Appalachian Dialect



“Chitter was juberous about her next move. She didn’t know if she should continue her journey or curl up in her blanket and sleep awhile.”


A few weeks ago I got the following email from Sanford.


This is a word my Mother used quiet often when she was skeptical about something. Is it a word with which you are familiar?


adjective ju·ber·ous \ˈjüb(ə)rəs, -bə(r)s\
Definition of JUBEROUS

South and Midland
: doubtful and hesitating : dubious

Here’s a portion of the entry the Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English has for the word:

dubious adjective
A variant forms juberous, jubers, jubus.
B Hesitant, uncertain, doubtful.
1859 Taliaferro Fisher’s River 204 I felt mighty skittish and jubus of Davis, fur he was allers a-swaggerin’, and cavortin’, and boastin’ about. 1895 Edson and Fairchild Tenn Mts 372 He was juberous about crossing the stream. 1937 Hall Coll. Wears Cove Tn I was jubers of that. (Jim Lawson) 1939 Hall Coll. Cataloochee NC Uncle Steve said, “You go around [the bear]. I’m jubers and I’ll go below him.” (Will Palmer) ibid. White Oak NC juberous = kind of afraid. (Carl Messer)

Although I’ve read the word, I have never heard anyone use it in my area of Appalachia. Have you heard or used the word juberous before?



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  • Reply
    David Gibson
    October 8, 2020 at 3:13 pm

    I am almost 70 years old and my Dad was only person I ever heard use the word juborus. We grew up in Western Ky. I am going to start using it.

  • Reply
    Garry Ballard
    August 8, 2019 at 8:43 pm

    I reckon it comes from the word ‘dubious’ which means doubtful. Just over the years it’s changed to juberous.

  • Reply
    Ken Ramsey
    October 27, 2018 at 7:38 pm

    We used to sit around the neighborhood store(everyone had one in those days),and old timers would come and go. One particular fellow who always popped in on his farmall used that word-I’ve never forgotten him or the word. He was always “juberous” of this and that.

  • Reply
    April 20, 2017 at 11:00 am


  • Reply
    Sanford McKinney Jr
    October 10, 2016 at 11:56 am

    I think it’s a mis-hearing of ‘dubious.’
    Dubious is one of the definitions for juberous-Two different words with two competely different sounds. It would surprise me for someone to hear dubious as juberious?
    Posted by: Keith Jones | July 09, 2015 at 10:54 AM

    • Reply
      Garry Ballard
      August 8, 2019 at 8:45 pm

      I’ve heard plenty of people say jubious instead of dubious so it could easy be from the same word.

  • Reply
    Finneus Flogg
    June 7, 2016 at 7:23 pm

    I grew up in Carter County, Tennessee. Both my father and mother used the word “juberous” often. (Apparently there were a good many things to be dubious/skeptical/somewhat-frightened-by in our neck of the woods.) I’m certain I have heard both my brothers use the word as well. Although rather removed from Appalachia now many years and living in Cambridge, MA, I happened to just now use the word “juberous” with my wife in describing a door to door salesman’s pitch. She was rightfully a bit confused by the word, but has long grown accustomed to my occasional use of “odd” Appalachian idioms and archaic words. To assure myself that this was in fact one of those Appalachian words and not something I just made up, I immediately Googled it. I was pleased to find that Google finished spelling it for me before I could finish typing and that indeed Merriam Webster agreed that juberous was a word. The second link in that search led me to visit your site for the first time, and I’m very pleased that it did. Keep up the good work of preserving our colorful regional linguistic heritage!

  • Reply
    Pat Shumway
    August 10, 2015 at 1:00 pm

    Tipper, I wonder if “juberous” could be connected to Lewis Carroll’s JubJub Bird in “Jabberwocky”. It seems he was fear-inspiring. We’re warned to “beware the JubJub Bird and shun the frumious Bandersnatch.” I’ve never run into either, but I err on the side of caution!

  • Reply
    Rev. RB
    July 11, 2015 at 2:58 am

    Never heard the word Juberous before, but I think it’s a word our Daddy would have loved to use had he known it because he liked using words few ever heard of, even if he had to make them up himself sometimes. LOL
    God bless.

  • Reply
    Mark Mojado
    July 10, 2015 at 9:42 pm

    Saw this maybe you might try it.

  • Reply
    July 9, 2015 at 2:21 pm

    I never heard of this word before.
    Nice picture of Chitter walking
    downhill. Both of them girls are so pretty…Ken

  • Reply
    July 9, 2015 at 12:25 pm

    I seem to recall hearing that word once or twice in a conversation, I had to ask that it be repeated, then ‘sort it out’in my mind, and came up with “Dubious” in the context that it was used. It isn’t in my current vocabulary, though.

  • Reply
    Ann Applegarth
    July 9, 2015 at 12:21 pm

    It’s a new one for me. Perhaps the early settlers were so juberous about coming this far west that they decided to stay east of the Mississippi River?

  • Reply
    July 9, 2015 at 12:01 pm

    In the early dawn of Appalachian Vocabulary Tests the word “juberous” didst appear in Test 21. Revisiting it today may finally emblazon it on my memory. It’s certainly a state in which I often find myself.

  • Reply
    Wanda Devers
    July 9, 2015 at 11:54 am

    Mama used this word & she was born & raised in southern west Tn. I think she was the only person I’ve ever heard use it. Wish I had more of her family history as her speech was rich in unusual words.

  • Reply
    July 9, 2015 at 11:40 am

    Juberous what a great word. We are not familiar with it in this part of Ky. I can’t wait to throw it out there for the grandkids. They think I’m a speck teched in the haid sometim.

  • Reply
    Paula Rhodarmer
    July 9, 2015 at 11:08 am

    Tipper, I am very familiar with the word. My father-in-law who was born about 1910 and never left the mountains of WNC used the word often, in just the way you explained. Most everyone in the family picked up the usage from him.

  • Reply
    Keith Jones
    July 9, 2015 at 10:54 am

    I think it’s a mis-hearing of ‘dubious.’

    • Reply
      Sanford McKinney Jr
      October 4, 2020 at 12:36 pm

      No Keith. Check it out-It is a real word and not mis-heard. My Mother used both these words. Had very little formal education, but could go toe to toe with many more highly educated folk. She learned to spell by “sound” which is what I believe the new found designation is “phonics?”
      Me thinks you missed this grammar question.

  • Reply
    July 9, 2015 at 10:30 am

    It’s a new one to me. Any relationship to “heebie-jeebies”?

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    July 9, 2015 at 10:20 am

    Tipper, I don’t think I have ever read or said the word juberous. I’ve been leerious or skittish in certain situations. Now I can be juberous too!

  • Reply
    Suzy J
    July 9, 2015 at 9:48 am

    Oh my goodness, the picture of Chitter is so similiar to the picture of you next to it on the home page. Two beauties 🙂 I am hoping to see ya’ll this weekend.

  • Reply
    Bill Burnett
    July 9, 2015 at 9:07 am

    I have never heard juberous used as an adjectve though I’ve heard of “Dancing Juber” but never actually tried it. I think it may require consumption of quite a bit of “Corn Spirits” and a spirited Mountain Band to become proficient.

  • Reply
    July 9, 2015 at 9:03 am

    Another new word for me to add to my mountain vocabulary. If I keep learning all these new words, I might just become a fit mountain person. Thanks to Sanford for pointing it out.

  • Reply
    Gina S
    July 9, 2015 at 8:39 am

    I’ve never heard juberous nor seen it in print. If you ever use it in an Appalachian vocabulary test, hope to remember it. I’ll try to recall it as judiciously dubious.

  • Reply
    Eva Nell Mull Wike, PhD
    July 9, 2015 at 7:48 am

    Well Tipper,that word is new to me but it may have been used way back in the hills and we just didn’t pick it up in the Cove.
    We look forward to being on the SQUARE in Hayesville for The Pressley Girls Performance!
    What special things are going on down at the Folk School on Saturday? We will be over Friday night for HOPEFULLY a great performance at the old Court House in Blairsville. Well really just about every performance we have attended at the Court House has been good.
    THANKS, Eva Nell

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    July 9, 2015 at 7:31 am

    Tipper–I’ve been exposed to plenty of mountain talk but I have never heard the word said out loud although I remember it from Skit Taliaferr’s “Fisher’s River” (incidentally, the stream, now normally called Fisher River, I believe) is in northwestern NC in Surry County.
    I reckon it’s one of those expressive words that has passed out of common usage.
    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    July 9, 2015 at 7:14 am

    Tipper, I don’t recall ever hearing that one.

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