14. Speaking

      I am embarrassed to say, I am PA Dutch, and do not know the language. My poppop did not teach his children. I don’t know why. I have a Dutch-English dictionary, but it’s packed away, & can’t get to it since we moved. I really would like to know the language, and have a conversation with my father-in-law. He knows the language, but did not teach his kids, & I don’t know why, & neither do his kids. My husband only gets to see his family once a year. So trying to remember the language is another obstacle for me.

    15. Doreen

      Pennsylvania Dutch verses Amish

      My mother told us she was 1/4 Pennsylvania Dutch but never said if she was part Amish or Mennonite. Any relative that would know has long passed away. How would I figure this out?

      1. Marcus Yoder

        Do you know your grandparents name and year born on your mothers side. Also your grandmothers maiden name?
        Marcus Yoder

    16. Bradford Heil

      PA German Word

      My parents were from Easton, family farther back from Nazareth/Bethlehem/Farmersville area.
      Grandparents (and parents) spoke PA Dutch/German. Not quite the same I know.
      My dad would say something like: achlockikameeroberdakoop.
      Has anyone heard this before?
      As near as I can tell it might break down into schlag = bump, koop or kopf = head. Roughly, I’m gonna bump your noggin.
      Can anyone help?

    17. anne rufiange

      shoefly pie

      forgot to mention i love shoefly pie! if anyone knows a snyder ..from charles benevelt snyder dad samual son Richard from mom who died childbirth…1880 census…find me i want to meet someone from my gpa family. my mom had a brother charles also was navy officer died 1945 i think i never met him.

    18. Sue

      Penn. Dutch vs. German and Amish

      My mother, now deceased, used to get angry if anyone said she was German or questioned it and argue that she was Pennsylvania Dutch not German. My DNA test came back showing history of Penn. Dutch. She was Catholic and the Catholic Churches here were known to have been built by German people. I see that Penn. Dutch can also be called Penn. German. Is there any way to distinguish between them? My DNA shows Swiss and Danish bloodline more than German. Also, can you recommend any places where I could come to see how Penn. Dutch live or what my ancestors may have been like?