Appalachian Dialect



Tipper at one of Pap’s old homeplaces

shackledy, shackley, shackling, shackly adjective Unsteady, shaky, in poor condition, uncertain, of little account; hence noun = an object or situation in such a condition.
1863 (in 1938 Taliaferro Carolina Humor 74) I tried keepin’ Bible laws a spell while I was in Passen Beller’s church, and made a ding shacklin out of it, certin. 1913 Kephart Our Sthn High 29 Here is a land of lumber wagons, and saddle-bags, and shackly little sleds that are dragged over the bare ground by harnessed steers. 1933 Chapman Glen Hazard 298 shackling = no a-account, loose-jointed, poor. 1938 Justus No-End Hollow 113 The whole thing was getting shackly. 1939 Hall Coll. Gatlinburg TN They never did get any more trace [of the person who did it]. Their proof was so shackledy. ibid. White Oak NC Anything loose or tore up is shackly. (Fay Leatherwood) 1982 Powers and Hannah Cataloochee [The gun’s] all shackley, must be a punkin’ ball loose in your gun or your gun part’s loose. 1989 Landry Smoky Mt Interviews 181 The mailbox was awful shackledy, you know. 1994-95 Montogomery Coll. shackledy The weather is shackledy, it’s going to be a shackledy day (Cardwell); shackling (Adams, Bush, Jones, Ledford, Norris, Weaver); That chair is too shackling to sit in (Cardwell).”
[shackle noun + -y; OED shackly adj U.S. and dialect; Web3 shackly “rickety, ramshackle; loose-jointed and shambling” prob from English dialect shackle “to shake, rattle” chiefly dialect]

Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English


Even though the house in the photo was shackledy, in my mind’s eye I could see it as it used to be when Pap was a boy.


Subscribe for FREE and get a daily dose of Appalachia in your inbox

You Might Also Like


  • Reply
    Mary Lou McKillip
    March 24, 2019 at 9:05 am

    Tipper the old homeplace standing still to mark noteriety of precious old days and ways gone but not forgotten . It is sad like the old house is miserable within itself nothing but shambles but recalls such love that once that surrounded it long long ago.

  • Reply
    March 19, 2019 at 5:32 pm

    Hi Tipper,I’m almost 79 , took me a fall a few weeks back and I feel like your talking about this OLD body!!!Happy Birthday to your Mom.God Bless.Belva Jean

  • Reply
    March 19, 2019 at 11:14 am

    I’ve never heard the word. I’ve always used ramshackle. Old, abandoned houses look sad to me. I don’t like seeing old houses falling down, because it makes me wonder what happened to the family.

  • Reply
    March 19, 2019 at 10:18 am

    Don’t think I ever heard the word “shackley” but like everyone I am sure have heard shack. Old home places and old dilapidated churches would be closer to the “rickety, ramshackle” words I remember used to describe an old “shackley” home place. My daddy’s old home place kind of looks like your picture, but in my mind’s eye I can see it over-flowing with love, laughter and great stories as I go from room to room and see my grandparents there.

  • Reply
    March 19, 2019 at 9:32 am

    Tipper have you ever ever read the Piney Hills trilogy? It’s set in Great Depression Kentucky, & it’s the main reason I’ve done as well as I have on your Vocab tests. If you’d like to read them, let me know or else they’ll hang out on my shelf w/out being touched for another 5 or so years.

  • Reply
    March 19, 2019 at 9:21 am

    In common use when I was growing up. It was usually stated as “ramshackled”.

  • Reply
    March 19, 2019 at 9:10 am

    It seems as though we either use an excess of words or few words. I seem to recall this as requiring a three word description of “looks kinda shackledy.”

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    March 19, 2019 at 8:22 am

    Now shackledy is a perfectly good word the that perfectly describes those old and no longer occupied houses back in the mountains. There was a couple of those up on the mountain from my grandmother’s in Henson Cove. I used to go up there and let my imagination loose to roam the house and all the outbuildings. There was an outhouse, a well house, a smoke house, and a can house. There was also a clearly defined garden space.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    March 19, 2019 at 8:14 am

    Had not heard that word in a great long while but it is familiar. I wonder if that is where the word “shack” comes from. Anyway, shackeldy describes some of the hideouts us boys made. One in particular we made with burnt nails. That was an experience.

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    March 19, 2019 at 6:28 am

    I l9ve this word, it leaves no doubt at all what is meant when you hear it!

  • Reply
    March 19, 2019 at 5:30 am

    Have you ever climbed a shackley ole ladder, it’s worse than trying to ride a Shetland pony bareback, it’ll have you laying on your back before you know it.

  • Leave a Reply