Appalachia Appalachian Dialect

Heavy Set



Heavy Set Grandmother

Grandmother was a stout woman.


*Heavy set = overweight

*Stout = overweight

In Appalachia we use heavy set and stout to describe someone who is overweight.

A few weeks ago, I watched a video about Appalachia’s colorful language. The gentleman being interviewed looked to be in his late 60s or early 70s. He said his grandmother used the word stout to describe someone who was overweight. He said he didn’t hear many people use the word to describe an overweight person now these days.

Using heavy set and stout to describe an overweight person is still alive and well in my area of Appalachia. Why do we use the terms instead of just saying someone is overweight? Because we often go to great lengths to keep from offending anyone in our daily conversations.


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  • Reply
    Gaye Blaine
    February 12, 2021 at 2:44 pm

    One female cousin can very well be described as fleshy. She just smileds with a twinkle in her eyes and says “I’m fluffy “ and goes on her way. Salt of the earth she is.

  • Reply
    November 2, 2013 at 10:26 am

    My great aunt is 90 and uses the term ‘fallin’ off’ if you are losing weight and ‘fleshnin’up if you are gaining weight……

  • Reply
    Rev. RB
    October 25, 2013 at 12:22 am

    I’ve heard both used up north and down south as well as the word “overweight” which seems rude to me because it’s judgmental.
    To me though, heavy set and stout are two different things. To me, “stout” means someone rather round and short (“I’m a little teapot, short and stout” – LOL), while “heavy set” to me means someone tall and heavier than most.
    And then there’s “big boned” which I think was used as an excuse for someone’s whose weight was more than normal in someone else’s eyes.
    When it comes to me though, I’m a stout little teapot that sometimes boils over when I get all steamed up. ROFLOL LOL LOL
    God bless.

  • Reply
    Donna W
    September 28, 2013 at 7:26 pm

    My mom always said “heavy-set” or “stout” when describing overweight people.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    September 26, 2013 at 8:21 pm

    Geography wasn’t my forte. Can you tell? My language skills were worse. But I’ll keep trying til I get it wright. write, rite, right?

  • Reply
    Jane Bolden
    September 26, 2013 at 7:05 pm

    I remember a Chubbette line of clothes for girls in the late fifties and early sixties. I didn’t wear it. My friend did. I was a “stick”.

  • Reply
    Susie Swanson
    September 26, 2013 at 7:02 pm

    Popular words in these part. Wouldn’t know how to talk any other way.. lol.

  • Reply
    Marsha King
    September 26, 2013 at 6:34 pm

    Here in central WV., “heavyset” and “stout” were both used by my grandfather. He would also describe someone, especially a woman, as “fleshy”.

  • Reply
    September 26, 2013 at 6:14 pm

    Heavy set: generally means large person,, on my Mother in law’s side of the family most all the boys were Tall heavy set men, several of the girls were to, I’ll not mention who,,there was 12 kids in all, but the phrase is common, most of the Men were stout, meaning they could pick up a transmission with no problem.. Can’t wait for the song..

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    September 26, 2013 at 6:02 pm

    and Sam…your Aunt was a smart woman…Rubenesque or Rubenian is directly associated with the famous painter Peter Paul Rubens..His portraits included larger women, they were not “sirens” as some call the shapely ones here in Appalachia! They were generally heavy shaped women with a mature look. One comes to mind “The Three Graces” by Rubens. I remember looking in the library books when I was a kid of the old Dutch and Flemish painters and thinking “maybe this fleshy thing ain’t so bad after all”!…If someone like Rubens was willing to paint them. Incorporating them in some of his more religious paintings, a lot of men were usually more heavy than muscular as well.
    Well, I think your aunt was right on about her Rubenesque physique.
    Thanks Tipper,

  • Reply
    September 26, 2013 at 5:59 pm

    When we visited kin along Roaring Creek, NC in my early childhood, they used to say I was “healthy looking.”
    I heard a not so flattering term used to desribe a bottom-heavy girl as “tandem axle.”

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    September 26, 2013 at 4:42 pm

    Make that longitude but not her latitude.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    September 26, 2013 at 4:40 pm

    Apparently your girls have inherited their g-g-grandmother’s latitude but not her longitude.

  • Reply
    September 26, 2013 at 2:09 pm

    Ed-its Dollie Sharp : )
    Blind Pig The Acorn
    Celebrating and Preserving the
    Culture of Appalachia

  • Reply
    Joyce Mullikin
    September 26, 2013 at 1:59 pm

    I think we must all have had grandparents who looked like yours, very thin men & “stout” women. They had good laps to sit on for hugs & kisses.

  • Reply
    Paul Certo
    September 26, 2013 at 1:51 pm

    I’ve been buying jackets labeled “Stout” all my adult life, this is common all over the US. Likewise, heavy set is common here in Cleveland.

  • Reply
    Sam Ensley
    September 26, 2013 at 1:24 pm

    I had an aunt who said she wasn’t fat, she was rubenesque (Not sure about spelling. But then, she was a flatlander.

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    September 26, 2013 at 1:22 pm

    Yesterday was a nice blog and I’m
    pleased the way all your readers
    “took to” Chitter and Chatter.
    Most of us Appalachians tend to
    “beat around the bush” a bit when
    describing one’s size or health.
    But some of our friends (not from
    around here) tend to speak too
    direct, and that causes problems.
    Courteously and kindness still
    rule here in the Mountains…Ken

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    September 26, 2013 at 1:06 pm

    So is the lady in the picture Dollie Sharpe or Daisy Burkhart?
    I remember when the catalog had Husky sizes for boy’s pants.

  • Reply
    Julie Hughes
    September 26, 2013 at 12:56 pm

    We still use these terms. Heavy is used by itself instead of heavy set. Stout usually means they have a muscular aspect also. I have also heard thick used to describe someone that is stout. She was stout and thick.

  • Reply
    September 26, 2013 at 12:39 pm

    I always heard my grandparents say “how healthy” someone was (I guess it wasn’t healthy at all).

  • Reply
    Karen G.
    September 26, 2013 at 11:58 am

    I’ll take stout any day over “pleasantly plump.” One of my late Daddy’s favorites was “he/she is big as a skint’ mule.” He also had a friend from childhood whose nickname was “Sow Belly.” The man certainly looked as if he’d swallowed a watermelon seed long ago & it had fully ripened inside his tummy. I love your pic for this piece, it reminded me of my maternal g’parents. Mimaw was stouter than Pipaw & even though she was eleven years his junior, he allowed himself to be hen-pecked & happily married to her for 60 yrs. until he passed on in 1996.

  • Reply
    September 26, 2013 at 11:49 am

    I remember a brand name or clothing section of a store called “Stylish Stouts”.

  • Reply
    September 26, 2013 at 11:18 am

    I also think that overweight carries negative implications while stout or heavy set implies strength or resilience as well.

  • Reply
    Sheila S.
    September 26, 2013 at 11:14 am

    My Nana would have said,”She’s heavy set and ought to go to reducin'” Then if the person “fell off” too much, she would comment about how “poor” they look. “Her little ole arms are so poor.”

  • Reply
    September 26, 2013 at 10:53 am

    Both words – heavyset and stout – are alive and well in my world. I don’t hear “fat” when I hear those words as much as I hear solid and strong. And “stout” also has a connotation of reliable, “a stout fellow to have at your back.”
    But I guess you’re right; these days we’ve been conditioned to associate weight with either too much (“bad”) or too little (“good”) and it’s hard to think of ANY weight-related term as just a description, not a judgement. Oh well. I was a skinny young woman and now I’m well on my way to being a stout old woman, and it’s aches and pains that bother me – I don’t often think about my weight at all.

  • Reply
    September 26, 2013 at 10:46 am

    You presented an interesting subject. Some people are very cruel when someone is overweight or big. I like what I call the more gentle way of describing a person. Why are people are so judgemental and unkind really bothers me? Thanks for sharing to your readers that there is another way to describe someone and not be cruel.

  • Reply
    Kerry in GA
    September 26, 2013 at 10:40 am

    I hear and use “heavy set” and “stout” on a regular basis. My Papaw used “healthy” to describe somebody that was overweight. He always found a nice way to put things. 🙂

  • Reply
    Sue Crane
    September 26, 2013 at 10:32 am

    I’m built for comfort, not for speed!!!!!!

  • Reply
    Kimberly Burnette
    September 26, 2013 at 10:08 am

    I have always been a bit heavy set myself and I grew up hearing stout and heavy set on a pretty regular basis. Now that I have been a city gal for almost 20 years, I don’t hear these terms much anymore.

  • Reply
    Richard Moore
    September 26, 2013 at 10:05 am

    While tagging along with my father and his friends hunting and fishing in the 1950s, I often heard the word “stout” used to describe someone who is physically powerful. It was used admiringly or at least respectfully.
    Often the man (and “stout” always referred to men) was a heavy-set (not always a negative) fellow with a barrel chest and powerful arms.
    Another term always used with admiration was to describe someone powerfully built as “much a man.”

  • Reply
    C. Ron Perry
    September 26, 2013 at 9:48 am

    Also, I have heart stout to refer both to heavy and strong.

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    September 26, 2013 at 9:34 am

    I may have mentioned this before. My Grandmother would say when seeing us after a while, those boys are gettin’ stout! They were not fat but obviously strong and healthy. Me she would say, she’s still fleshy…Oh, how I hated that word, especially coming from her! She was a might fleshy herownself! LOL I would never ever say so to her. I’ve been called heavy-set, (which I still use the word today) and stout. Back when those words were used on me, I really wasn’t that fleshy! I thought I was and I think I lived up to everyones expectations included my own…
    I was very sick as a young child, and anemic although not skinny.
    The doctor told Mama to dose me with vitamins, cod liver oil, etc. ect…I got better and I gained some weight, and some more and some more! Mama always said that is why I always had trouble losing weight…She said I needed an antibotic instead of vitamins…We always had balanced meals at home, beans, greens, cornbread…LOL Oh, and the best home cranked ice cream you ever did taste!
    Thanks for this post Tipper,
    Being fleshy, stout, heavy set is a lot better’n than being “FAT”
    Yep, those are much better descriptions! LOL

  • Reply
    Barbara Gantt
    September 26, 2013 at 9:27 am

    Oh my, my Mother n law would always say , she sure is a stout girl. Now all the grandkids say it too. Im happy to know that we aren’t the only ones using that word. Barbara

  • Reply
    September 26, 2013 at 8:56 am

    Ed Reed must be some of my kin or at least from my hometown. Where I’m from, being heavy-set was a good thing. If a person was ‘flashy’, they were healthy and if they ‘fell away’, it was time to see the doctor. I don’t recall ever hearing of anyone going on a diet when I was growing up.

  • Reply
    Gina S
    September 26, 2013 at 8:33 am

    I’ve heard and used ‘heavy set’ and ‘stout’ all my life. Mama used ‘stocky’ to describe a person who wasn’t very tall, but a healthy weight. She would say, “He’s short and stocky.” Don’t know if she learned the term from her Lincoln County Dad or her South Carolina raised Mama.

  • Reply
    Ron Banks
    September 26, 2013 at 8:18 am

    Heavy set, stout, big boned and hefty are very common around my neck of the woods. A friend of my wife is “heavy set” and she will tell you that she is built for comfort not speed.

  • Reply
    Ed Reed
    September 26, 2013 at 8:01 am

    I’ve also heard “fleshy.” When they lost weight they “fell off” as in “he’s fell off to nothing.” In my daddy’s family heavy set was “healthy,” as in “he’s a big ole healthy feller.” If he fell off, then he looked so bad and sickly.

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    September 26, 2013 at 7:58 am

    You are right, I don’t hear that description here much anymore. I still use heavy set, but I’ve heard people say fat almost in their faces, which shows how much parenting skills have deteriorated.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    September 26, 2013 at 7:40 am

    That’s my grandmother and grand dad! Yep, she was a big woman in every sense of the word. You ever hear the expression “large and in charge”? Well they were talking about my grandmother. She was a big woman who was always in charge. I once saw her smack my granddad right in the mouth for saying the S–t word. She did not abide bad langue, smoking, dipping, or drinking in her home….except when her mother came to live with them, she was known to dip some.
    What you can’t tell in the picture is that she was a very tall woman, about 6 feet tall.
    There was a story about her from her younger days. She went to the doctor not feeling good. He said she was anemic and prescribed for her to eat a pound of liver every day to build her blood up. You suppose that could have something to do with that weight?
    Yep, a stout woman!

  • Reply
    Ethelene Dyer Jones
    September 26, 2013 at 7:28 am

    Yes, we did–and still do–use “stout” to describe a person who is also “hefty” and “heavy-set.” And it’s interesting, but “stout” also means “strong,” in the sense of physical prowess and strength. But we somehow knew when “stout” meant overweight and “stout” meant strong–like with notable physical strength. It might not apply to one and the same person. Colorful, and sometimes confusing, too–our beautiful, vanishing, quaint way of talking in Appalachia!

  • Reply
    Jeanna M
    September 26, 2013 at 7:16 am

    I have had the word heavy set used to discribe me. 🙂 I really have rarely heard stout used ti discribe a woman. Stout is usually used to discribe a man, in my experience.
    Love the blot and how it reminds me of somethings that have been thrown by the wayside.

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