The Difference In The Amish Dutch Languages

The Difference In The Amish Dutch Languages

By Josh Brown

June 7, 2022

Amish religion, Amish viewpoint, Amish Way of Life

In the past if you have visited an Amish community you have probably noticed that the Amish people often times speak in a Dutch type of language, known as Pennsylvania Dutch. If you have been around many different Amish communities located throughout the United States, it's possible you have noticed a little difference in the variations of the Dutch language that some Amish people speak in!!! So, like the ol' Cooner here, if you have a curious mind that craves answers. I had to wondered, why many Amish people and some Amish communities sound differently often times when speaking in Dutch? Once again the Crockett Cooner is here at The Amish Of Ethridge looking into, why some Amish dutch speakers sound differently from one another. So sit right back, because I've done a little research on the different dialects of the Amish people, that is guaranteed to be a tongue twister...
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Amish Of Ethridge Tennessee

Where Did The Amish Speaking In Dutch Originate From

You have to know a little history when it comes to the Amish culture to understand why some Amish communities sound differently when they speak Dutch. The Amish religion and way of life started in Switzerland around 1693, by the founder of the Amish religion named Jakob Ammann. Later in the last parts of the 1900's the Amish religion once again split to form the Amish Mennonites. But, the first Old Order Amish people to arrive in the United States, showed up around the 1730's. This arrival of the Old Order Amish  followers in the United States was due in part too escape religious persecution that the Amish Anabaptist people faced in Europe at that time. 

Now keep in mind that not ALL of the Amish Anabaptist people came directly from Europe or surrounding countries to the United States. Many of the Old Order Amish people escaped religious persecution by fleeing to other parts of the map, where they picked up different dialects of languages. Jakob Ammann is a great example of this move in Amish Anabaptist people. Jakob Ammann in his early life was born in Switzerland but in later life moved to the north east part of France escaping persecution . These two moves alone can show many difference in the variety of languages that even the founder of the Amish religion probably could speak in. In Switzerland alone there are a standard of four different languages spoken to this day which are Swiss German, French, Italian, and Romansh. Now, through out history if you study the Amish Anabaptist religion you will find that in present day due to many differences in religious viewpoints there are many sub groups of the Amish cultures and Amish religion. Most of the Amish and Amish sub groups speak in Pennsylvania Dutch in their daily walks of life , High Dutch in their religious services, and English to most everyone in the general passing. But, the entire Amish population in the United States does NOT always use the same dialects of Dutch or Pennsylvania Dutch as its came to be known when speaking. Because, different members of the Amish groups and sub groups found refuge in other countries before eventually moving to the United States. These different sub groups of Amish people brought with them their own different words, sayings, and ways of constructing words in their Amish Dutch language. Which gave us a beautiful mixture of languages that form how some sub-groups of Amish communities speak.  

So What Are The Different Dialect's In The Amish Dutch Language

Now because of separations in the Amish religion throughout history and the movement of the Amish people due to these diverse beginnings. We now have a few different Amish communities that speak in a form of  Dutch but, with different hints of German, English, and possibly some French mixed into their language. To be more exact the different Amish communities speak in three different dialect's which are Pennsylvania German (Dutch), Alsatian German, or Bernese German. Now don't miss understand that most all Amish people learn some standard high German to understand the Bible in their religious services. But, a great example of the Amish Swiss derived German is the Swiss Amish community located in Indiana. Which when speaking in their Swiss derived German is much different than Amish person speaking only in Pennsylvania Dutch.

To explain the difference between the Alsatian German and Amish Swiss derived German is not quiet as simple as it might seem. At first glance many of the words or phrases appear to be the same but many times have different meanings. But, one other factor to remember is that with both the dialect's the Dutch Amish speakers have also added sayings from the English language which gives us a great mixture of either broken Swiss German and English or Pennsylvania Dutch and English. This mixture in both languages also is quiet interesting when comparing it to the modern Dutch speakers found in European countries today. 

A Good Example Of The Differences In The Amish Dialect's

  • In Modern German:  Good Morning would be pronounced Guten Morgen
  • In Pennsylvania Dutch:  Good Morning would be pronounced Guder Mariye
  • In Swiss Dutch: Good Morning would be pronounced Goede Morgen
Ag Extension Office Two Apples.

German Apples

The Different Uses Of Phrases In The Amish Dialect's

Of course I'm generalizing while typing this part about phrases because in all of the different Dutch German Dialect's it is possible for anyone speaking to use the phrases they choose. But, in general day to day life the Dutch and Swiss German speakers from the different Amish communities and the Dutch German speakers from Germany would construct their sentence structure in many different ways. For example in Pennsylvania Dutch someone might say "Guder Daag" which translates in English to Good Day instead of saying good morning. In Germany the German Dutch speaker might say "Was geht" which translates to What's Up in English instead of good morning when first greeting friends in the morning.   

Of course in total in the Pennsylvania Dutch language you have to keep in mind that the Amish through out the United States will speak in an old proper form of Dutch dialect, compared to the modern speakers in Dutch speaking countries in present day. Which use their own type of slang that the Amish Dutch speakers do not use in general conversation. It's almost as if the Pennsylvania Dutch language is a look into the past much like the entire Amish culture. Another great example of this might be in conversation where a Dutch speaker from the modern Netherlands is commenting on how great something is such as a situation, object, or used in a condescending way its most likely you will hear, "leuk man" or /luk/ which translates to nice man!!! The phrase nice man is just something that you don't hear our Amish speakers saying in America to show dismay or support for anything. It would be more correct to say that our Pennsylvania Dutch speakers would probably use a phrase such as "Das Wundert Mich" which translates to it wonders me, or in English it makes me wonder.   

When doing a little research for this post I questioned a few of the Amish people from our community here in Tennessee and ask what information they could give me on the subject of the different dialects of the Amish languages. One Amish fellow explained it this way to me...

"I've met people from other parts of the world that speak Dutch. You know they have traveled here to see the Amish way of life and visit our community. I can understand SOME of what their saying when they speak, but it's like their speaking a foreign language, I can't understand all of what their trying to tell me!" 

Another Amish fellow told me, to think of it like this. The differences in Pennsylvania Dutch speakers compared to the modern Dutch speakers would be like saying. If someone from the extreme Southern United States was speaking to someone from the upper most Northern United States. They can all understand each other but, it just sound differently when they pronounce their words. The same Amish fellow that explained this difference in Amish language. Also, told me that his wife's family had some Swiss Amish roots from Indiana and when his wife's family spoke in Dutch, even he could not understand all of what they where saying!!!  I'm just speculating here but, I would think that the Amish fellows wife's family spoke in Alsatian dialect?

Real Amish Honey At Mike's Antiques And Moore.

Real Amish Honey At Mike's Antiques And Moore Located In Ethridge Tennessee In The Heart Of Amish Country .

Phrases To Know And Use In Pennsylvania Dutch 

Now that you know a little more about the Amish Dutch language from its beginnings and the different varieties of the Dutch languages that you might hear spoken in and around different types of Amish communities. I believe it would only be proper to give the readers of this blog post a few common phrases so you can understand some of what the Amish speakers might be saying in Pennsylvania Dutch. Below is a list of a few phrases to help you out when traveling to an Amish community that speak in Pennsylvania Dutch.

Phrases In Pennsylvania Dutch You Should Learn

  1. Wie bischt du heit?- How are you today?/Greeting 
  2. Guder Daag- Good Day/ Can be used any time of day to say, hello
  3. Was iss dei Naame?- What's your name?/ Good to start a conversation
  4. Was iss die price?- What's the price?/ Good to know for purchasing something in Amish store
  5. Iss a schtore bel?- Is a store near? / If you need to find a gas station
  6. A baadschtubb? -A bathroom? / In case of emergency 
  7. Denki - Thank You / Being polite
  8. Gern gschehne- Your Welcome / Being polite 
Amish Buggy In Mckenzie Tennessee.

Amish Buggy In McKenzie Tennessee.

I hope you found this post on the Pennsylvania Dutch language very interesting and learned a little more about the Amish language and culture. Please feel free to leave us a review we love to hear from our readers. If you like this blog take a second and sign up for our news letter to keep up with everything going on here at The Amish Of Ethridge. Make sure to to take a look around our website and check out our other websites, links are on the side of the home page. Lastly, if your checking out the old inner webs make sure to look for me the Crockett Cooner and The Amish Of Ethridge on Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram. Thanks again for reading and have a great day and an even better tomorrow. 


Are there online references to the Pennsylvania Dutch language?

Yes, there are a few online dictionaries that will show translations between English and Pennsylvania Dutch languages

Will Amish people usually teach you how to say certain phrases in the Amish Dutch language?

Yes usually, I found that most Amish people, when their not busy will teach you a few words in Pennsylvania Dutch

Why should you learn some Pennsylvania Dutch words and phrases?

Many times if you travel to Amish country you will find younger Amish children watching the stores or around stores and Amish businesses. Often times the younger Amish children don't speak English well. (*In the Amish culture the Amish usually only speak to their kids in Amish dutch until the kids enter school) So knowing a few phrases never hurts!!!

Will people from different Amish sub groups always understand you, if you learn some Pennsylvania Dutch?

Many words and phrases will be exactly the same in Pennsylvania Dutch as they are in Swiss Dutch and from Dutch speakers from European countries. But, keep in mind not all words, phrases, and sayings are pronounced the same and some phrases or words may sound the same but have very different meanings!!!

 (*Especially when comparing the Swiss Amish Dutch Communities found in Indiana and Ohio to the Amish Dutch speaking groups from Pennsylvania)  

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