Animals In Appalachia Appalachian Dialect

Do You Know What the Word Make Means?

Use of the word make in appalachia

Jan Sullivan left the following comment on yesterday’s April in Pigeon Roost Post:

“I love the Foxfire books, and I got them for my mother as presents as she got very old. She enjoyed them also. Sassafras had to be had in early spring because it was a blood tonic to build up your blood for all the work to be done according to my grandmother. I also remember making lye soap and helping my grandmother wash clothes in a big iron pot in the back yard. Papa’s flannel’s in the spring turned the water all red. It was a hot job. We used a washboard, and carried water from a creek. Hard job then, but good memories now! The other day, at the doctor, I mentioned I was concerned with all the weather change, warm and then freeze, that my garden plants might not “make”. Then I had to explain what make meant to the doctor. Anyone else use that word? Everyone have a wonderful spring with all the birds, flowers, crops, kids, and families. Jan”

After reading her comment, I thought the usage of the word make in Appalachia would make a great post. A little later in the day Ed Ammons summoned up the word usage for me in another comment:

In reference to the use of the word “make” in Jan’s comment, I have heard and used it all my life. You don’t grow a garden you make it. If your peppers grow pretty plants, like mine did last year, but nothing grew on them, your peppers didn’t make. If your corn makes but the stink bugs get more than you do that’s a different story.
The same usage applies in putting up food. If your jelly don’t set, you say it didn’t make. If your kraut smells like feet, it didn’t make. You have to shake the jar forever before the butter makes.

“Ain’t you gonna make a garden this year?”
“I tried last year but the only thing that made was the weeds.”
“I know what you mean. I planted some late beans but the frost got them before they could make.”

I’m very familiar with all the the uses for the word make that Jan and Ed describe. Here a few more common usages:

make – train to be or become. “I’d like to see my boy make a teacher. All the kids round here just love him.”

make – to use in place of. “I’d make that old bowl for a flower pot if I was you.”

make – to determine in one’s mind. “She said she made it in her mind that she would finish school no matter what come along.”

make up – to collect an item. “They’re going to try and make up the money to fix the roof at next week’s benefit.”



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  • Reply
    April 28, 2021 at 6:43 pm

    but i don’t really think this is necessarily Appalachian, it’s pretty universal. classes make if enough students enroll, or don’t make, if not.

  • Reply
    Dale Drawbond
    May 10, 2018 at 12:12 am

    Having grandparents who came to Montana to homestead in 1906 from the Blue Ridge mountains of Virginia, one of the words and usage was make. Example being when someone passed away. ” They couldn’t make it anymore.” Passed it on to their children.

  • Reply
    Roger Brothers
    May 9, 2018 at 9:26 pm

    Yep. Farming was “making a crop”

  • Reply
    Ron Banks
    April 14, 2016 at 6:35 pm

    Dad was always worried about his garden making. And I knew some fellers who went off and made a doctor and the other made a lawyer. Mom used made when describing someone’s profession especially if they had to be highly educated to do it.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    April 14, 2016 at 3:49 pm

    Speaking of making babies. When I walk up to pregnant women I know, I’ll look at her belly and say “Hey there baby!” If she returns the greeting I say, “I’m not talking to you, I’m talking to the baby!”

  • Reply
    April 14, 2016 at 2:12 pm

    A lot of my home care patients get worn out trying to make their beds, so I do it for them. I have heard this everywhere, not just the appalachians. I remember as a child we had powdered milk. Usually my mother would mix it up. One time she asked my father if he would make the milk and he said “mooo”.

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    April 14, 2016 at 1:35 pm

    When I asked Donna Lynn at our local radio station for a request, she said “do you want Paul and Jerry Wilson or the Pressley Girls?” After I said The Pressley Girls and “Angles Rock Me to Sleep” she said she loved that one. …Ken

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    April 14, 2016 at 12:52 pm

    Congradulations to Cullen in Clyde on winning the CD. And a big Happy Birthday to Loretta Lynn, it’s her 84th today. …Ken

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    April 14, 2016 at 12:32 pm

    You go to work to make money. Right? That makes you are a counterfeiter unless you work for the Department of the Treasury. Any more you work for a direct deposit which makes money for the banks. And you pay with a card with a magnetic strip or a chip in it so the card companies make money. And the stores make money because they don’t have to handle cash and fraudulent checks.
    Sometimes your employer might still cut you a check. What does that mean? I’ve watched the payroll being done and nobody cut anything.
    When you are the first one up in the morning, do you make a fire, start a fire, light a fire or build a fire? Or do you go back to bed and wait for somebody else to get up first?

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    April 14, 2016 at 12:31 pm

    One time I was complaining to one of my older brothers about how all my watermelon plants wouldn’t stay put. He told me to not worry so much about them, they’d jump off in those high weeds and Make…Ken

  • Reply
    Ethelene Dyer Jones
    April 14, 2016 at 11:28 am

    I’m very familiar with all the noted uses of “make” in Appalachia, and I must say reading the post and responses has “made” my morning! Thanks for reminding us that life is often what we make it, and it does not have to be dull or unrewarding unless we fail to “make hay while the sun shines.” It’s pretty much up to us what we make of life–for good or mediocrity (but “mediocrity” is one of those “educated” or “learned” words. We didn’t use it in my Appalachian upbringing.)

  • Reply
    Garland Davis
    April 14, 2016 at 11:27 am

    It’s common in the Navy to hear the comments, “He’ll make a sailor,” or “He’ll never make a sailor,” when referring to a new recruit.

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    April 14, 2016 at 11:10 am

    “Make way for more comments!”
    “I’m making my way back home!”
    “That’s a make-shift way of making do!”
    “The straight and narrow path will surely make it to the golden shore!”
    Thanks Tipper

  • Reply
    Laura Fielder
    April 14, 2016 at 10:33 am

    In Oklahoma, we use the word “make,” in most of these contexts. However, in situations where something is being prepared, we more commonly say “fix.” “I’ll fix a garden this year, we’ll see if it makes!” Also, “It’s about time to fix dinner!” “I’m fixin to take the trash out,” or “Do you fix bacon with your greens?” Great post!

  • Reply
    Cullen in Clyde
    April 14, 2016 at 9:57 am

    Wow! I’m honored! Thank you! The address is PO Box 944, Clyde, NC 28721.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    April 14, 2016 at 9:45 am

    You, and Jan, did it again. If I heard or read make used the Appalachian way it wouldn’t give me any pause. But as to knowing whether I use it or not, I don’t know. Once again it is one of those words I don’t take note of myself saying if I do though I suppose folks from other parts of the country would notice right away. I can’t hardly catch myself either speaking Appalachian or failing to.
    I do not like the feeling of the ‘in between’ place of using standard English as a courtesy on others’ account versus just saying what comes natural. I have never quite reconciled the two. Growing up, we called changing to fit present company “putting on the dog” or “gettin’ above our raisin’ ”
    Good post today. You often make me think (though I have been told I do that too much).

  • Reply
    Sanford McKinney, Jr
    April 14, 2016 at 9:31 am

    One I used to hear was, “Do you think they will make up and get back together or go their seperate ways.”

  • Reply
    Wanda Devers
    April 14, 2016 at 9:30 am

    I’m familiar with most of these uses but I immediately thought of my grandpa who said someone had to “make water” when they needed to go to the bathroom. I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone else say that. Grandpa was a rounder in his youth but a wonderful old man–such a great influence on my family.

  • Reply
    April 14, 2016 at 9:24 am

    “Make” – perfectly good word which I’ve used in every circumstance mentioned. Add to it: “What you makin’ in there?” as a way of asking a young woman if she’s pregnant. Wonder which came first – referring to pregnancy as “makin’ a baby” or referring to a pregnancy as “having something in the oven” or “What you bakin’ in there?” Wouldn’t say something like that to a body unless they were very close to you and you were pretty sure since if they weren’t pregnant it would be a terrible insult.

  • Reply
    April 14, 2016 at 9:18 am

    To me, “making out” means doing the best one can with a given situation. Wonder how the neighbors are making out since he lost his job. My city slicker friends talk about what they are going to make for dinner. I tell them what I am going to fix for supper.

  • Reply
    Wesley Bossman
    April 14, 2016 at 9:14 am

    Hi, Tipper…
    I’m making my first comment ever on the web. I began receiving your blog a couple of weeks ago, and began to wonder why I was familiar with a lot of the terms your were bringing up as Appalachian word usage. I had never made the connection, but my Mom grew up at Lake Louisvilla in Crestwood, Kentucky, so there was my pipeline. I am delighted when you point out words that I use that I never even thought about, before. I am rather proud of my southern connections and think your blog is great. I spent two hours researching Sacred Harp music after you brought that up, and went so far as to investigating the Fasola school regarding their very interesting five day camp for shape note singing. Thanks for a very interesting offering!

  • Reply
    April 14, 2016 at 8:24 am

    How about, He’s on the make, watch out!”

  • Reply
    Eva Nell Mull Wike, PhD
    April 14, 2016 at 8:23 am

    Well, I might as well make an effort to respond to this MAKE post. But it is time to do YOGA and I have to MAKE Jim put the yoga tape on so we can make it through the whole session!
    Eva Nell

  • Reply
    April 14, 2016 at 8:11 am

    I remember my grandmother always said “how you makin it” and I’ve sure heard the word used to reference the garden. Great word!

  • Reply
    April 14, 2016 at 8:07 am

    Tipper, I think you have made a wise choice in your word for day. This is one of the most widely used words in these parts.

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    April 14, 2016 at 7:59 am

    I just don’t know what to make of this post! Some of the usage sounds normal to me…For instance, my lettuces, radishes, spinach and kale is making good!
    One use of the word make that I think got left out was, “make-out”! Which was used by teenagers, starting back in the fifties after “sparking” lost favor from the forties! ha
    Thanks Tipper,
    Interesting post…

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    April 14, 2016 at 7:50 am

    Tip, I’m familiar with the word make in these usages you describe. I don’t seem to use the word that much but I’ve heard it all my life including present time.
    This is reaching a little but this is the way I think about the word make. I put out the effort to plant the garden or set up the crock with cabbage and salt for sauerkraut and I try to do it all correctly, at the right time of the year and with the right signs. Then sometimes the garden bares and the kraut sours and sometimes it doesn’t. It’s up to something beyond me that determines whether it makes or not. I do my part and the garden/kraut must do their part to make it happen, and that is the making.

  • Reply
    Ed Karshner
    April 14, 2016 at 7:21 am

    Not only do I use make in nearly all those situations, I had no idea I did. I told my students last night that I didn’t know what would be on the final because i still needed to “make” it yet.I then said I was still “fixing it” in my mind.
    Oh boy. That won’t wash in a college classroom. But, you can take the boy out of the hills . . .

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    April 14, 2016 at 7:15 am

    Tipper–One of my favorite uses of the word make is a tried and true mountain aphorism from yesteryear: “Make do with what you’ve got.”
    Then there’s another usage, You best be watching those pretty twins because first thing you know one or the other of them will be making out with some boy.
    Another is “it doesn’t make any difference” and another “make hay while the sun shines.”
    As is so often the case with Smoky Mountain English, diverse, creative, and unusual usages are commonplace with make.
    Jim Casada

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