Appalachia Appalachian Dialect

Don’t be so ill!

ill means hateful or bad mood

“You’d be ill too if you carried all your stuff down the mountain
in the cold and then your ride didn’t show up!”

Ill adjective Of a person or an animal: Angry, vicious, harsh (esp in phr ill as a hornet); also used in compounds, as in ill-tempered.
1886 Smith Southern Dialect 350 And there are still others which have not, so far as I know, the authority of Old English: … ill (cross, vicious, “some rattle-snakes are iller’n others”). 1895 Edson and Fairchild Tenn Mts. 372 The cow is ill when she is pestered. 1917 Kephart Word-list 413 = ill-natured, vicious. “That feller’s ill as hell.” 1939 Hall Coll. Gatlinburg TN He was a awful ill teacher. (E. W. Dodgen) ibid. Tow String Creek NC we understand your ill way of talking. (Grady Mathis) ibid. White Oak NC “He’s as ill as a hornet” [said of a person who’s been on a drunk or had a bad night of an kind].

Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English


I live with three people who can be ill as a hornet on occasion and I must admit I can be ill myself.  The use of the word ill in reference to someone who is in a bad mood or is grouchy is still alive and well in the Southern Highlands of Appalachia.


p.s. If you missed the hoopla-The Pressley Girls have their very first cd! Go here to get one!



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  • Reply
    Ray Presley
    August 16, 2021 at 12:30 pm

    Well, folks. Sometimes you just wake up on the wrong side of the bed, aggravated at everyone and everything, including yourself. The only solution is to just go back to bed, sleep it off and then get back up, but on the right side of the bed – and hope to be less grouchy! Try to be kind to yourself and give yourself a chance to chance to come to your senses. Of course, when other people aggravate you, that’s a totally different story. Then it’s time to head for the hills with a jug of water, a piece of leftover corn bread and a good book.

  • Reply
    Ethelene Dyer Jones
    November 10, 2017 at 10:04 am

    Ill as a hornet doesn’t come upon me very often, for which I am thankful. But sometimes, all of us become a bitg adelpated over something that bothers us.

  • Reply
    November 4, 2017 at 11:20 pm

    Oh, I’m sorry to see this so late, but, yes, I was often told not “to be so ill”! I guess because I often was.

  • Reply
    November 4, 2017 at 7:28 pm

    I’ve made the hornets look rather angelic lately!
    The really bad part is having to haul all your stuff back UP the hill. Been there before …
    Love from the riverbank in Marshall!

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    November 4, 2017 at 5:56 pm

    That’s a guitar case Ken. Chitter plays a fiddle so that’s Chatter.

  • Reply
    larry griffith
    November 4, 2017 at 3:16 pm

    Mostly heard that to describe a dog. He’s an ill natured dog.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    November 4, 2017 at 3:12 pm

    I’m iller than a hornet today myownself. My water heater busted yesterday evening. Didn’t just quit, it busted like in water pouring out. And the dadblamed thing is in the crawlspace under the house. You know, down there where all the spiders and snakes live. It’s such a hassle to get one in through the little hole that we just left the last one that died on us in there. Guess we’ll have two dead soldiers down there now.
    To beat all it’s been pouring rain ever since it happened. The box the new water heater came in is a soggy mess and the gutter over the access to the crawlspace is overflowing. Right where you have to stand to wiggle that dadblamed thing through that little hole.
    Oh and I forgot to mention I’m having to carry water to flush the toilet. I’m catching it in tubs and buckets where the gutter is overflowing.
    Yeah, I understand ill!

  • Reply
    November 4, 2017 at 1:55 pm

    Today is my oldest daughter’s birthday. I wished her a Happy Birthday yesterday but I haven’t heard anything. She’s been having trouble with getting her e-mails lately anyway. I think she’s a couple years older than you, but youn’ze are just right anyhow.
    As I take off my garbage today, I may go home early and rest my acid reflux while watching some college football. …Ken
    Chitter looks nice and warm waiting for her ride.

  • Reply
    eva m. wike
    November 4, 2017 at 1:43 pm

    It pays to be nice at my house! BUT sometimes I just get on the wrong track and get FED-UP! Some body ought to invent a coffee or tea drink that makes folks nice all the time! enmw

  • Reply
    wanda Devers
    November 4, 2017 at 12:24 pm

    Ill as a hornet was what I always heard. It’s a great description.

  • Reply
    Leslie Haynie
    November 4, 2017 at 12:11 pm

    I can get ill on occasion too.

  • Reply
    November 4, 2017 at 11:48 am

    My Wife says I’m most angry ( ill ) when I get Hang-ry, or hungry and I need to eat something, if you’ve seen the snickers commercials, that is what she says I look like, I know things do get on my nerves when I get hungry.

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    November 4, 2017 at 9:23 am

    I really love the uses of words found in the old families. I can remember my gramma saying to me to no be so ill when I was pouting or acting up

  • Reply
    November 4, 2017 at 9:17 am

    Ill is just another word I use often and don’t think a thing about it being Appalachian based. To me, ill means a person is in a bad mood. If someone is sick, I never say they are ill.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    November 4, 2017 at 8:35 am

    Yep, been there, done that. Wish I could say I would not do it again. Always heard it as “ill as a hornet”. It happens when someone or something gets on your last nerve.
    And I think I would be ill to if my ride didn’t show up. It is real aggravating to depend on people just to be let down.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    November 4, 2017 at 7:57 am

    Oh yes, I know that expression and the condition very well, I’ve heard it all my life. Also ill as a hornet.
    Yes, Tip, I’ve seen your tribe ill on occasion but they usually get over it pretty quick.
    I’m pretty excited about the cd, can’t wait to get my hands on one of them!

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