1. Introduction
  2. Length of Vowels
  3. The Vowels
  4. The Diphthongs
  5. The Consonants
  6. Content of Dictionary
  7. Abbreviations
  8. Acknowledgement

Introduction

This dictionary is the first online, searchable dictionary for the Pennsylvania Dutch dialect, also known as Pennsylvania German.

Why develop an online dictionary? It is the sincere desire of the editors to aid in the preservation of our beloved Mudderschprooch, and this is their contribution to that effort. There are many printed dictionaries, including C. Richard Beam et al.’s masterpiece, The Comprehensive Pennsylvania German Dictionary, and Eugene S. Stein’s Pennsylvania German Dictionary, both of which we strongly recommend, but students of the dialect cannot and do not carry a dictionary at all times. What nearly everyone does carry is a smart phone, and this online dictionary takes advantage of that fact.

The dialect has seen a steep decline in the number of speakers over the last one hundred years, and there is much commentary on its impending extinction. Perhaps that is an overstatement, as the dialect will continue among the plain Dutch, but its survival among the fancy Dutch is questionable. This does not bode well for our culture, as the dialect is the most important daily expression of who we are. We hope that this site serves as a springboard for greater things, including the formation of a Pennsylvania Dutch emersion preschool for children in southeastern Pennsylvania, which we believe is urgently needed.

This site is the culmination of many hours of effort involving scanning A Dictionary of the Non-English Words of the Pennsylvania-German Dialect with an Appendix by Marcus Bachman Lambert, published by the Pennsylvania-German Society in 1924, transcribing the text thereof, programmatically updating the orthography, and developing the site itself. It has been designed to work offline without a connection to the Internet. Thus, even if you do not have an Internet connection, you should be able to access the dictionary through your web browser.

This dictionary attempts to follow the Buffington-Barba-Beam (BBB) orthography, the rules of which are set forth in The Comprehensive Pennsylvania German Dictionary. There are some differences in spelling between these dictionaries, none major. Perhaps some of these differences will disappear over time. The convenience of an online dictionary is that it can be updated easily.

What follows is an adaptation of Lambert’s discussion of his phonology and orthography. We have copied verbatim most of Lambert’s discussion and have updated it to reflect the changes to the phonology and orthography used on this site. For a detailed discussion of Lambert’s system, please consult the original preface to his dictionary. While the adaptation that follows would not be appropriate in a scholarly work for obvious reasons, this site is not intended for scholarly recognition. It is intended to be a free educational tool.

Length of Vowels – Phonology and Orthography

  1. A vowel is long when doubled (a, e, and о are and regularly doubled, and u is occasionally doubled): Daag, Deel, Seel, Moond, Ool.
  2. A vowel is long when followed by h: gehne, Kuh, ihm, Ohr, Uhr.
  3. A vowel is long when accented and final: blo, denno, du, schlau, la. Exceptions: de, die, e, ya, me, ne, re, se, ze, and the exclamations da and ha. Except de, ya, and ne, these exceptions are really unaccented and come under (8).
  4. An accented vowel is long before another vowel or before a single consonant which ends the syllable: zue, hole, Blutfink, Dege, dir, Mol, dot, Kor, Hur, Rut, gut, Weg. But it is short in ab, am, an, as, Ax, bin, bis, der (art), das, dem, den, des, eb, em, en, es, fer, hen, hot, in, ken, mer, net, ob (but also ōb), selwert, sin, um, un, var, ver, vum, vun, was, wem, wen. Many of these exceptions are really unaccented in a sentence.
  5. A few vowels are long before two or more consonants, commonly an e before an r in a stressed syllable or a word beginning with o: Erbs, Erd, Erz, Obscht, Oschdre.
  6. An a before an r is always long: dovari, Marye, schnarickse, unerbarmlich, Wart, Zarkel.
  7. An accented vowel standing before a double consonant or two or more consonants is usually short, except as noted in (5) above: Balle, sodde, sinke, Luschde, helse.
  8. Unaccented simple vowels are short (except о and u when final): guder, Wammes, Keenich, Saddan.
  9. Unaccented final e and i are short: misse, alde, nimmi, Hundli.
  10. In inflected words the vowel keeps the length of the stem: graadeswegs (from Weg), lobscht and gelobt (respectively, the second-person singular indicative and the past participle of lowe).

A great many words in PG retain the short vowel of old German which has been displaced in modern German by a long vowel or a diphthong: PG Vadder, Gawwel, gewwe, nemme, Giwwel, Hiwwel, Howwel, huddle, for G Vater, Gabel, geben, nehmen, Giebel, Hübel, Hobel, hudeln. Lambert decided that a double consonant following a single vowel would indicate that the preceding vowel is short, with notable exceptions. Lambert found this device preferable to one which necessitated the doubling of i and u, which is entirely foreign to German.

However, this scheme still leaves the length of o and u unclear in words in which they are followed by two consonants. Lambert noted this issue with u and decided not to double it, as it is not doubled in German. (As an aside, Lambert in fact did double the u in one word, PG Muund.) Despite Lambert's admonition, we decided to double the u when long and before two consonants, as done in the BBB orthography.  In cases in which an o in a word is long but its length is not apparent from its position, we have also doubled it. (Compare Schpot to Schtrooss.) We decided on this orthography, consistent with BBB, as it will be easier to those with less familiarity with German to understand how to pronounce relevant words from their spelling alone. No words double i in this dictionary.

The Vowels

Each of the vowel sounds in Pennsylvania Dutch which, in conformity with German spelling, we have represented by the characters a, e, i, o, u occurs both long and short. That is, the characters a, e, i, o, u represent either a long or a short sound. Whether the sound which each represents in a given word is long or short depends upon its position in the word, and its length is determined by the rules of length provided above.

There are six variations of the a-sound. (1) The sound of the a in E father or the long G a as in Vater. For this sound, we use the character a, which replaces the æ used by Lambert. This sound is frequent in PG, and is found almost always before an r, with several exceptions, e.g., in ah and Schpektakel. It is long. (2) The sound of the a in G satt, Masse. This sound occurs very frequently in PG but never before an r. It is also represented by an a. It is short. (3) The sound of the aw in E law. For this sound, we use aa, as proposed by Albert Buffington and Preston Barba in A Pennsylvania German Grammar published by Schlechter’s in 1954. This replaces the â used by Lambert. It is long. (4) The sound approximately of e in E bear. For this, we use ae and e, depending on what is used in the corresponding German word and its position in the stem. These replace the æ used by Lambert. This sound occurs only before r, with one exception, that of bae. It is long. (5, 6) For the remaining a-sound, that of a in E at, we also use ae. This sound occurs only short in PG words, except in the onomatopes maeh, baex, baexi, in which it is long. The ae used for this sound replaces the ą used by Lambert.

The Diphthongs

The list above differs from what was presented by Lambert as being diphthongs. Lambert identified ae, ai, au, ee, ei, ie, and oi as diphthongs. With utmost humility, we believe that only ai, au, ei, and oi are diphthongs and have moved the other vowel combinations to The Vowels.

The Consonants

Content of the Dictionary

This is a dictionary of English and non-English words of the Pennsylvania Dutch dialect, providing Pennsylvania Dutch words and their English meanings as well as English words and phrases and their equivalents in Pennsylvania Dutch. It contains 20,171 Pennsylvania Dutch entries and 20,074 English entries.

Included herein are Pennsylvania Dutch words that have the same or a similar stem in both English and German, e.g., Ferri. In the case of most of these words it would be possible to determine only after long investigation whether they are of German origin, or whether they came into the dialect from the English. As noted by Lambert, to arrive at a reasonable certainty as to the origin of even one such word would require an amount of research that is beyond the scope of this work. There is also a language border line along which there is a considerable number of words for which it is difficult to assign definitely to High German only, or to both High German and the dialect. This is particularly true of religious nomenclature.

Also included are compound words that are German in form, although they are a literal translation from the English and so are not used in German, e.g., Riggelweg, groossfiehlich. For special reasons a few hundred words evidently of English origin and a few more of doubtful origin have been included. The exclusion, in general, of words wholly or partly of English origin leaves some unsatisfactory gaps, but there is no rule of usage or authority by which it can be determined what English words should be included in a Pennsylvania Dutch dictionary.

At the end of many—if not most—entries, there is provided the etymology of the Pennsylvania Dutch entry word. The etymologies may be German, dialectic German, French, Latin, or Indian, and they do not always have the same meaning as the Pennsylvania Dutch words. There is but one word in the dialect of Dutch origin, and that may have come in through the English. Although Lambert contends that this shows the absurdity of calling the dialect "Pennsylvania Dutch," we follow the hundreds of years of tradition among the speakers and call the dialect by its rightful name, "Pennsylvania Dutch."

Abbreviations

Acknowledgement

Lambert provides a lengthy acknowledgement of the sources he consulted when preparing his dictionary. We do not repeat those here, as we did not consult the sources that he used. Instead, we express our sincerest gratitude for the extraordinary work of Mr. Lambert culminating in his 1924 publication. As the result of a possible oversight, the copyright in his dictionary expired in 1953 upon failure to renew it. Through this fortunate event, we are able to use this dictionary as the source for this site.

We also would like to offer our sincere thanks to Elizabeth L. Kyger, the wife of the late Dr. M. Ellsworth Kyger, for granting us permission to consult her husband's expansive An English-Pennsylvania German dictionary and to supplement this online dictionary with information from Dr. Kyger's dictionary. We have, namely, consulted Dr. Kyger's dictionary to supplement entries for nouns with plurals and genders where not provided by Lambert. Dr. Kyger's dictionary is the most expansive English-to-Pennsylvania German dictionary in existence but is difficult to find on account of its limited publication. It is a worthy addition to any student's and speaker's library.

During our efforts, we consulted with several additional sources, namely Albert F. Buffington and Preston A. Barba A Pennsylvania German Grammar, C. Richard Beam et al. The Comprehensive Pennsylvania German Dictionary, dict.cc Deutsch-Englisch-Wörterbuch at http://www.dict.cc/, Duden Online-Wörterbuch at http://www.duden.de/, and Pfälzisches Wörterbuch at http://woerterbuchnetz.de/PfWB/.

Mir schtehne uff Riese ihre Axle.