Appalachian Dialect Holidays in Appalachia

Kin = Love

Old Valentines Day Postcard with Angel

kin (2) verb To love and understand (another person) deeply.
1976 Carter Little Tree 38 Granma’s name was Bonnie Bee. I knew that when I heard him late a night say, “I kin ye, Bonnie Bee,” he was saying, “I love ye,” for the feeling was in the words. And when they would be talking and Granma would say, “Do you kin me, Wales?” and he would answer “I kin ye,” it meant, “I understand ye.” To them love and understanding was the same thing. Granma said you couldn’t love something you didn’t understand; nor could you love people or God, if you didn’t understand people or God. ibid. 46 Mind ye’ve little to meet it with…but the mountains’ll not change on ye, and ye kin them; and we be honest men with our feelings. 1999 Montgomery File I kin you = “I love you” (28-year-old-woman, Robbinsville NC).
[perh from Scottish ken]

—Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English

I stumbled on the definition above when I was flipping through “The Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English” looking for something else and found it very interesting. The dictionary also has an entry for kin meaning family. That is the usage I’m most familiar with.

Although I’ve read kin used to mean understanding or heard it used in tv shows and movies, I have never heard the usage in my area of Appalachia. Robbinsville isn’t that far away from me and after reading the entry I find myself wanting to go see if anyone who lives in Graham County today still uses the word kin to mean love or to understand. If they don’t use it, maybe they recall their grandparents using it.

On this day for love, I’m wishing you a Happy Valentines Day. I kin you!

Last night’s video: Best Love Song in Appalachia.


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  • Reply
    Joanna Entrekin Callahan
    February 18, 2022 at 6:38 pm

    Tipper! I find this incredibly interesting. My grandparents on both sides were from the Deep South but their forbears ranged from Irish and Scottish ancestry. ‘Kin’ is part of my maiden name (Entrekin) and is of Scottish ancestry who immigrated to Pennsylvania in the 1600’s as Quakers. How appropriate that a Quaker would have that in their name! My paternal grandmother had some quirky sayings but I never heard ‘kin’ meaning love. To us it always inferred a blood relative. Thanks for the insight!

  • Reply
    Barbara Parker
    February 14, 2022 at 11:05 pm

    Tipper, I read “The Education of Little Tree” a long long time ago and fell in love with the story so much that I’ve probably read that book 3 or 4 times. It speaks so sweetly and truthfully of the mountain Spirit. That story made me laugh and it made me cry and I came away each time that I read it with a deeper love and understanding of my mountain folk. Our people were always proud when we found out someone was “kin” to us, and like I wrote you a long time ago, I feel like I am kin to you and your family. I also used the word kin to speak of love and understanding after I read the book. May I make a humble suggestion that you read that book to us for one of your wonderful readings? I think any true Appalachian will surely enjoy hearing your read it. I know I’d love to hear it read out loud too. I read it to my granddaughters several years ago and they enjoyed it. Thank you for all you do. You keep me involved and interested in lots of things I might have forgotton about and as funny as this seems, it makes me feel stronger and even younger to see some of the ways you all work and do things. Why, this Christmas I even got out in the woods and gathered greenery to decorate the house with! I used to do that years ago but had stopped it a few years back. This 75 year old grandmother felt mighty good to be traipsing through the woods with my granddaughter sharing some memories with her and hopefully helping her to have another memory of this old spunky grandma! I want to leave some good memories behind for them to talk about and laugh about when I’m gone. I’ve sure talked a lot about my dear grandparents too. I would be tickled pink if you decide to read “The Education of Little Tree.” I am enjoying hearing you read about Dorie and can relate to lots of the things mentioned in the book. Happy Valentine’s Day to you and your family! I kin ye!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Reply
    February 14, 2022 at 7:14 pm

    “I dinna ken.” always meant, “I don’t know.” So I always took it to mean “knowing”

    Happy Valentine’s Day!!

    • Reply
      Frances Kuykendall
      February 14, 2022 at 9:42 pm

      This is interesting to me. Love the mountains. Very relaxing. We go to the mountains. When we can. Appalachian and Smokey mountains, Blue ridge mountains. Like a breath of fresh air.Relaxing.

  • Reply
    Don Byers
    February 14, 2022 at 5:32 pm

    Both my gradnfathers Byers and Mauney used ‘Much obliged” for “thank you”. I was performing in Scotland mid ’70’s and the term “much obliged” was standard for “thank you”.

  • Reply
    Sharon Cole
    February 14, 2022 at 4:13 pm

    Thank you! I kin you and your family too! Take care and God bless!

  • Reply
    Gary Griffith
    February 14, 2022 at 1:13 pm

    I have heard ” They ar kin to you.” and “They are some of your kinfolks (or maybe kin folks)” I never heard it”kin” used as a verb meaning to love”. That usage sounds Scottish, or maybe form some region of Great Britain, which is where most of our language comes from.Perhaps I am just confusing it with the use of “ken” meaning “to know” which I have often read in British speech.

  • Reply
    Gloria Hayes
    February 14, 2022 at 12:57 pm

    Well, I learned something new again today. I have always used the word kin when referring to family. Knowing it also means love is that much more special so I will say I kin the song Pap and Paul sang. Beautiful. Happy Valentine’s Day!!

  • Reply
    Mary Clutts
    February 14, 2022 at 12:31 pm

    Thank you for this post. So lovely. For me (family from Kentucky) kin was kin folk thus family. But i like this expanded meaning.

  • Reply
    Kenneth Ryan
    February 14, 2022 at 11:48 am

    I can remember many decades ago hearing those who have long since crossed the river use Kin to mean understand or love. After reading “The Education of Little Tree” (probably my favorite book of all times), I remembered the word used in that sense and have started using it that way for probably the last 20 years. It’s a good word, a strong word.

  • Reply
    Marsha Davis.
    February 14, 2022 at 10:40 am

    Thank you, Tipper! I kin you and your family

  • Reply
    February 14, 2022 at 10:38 am

    This is such a great word for Valentine’s Day. My kin are so dear and so close to my heart. Cousin has such a sweet ring to it, and I am blessed to have hundreds. Through genealogy, cemetery cleanups, FB, and reunions kinfolks have become more important to me through the years. There is something that is not often mentioned and that is “kindred spirits.” That can be a group of folks like those who follow and love the BP blog. One of the greatest compliments I can remember was after chatting with an instructor once, after we talked freely about family. Before I left her office, she said, “We are kindred spirits.” We clicked! Great word, great education, and a great post, tipper!

  • Reply
    February 14, 2022 at 9:57 am

    I’ve used the word kin as meaning we were related to a person and I heard it said that way all my life, but I don’t remember it being used as meaning love. Although I always had the feeling of love toward any kin just because they were family. Paul and Pap sang the song beautifully and it is a heart touching song. My husband and I had been married 51 years and one month when he passed. I still miss him but I know I will see him again.

  • Reply
    February 14, 2022 at 9:51 am

    I always thought the word kin meant someone you were related to, at least that’s how I grew up using it. I guess since it means love and understanding , in a way it does sum up family.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    February 14, 2022 at 9:35 am

    Don’t forget the other k word, kith. Kin are relatives even though you might not relate to them. Kith describes people you relate to although they might not be in your bloodline.

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    February 14, 2022 at 8:53 am

    Tipper–I often use a homonym to refer to understanding or knowledge–something like “that’s beyond my ken”–but I’m not familiar with it as a synonym for love.

  • Reply
    Margie G
    February 14, 2022 at 8:30 am

    I believe KIN is a dang good word and needs used far more often in today’s “anti- everything good and decent” society! It really lets people know you’re country and proud of it!!! I like kin used in place of love or understanding. And BTW if your kin don’t love and understand you, who will or can??? I kin you, Miss Tipper!!! You are one in a million, lady bug!!!! Cold and snowing in Bluefield, WV this morning (kind of like a wake up surprise!)

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    February 14, 2022 at 8:10 am

    You got me started this Valentine’s Day morning. From “kin” my mind went to “kindred” then to “kinship”. Kinship of blood, of law and/or of personality, experience and fellow-feeling. And that led me to consider how all believers are kindred with a kinship more enduring than the world itself and even closer than kinship of blood. I have no doubt that you, and many others here, are kin to me and I to you and them in just that way.

    There is another bible word closely related to ‘kin’ (meaning understanding and experience) and that word is ‘fellowship’. Now I have some more mulling over to do.

  • Reply
    Larry Paul Eddings
    February 14, 2022 at 8:05 am

    I’ve only heard and used the word kin to refer to family, but the connection they make between love and understanding is beautiful.

  • Reply
    Cathy Sparks
    February 14, 2022 at 8:03 am

    I’ve never heard it used to mean love. But I use it frequently in reference to meaning family. I have lots of kin in Kentucky and Indiana.

  • Reply
    Martha D Justice
    February 14, 2022 at 7:58 am

    I kin the song Pap and Paul sang , when You and I Were Young Maggie. Touched my ❤

  • Reply
    February 14, 2022 at 7:44 am

    Very interesting…only familiar with ‘kin’ meaning family. Appreciate your research.

    HAPPY VALENTINES DAY to you & your family!

  • Reply
    February 14, 2022 at 7:35 am

    I’ve only heard it used as meaning a family member. Tipper I know everyone who comments on here “kins” you as well 🙂
    JIMK – I can relate to your comment!

  • Reply
    Tammy Howard
    February 14, 2022 at 6:58 am

    Love this!
    “Kin” can also mean “family”, which is the usage I’m most used to.
    Thank you for the post! Perfect for Valentines Day!

  • Reply
    Deb Sea
    February 14, 2022 at 6:54 am

    We have many friends from Robbinsville NC so I will have to ask them about this. Thank you for sharing this with us and thank you for keeping our language alive!! I kin ya!

  • Reply
    GoodGriefLouise ( Bill )
    February 14, 2022 at 6:52 am

    Well, It’s a sweet story and new meaning for me. Especially on Valentine’s Day. Thanks for posting it. We need a lot more “kin” in this old world.

  • Reply
    Jane ODell
    February 14, 2022 at 6:14 am

    I kin ya, Tipper. I so appreciate your work here and. Not only sharing, but keeping these words alive!

  • Reply
    February 14, 2022 at 6:14 am

    Never heard it used as a verb only a noun .
    Alot of my kin don’t have any affection for other family members.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    February 14, 2022 at 5:57 am

    Tipper, I have a vague memory of hearing kin to mean love but mostly I’ve heard it to mean family, as in ” he’s my kin’ but you know our people don’t hesitate to make up a word if we are trying to say something we don’t have the words for, like a child would do.

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