Appalachia Appalachian Dialect

He Threw a Donnick at me!

Donnick is an old word for a rock

dornick noun A rock or stone small enough to be thrown.
1975 Gainer Speech Mtneer 9 = a stone small enough to b thrown. “He hit him with a dornick.” 1997 Montgomery Coll. = pronounced donnick, usually thrown at livestock to make them move (Hooper).
[< Irish Gaelic dorno´g/Scottish Galic Doirneag < dorn “fist”; cf SND dornack]

Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English


A week or so ago Jim Casada left the following comment:

Tipper–Bill B.’s usage of chunk, and someone else mentioned it as well, falls in my main linkage to the word.

I wonder if anyone among your readers is familiar with one of the things that I regularly chunked; namely, a donnick.

I heard that word used regularly as a kid, but other than personally using it in writing a few times, I don’t recall encountering it in years.

A typical usage would be something like: “If you don’t leave me alone I’m going to pick up the biggest donnick I can throw and chunk it at your head.”

I was intrigued by Jim’s comment so I looked in my dictionary and there the word donnick was! Even though the entry is spelled slightly different (see above) the definition notes it is pronounced the same as in Jim’s comment.

I have never heard the word, but The Deer Hunter said it was common when he was growing up in Haywood County NC.

How about you-have you ever the word donnick?



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  • Reply
    Arlene Westhoven
    September 9, 2019 at 11:04 pm

    My dad used the word ‘donnick’ to mean a BIG rock, one that would break your plow blade when you ‘tied into’ it. He was from Michigan and never spent time in Appalachia. I’m still here, and no one seems to recognize that word, nowadays.

  • Reply
    Tom Deep
    October 20, 2018 at 4:59 pm

    I never heard that one Tipper but do remember skippers stones that would skip across the water. It was a game to see how many times it would bounce on the water.

    • Reply
      March 30, 2019 at 9:21 pm

      My dad used it when I was a kid. We all went out to pick up”donnicks” out of a pasture. Never heard it from anyone else and no one I’ve asked had ever of heard it either. I’m from sw missouri.

  • Reply
    G Palmer
    September 28, 2016 at 4:41 pm

    Well I’ll be. Yes, Daddy would call a particular rock a donnick. “Particular” usually mean “big”. But it could be anything outstanding about it. Like an odd shape or something.
    We’re from Cherokee County, NC

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    May 29, 2016 at 10:23 am

    Tipper, With all due respect to Ed A…I tend to use a lot of middle English when I have the opportunity and remember the word usage.
    That said… v. t. v. i. Chuck 1. To cluck 2. A clucking sound. [1350-1400; Middle English chuk, expressive word] Chuck Intr v. Chucked, chucking, chucks To make a clucking sound. n. A clucking sound. [Middle English chuckken, of imitative origin.] Woodchuck Synonym…. for land beaver, moonack, whistle pig and ground hog…… We always called a woodchuck a whistle pig… rather than groundhog…. v. Also a term of endearment. I once built a wattle around some special flowers that I wanted to keep the varmints out of….. rabbits, whistle pigs, squirrels, cats (think litter box), dogs, etc.. It was about four feet tall… It was working great and had that Victorian garden look, until early one morning I caught the “land beaver” (whistle pig) chewing a large hole right through my limber branched wattle fence! Yes, a woodchuck will chuck a wattle fence… ha Thins Tipper and Ed….. PS…I chuck (term of endearment) all your comments…. and if I could reach, I would give you a little chuck under the chin! Ha!

    • Reply
      January 31, 2020 at 2:03 am

      We still use the word donnick. We are from N. Georgia, Fannin County. Never used as a throwing rock, rather a large stone causing a problem with a plow or any large stone in your way that has to be dealt with.

  • Reply
    Rev. Rose Marie "RB" Redmond
    May 26, 2016 at 6:34 pm

    Nope, never heard that word. Other than skipping rocks at a creek or lake, I don’t remember tossing rocks. I do, however, remember us ALL getting yelled at for throwing crab apples at one another. Boy, would they leave welts and tears, and eventually, our Mom got so tired of the crying, she said the next one coming in crying from being hit with a crab apple would result in us all getting spanked. So when the next one hit with a crab apple started crying, we all sat on them until they stopped crying. LOL Kids!!!
    God bless.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    May 26, 2016 at 6:27 pm

    With all due respect to B.Ruth, the old biddy clucks at her dibbies. And the woodchuck is only a cousin of the beaver. Woodchuck is a misnomer. It is actually a whistlepig i.e. groundhog. They have nothing to do with wood preferring to snack on alfalfa and clover. They do make a whistling sound and they do burrow into the ground but are neither pigs or hogs. They are often found on the highway, reduced to a bits of hairy hide and a big greasy spot on the pavement.

  • Reply
    May 25, 2016 at 5:30 pm

    Well I’ve flung a many a rock in my time but never a donnick, or heard of one..

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    May 25, 2016 at 4:39 pm

    And Ed… Oh for the lack of a C or a N! Now that being said…. When my aunt finally kilt that old rooster, he was in one piece with only a floppy, limp neck! So she “chunked” him (whole) in the woods! Now then, if she had used her axe and chipped and chopped him up in pieces during the slaying, she would have “chucked” him in the woods even whilst his harem of hens were waving and chucking their mourning goodbyes!
    For some reason, we “chunk” most things… rocks, ice, bread, etc…. and less I forget… the better half was a chunk at eighteen!
    We chuck the wood stove with the wedge that we had chocked the old truck tire! The old biddy chucks at her chicks, while scratching through the chips that the woodchuck chucked! Now he must’ve been a “chunk of a beaver” for those chips where high as a “chinquapin” tree!

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    May 25, 2016 at 11:54 am

    Like Jim, I’ve heard “donnick” all my life. Usually someone or some thing has to get me started. (senior moments, I recon) Since they were within months of each other, I wonder if my dad knew Commodore. They were both born in 1910, I think…Ken
    PS: I been hearing Paul and Pap singing on the radio again this morning.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    May 25, 2016 at 11:45 am

    Bill Burnett and I share many common ancestors and grew up only a couple of miles apart. He is roughly a year and a half older than I. I have never heard or used the word chunk used as he does much less donnick. We always throwed our projectiles if we intended them to do damage. We used the word chuck if it didn’t manner where or how they landed as in “It’s ruined, chuck it in the trash!” Remember the little tongue twister, “How much wood would a woodchuck chuck, if a woodchuck would chuck wood?”
    To me chunk is an irregular piece of something. I’m thinking of cornbread in particular. Or stovewood with a knot that keeps it from splitting right. If you broke off too much cornbread you might have to chuck some in the slop bucket. If the chunk of wood won’t fit in the cookstove, you might have to chuck it in the heater.

  • Reply
    Ann Applegarth
    May 25, 2016 at 11:06 am

    How interesting! Never heard it or seen it before! Thanks to Jim Casada and you, Tipper, for a new word.

  • Reply
    May 25, 2016 at 11:05 am

    This is a new word for me. When I first started to read you posting today, I immediately thought of the word as a term used in Ireland or Scotland. When I was teaching I wish that word was at the tip of my tongue as sometimes an unfamiliar words get the kids to thinking and it would have become a fun activity. It’s fun to play with new words !

  • Reply
    Larry Priffitt
    May 25, 2016 at 11:01 am

    You and Jim got me on that one. Only THOUGHT I had heard them all. Thanks to you both. Larry Proffitt.

  • Reply
    Mike McLain
    May 25, 2016 at 10:08 am

    Never heard “donnick”, but often heard “chunk” used as “throw” most of my early life in East TN.

  • Reply
    May 25, 2016 at 9:24 am

    This word is totally unfamiliar to me. But after being a faithful reader of your blog, I have realized each area can have its own influences. Occasionally an almost forgotten word or example will come to mind, and I will realize I haven’t heard for decades. It is great to have those who are keeping the culture alive.
    Here is my entire knowledge of rocks/donnicks. Growing up the donnick was weapon of choice for some kids, but nobody I knew was ever hurt by this. A great uncle was killed as a teen by a rock thrown while he rode his horse, but this was way before my time. One of the strangest things was I never saw a rock in New Orleans during the time I lived in that great city, and was told they did not have unless brought in.

  • Reply
    anita griffith
    May 25, 2016 at 9:05 am

    Never heard the word,but I have a friend that always called rocks darnits.He would say I picked up a big darnit and threw it.Is that a corruption of the word dornick?

  • Reply
    May 25, 2016 at 8:40 am

    Never heard that one, and it’ll probably disappear from use entirely. Guess I’ll never use it. No one would know what I’m talking about, which is true about a lot of things I say anyway. However, it is interesting to learn about such colloquialisms.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    May 25, 2016 at 8:04 am

    Never heard ‘donnick’ or least don’t remember if I did. Your experience compared with Matt’s would suggest its use is localized, perhaps where there was stronger than average Irish influence.
    It does remind me of “donnybrook” and the scrappy Irishman who got more and more worked up watching a pair fight. Finally he could stand it no longer and blurted out, “Is this a private fight or can anyone get in ?”

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    May 25, 2016 at 7:58 am

    I don’t recall hearing that exact word! I’m sure it was used by my Scots-Irish grandparents. They always kept a milk cow or three….
    However, my aunt said she had the “meanest old Dominick” in Mars Hill and if she could catch him, she’d kill him and chunk him in the woods so the varmints could eat him! She never could or would say “Dominicker”, (Dominique) rooster! So, that’s as close to “donnick” that I ever heard!
    Thanks Tipper,
    PS…. and by the way that “old dominiker” didn’t like my aunt either!

  • Reply
    Ethelene Dyer Jones
    May 25, 2016 at 7:46 am

    I had never heard or used the word “donnick” or “dornick” (or other spellings) around Choestoe in my area of the Appalachians. I just wonder if it could mean, too, not a “physical” small stone or rock, but the barbs and slurs of language that form a non-complimentary remark about another? It seems to me it could mean that, too, as: “Her underhanded compliment hit me like a donnick between the eyes when I realized what she meant.” Regardless, today I’ve learned a new (probably Scots-Irish in origin?) word.

  • Reply
    Bill Burnett
    May 25, 2016 at 7:44 am

    The use of Donnick more than likely has come down from the Scotch-Irish influence of the many hardy settlers in the Appalachain Mountains, another word I heard regularly was “clod”, this was generally used to describe a firm hunk of dirt suitable for throwing but hadn’t attained the hardness of a donnick. Either of these items saved many a step when convincing livestock to do what one desired them to do since you didn’t have to get close enough to whop them with a stick.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    May 25, 2016 at 7:16 am

    I don’t ever recall hearing that word, but then I didn’t hang around with the rock throwing crowd.
    The girls are sure going to be busy the next few weeks!

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