Appalachian Dialect

Dusky Dark

Dusky Dark in Appalachia

dusky dark noun The times of day when, and shortly after, the sun goes down; partial darkness, in contrast to complete darkness (called black dark).
1939 Hall Coll. Hazel Creek NC It was just about dusky dark. It was snowin’ like water pourin’ out of a bucket. (Zeb Crisp) 1941 Justus Kettle Creek 122 “Of course,” agreed Aunt Emmy, “you must get home before dusky dark lest your folks worry over you.” 1986 Ogle Lucinda 61 I was sitting on top the rail fence, and it was getting dusky dark when I saw something moving toward us out of the Rhododendron thicket.

~Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English


I’ve always thought dusky dark was the most lonesome part of the day. The portion of time seems lost between the busyness of daylight and the restfulness of black dark night.


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  • Reply
    July 19, 2019 at 9:51 pm

    And ‘dusky dark’ of a Sunday evening was always the most lonesome time for me . . .

  • Reply
    Maxine Appleby
    June 22, 2017 at 2:17 pm

    The language of Appalachia is like burnished silver to me: often used, well- worn and polished with love and pride until it softly glows.
    The phrase ” dusky dark” is one of those examples of the fine silver of our words.

  • Reply
    July 7, 2016 at 8:44 pm

    Hi Tipper,When us kids went out doors after supper Mom would always say,come in before dust. Just love these little memorys you always cause to pop up.God Bless.Jean

  • Reply
    Rev. Rose Marie "RB" Redmond
    July 7, 2016 at 12:13 am

    I’ve heard it called “dusk” all my life, and it was the best time in the world to catch fireflies cause you could still see their little silhouettes flying once their light dimmed. Once it got totally dark, it was harder to catch ’em, cause then you couldn’t see them unless their lights were lit, and once you got to where they’d been, their light was out and they were often long gone.
    Hope everyone had a great holiday, and a safe one too.
    God bless.

  • Reply
    July 6, 2016 at 8:34 pm

    Dusk/twilight won’t be here for another hour & a half – never called it dusky dark – but it’s a cozy time of the day for me: time to tuck the day’s activities and worries away for the night and sit wrapped up in the joys, hopes, and promises of the day. We don’t have whippoorwills here but do have chuck wills which sing a shortened version of the whippoorwills’ song. It’s still a very plaintive cry; and it always sets the Hank Williams song playing in my head. Sometimes we even hear a distant train which adds to the wandering thoughts my wondering mind flits over – no loneliness – just a settled curiousity about what tomorrow will bring. . . .
    I had always associated “gloaming” with a hazy/foggy close to the day. Looking at the definitions on the internet, it seems to fit since the definitions I found refer to a “glowing” at the end of the day and hazy/foggy days definitely set up an eerie glow as the sun sets.

  • Reply
    anita griffith
    July 6, 2016 at 4:44 pm

    Yes Ed,I have seen whippoorwills,but it’s been years ago.They aren’t a pretty bird,but they do eat lots of insects.
    truth be known,I shot one with a daisy pump bb gun when I was a boy.

  • Reply
    Bill Burnett
    July 6, 2016 at 4:05 pm

    I’ve heard it called Dusty Dark for most of my life but never recall it being called Dusky Dark.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    July 6, 2016 at 3:28 pm

    Seems we had a conversation some time ago about black dark and pitch dark. I voted in favor of black dark reasoning that it is black dark when it gets pitch black. Dusky dark is gray fading into black.
    Do you realize that twilight time is when every morning glory blossom hang its head and goes to sleep forever!

  • Reply
    Jane Bolden
    July 6, 2016 at 1:55 pm

    From what I’ve read, dusky dark is when you should be very cautious in Disney World or around any body of water when it comes to alligators.

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    July 6, 2016 at 1:19 pm

    I think “dusky dark” is just a bit later than the “gloaming” and not as late as “pitch dark”! Depending of course on the phase of the moon and if/or clouds are present! ha
    Now then that said….I prefer the “dusky dark” and “gloaming” in the Appalachian’s to this place…
    I wrote about, when I traveled there once in my youth, “Into the dusky dark, musky, murky moor I stepped with caution, in fear that I would fall into a deep goyal to be lost for evermore!”
    Thanks Tipper,

  • Reply
    Carol Rosenbalm
    July 6, 2016 at 12:08 pm

    In East Tennessee I’ve always heard & used pitch dark! My daddy was a huge fisherman in Tennessee,Georgia and north caroina and we’d ask him when he’s be home and he’d say dark thirty! In other words he didn’t know!
    Carol Rosenbalm

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    July 6, 2016 at 11:37 am

    Dusky Dark is one of those “often heard never used” phrases. I say gettin’ dark or almost dark. That is my favorite time of the day. Settlin’ in time. The nocturnal creatures are beginning to stir and tune their instruments. The air is cool and still. Sounds unheard during the day can make their way to our ears with a reminding of a world far beyond our sight.
    Have you ever seen a whippoorwill?

  • Reply
    July 6, 2016 at 11:24 am

    To me dusk dark is a welcome site, especially in the summertime. I like Fall and Winter much better cause these long, hot days are behind us for awhile. But I love the gardening time in late spring and summer…Ken

  • Reply
    anita griffith
    July 6, 2016 at 10:52 am

    I’ve heard dusky dark and dusty dark,don’t ever remember hearing dark black.I hear mostly plum black or pitch black.
    That wonderful time of the evening when I use to hear lots of whip-poor–wills.Don’t hear them much anymore.Several yrs.ago read their wintering grounds were being destroyed in central america,and their nesting grounds were being destroyed in the U.S.

  • Reply
    Nancy Schmidt
    July 6, 2016 at 10:44 am

    Even though I never heard my folks (Smoky Mtns and West Virginia) use the words “dusky dark”, I love the phrase, and thank you for bringing it forward. Dusk has always been about my favorite time of day, when trees and hills can only be seen in silhouette. and even shadows are indistinct.
    Your words and phrases sections are the parts of your site that I like best. Even though I’ve lived all my married life in Kansas, I often hear old timey phrases that I was raised with, as much has passed into the general vernacular. I’ve always used the word “stob” for a cut off smallish sapling or bush that is liable to trip you up if you’re not careful. Recently one of my grown daughters told me she always thought I’d just “made up that word”, not that it was a “real word”. Who knows how many people may think that about words passed from our folks into a world that now doesn’t recognize them for “real”. Thanks to all of us who keep this speech alive.

  • Reply
    July 6, 2016 at 10:05 am

    This time of day always seem to accentuate whatever my mood is for the day. It has never been a favorite time, as mostly when fatigue sets in or a time to miss those who are not there. I had heard a pretty but sad song in the seventies about the gloaming, and yet unable to google and find the words.

  • Reply
    July 6, 2016 at 10:00 am

    Shirl-thank you for the great comment! I’ve heard pitch dark but not the coloring of dark. Wow I like the coloring of dark : )

  • Reply
    Janis Sullivan (Jan)
    July 6, 2016 at 9:24 am

    Just to go back a little bit. Thank you, Tipper for the poem by Albert Brumley, Thank God for the USA. I read the poem before the whole family gathering for a meal for the great 4th of July celebration. I was so glad to have the poem to remind the younger 20’s and 30’s folk what it is really about. Thank you so very much for enriching my daily life so much I can share with others. Jan

  • Reply
    Ed Karshner
    July 6, 2016 at 8:54 am

    I’ve been reading Storming Heaven and have bought in to the idea of The Gloaming. But, I like dusky dark better. It is lonesome but, there is something thoughtful about that time between.
    Last night I sat on the porch in the dusky dark (or gloaming) and thought about how it was time to do nothing. I felt like I was getting a way with something. Those liminal moments make for a great break between the work of day and night.
    As always, thanks for a thoughtful start to the day.

  • Reply
    July 6, 2016 at 8:27 am

    This post made me stop and think if I ever heard my parents or grandparents describe dark in this way. I don’t think they did. The time just before complete darkness was called coloring for dark and complete darkness was pitch dark. I’m wondering if any other areas of Appalachia described darkness the way my family did. Thanks for helping me remember something I haven’t heard in years.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    July 6, 2016 at 8:22 am

    ‘Dusky dark’ sounds like a message from home. Grew up saying that. Sometimes I just like to hear, read or use a home-grown expression for its trip down memory lane. I guess the regular English equivalent is ‘twilight’ or maybe ‘gloaming’. But I like dusky dark better.

  • Reply
    July 6, 2016 at 7:53 am

    I worked from daylight til ‘dark thirty’ when I was younger. Now it takes me most of a week to do one day’s work.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    July 6, 2016 at 7:22 am

    Yes, lonesome, it’s the death of the day.

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