Appalachian Dialect


angry girl standing by fence

touchous adjective
A variant forms techous, tetchious
1 Physically or painfully sensitive.
1990 Cavender Folk Medical Lex 33 = painfully sensitive to movement or touch. “This toe is so touchous I can hardly walk.” 1994 Montgomery Coll. (Cardwell, Ogle).
2 Emotionally sensitive, irritable, easily upset or offended.
1913 Kephart Our Sthn High 294 A choleric or fretful person is tetchious. 1936 LAMSAS (Madison Co NC, Swain Co NC). 1966 Dykeman Far Family 202 We won’t mention anything to the others about Nye Blankenship having been in prison. He might be touchous about it. 1972-73 Pederson et al. LAGS (Cocke Co TN, Jefferson Co TN, Sevier Co TN) 1974 Fink Bits Mt Speech 26 She’s powerful tetchous these days. 1990 Cavender Folk Medical Lex 33 = [having] an irritable disposition. “She gets so touchous when you talk about politics.” 1994 Montgomery Coll. (Cardwell, Ogle). 1998 Hyde My Home 46 If a person was highly fretful, the word to describe that person was “tetchious”, probably from “toucheous,” meaning not wanting to be touched.
[OED touchous adj dialect in Irel, nEngle, Amer; Web3 < touch n chiefly dialect; DARE South Midland]

—Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English


1987 Wilson Coll. You don’t have to be so toucheous and independent. You ought to always listen to someone who’s been down that road before. 2019 Pressley Coll. She’s so toucheous you can barely stand to be in the same room with her. I hope she gets over this or none of us will ever have any peace.



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  • Reply
    November 6, 2019 at 7:02 pm

    This is a new one on me, but the picture sure discribes it well.

  • Reply
    November 6, 2019 at 9:12 am

    This is a good word and a good lesson to learn from.

  • Reply
    Janis Sullivan
    November 5, 2019 at 5:00 pm

    Heard techous since great grandmother days and down. Heard it frequently about some of my great-aunts. Still using it. Thanks for all the memories you give me.

  • Reply
    Jim Kennington
    November 5, 2019 at 3:38 pm

    Surely heard this as a child. Growing up, one of Mom’s cousins was always referred to as tetchious. And she was fractious, to boot. The more saintly relatives would spend time with her at family reunions… but not too long a time.

  • Reply
    November 5, 2019 at 10:20 am

    I never heard of toucheous, but I do use the word touchy. I’ve learned many interesting things about language on your blog, Tipper.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    November 5, 2019 at 9:16 am

    My wife’s family call it “touchless”.

    “You ought to always listen to someone who’s been down that road before.” I love that phrase! Everbody ought to listen to it. Who is the Wilson in “Wilson coll”

    • Reply
      November 11, 2019 at 8:01 am

      Ed-it is Pap 🙂 and he was saying it to me!

  • Reply
    November 5, 2019 at 8:59 am

    It still amazes me how you find more words from my past, and always a good feeling to read or ponder over the good things from back then. I have heard touchous, but cannot even recall where or when. Touchy was used rather often. It seemed to conjure up a picture of a pouty person who had their feelings hurt easily. Also they could be normal in every way, but get touchy if you brought up a touchy subject. Many years ago, I had an Aunt who was gentle and sweet, but she had a real failing when it came to her children. She would get very defensive about her children, and was so “touchy” you could not even disagree with her children.

  • Reply
    aw griff
    November 5, 2019 at 8:57 am

    If this was an Appalachian test I jest made a big fat zero. I’ve never used this word and don’t remember ever hearing it and I am from apple-at-cha. Always just said touchy.
    Gota go gather my hazelnuts today before the squirrels getem. The squirrels have got most of my hardy pecans.

    • Reply
      Ed Ammons
      November 5, 2019 at 5:10 pm

      Squirrel fattened on pecans. Yum! Just wait until the weather is cold enough that they don’t got wolves.

      • Reply
        aw griff
        November 5, 2019 at 10:50 pm

        ED. I grew up calling them wolves but today I mostly hear them called worbles.

      • Reply
        aw griff
        November 5, 2019 at 10:57 pm

        That should read worbels. I’m sticking with wolves. We never ate the one with wolves.

  • Reply
    November 5, 2019 at 8:52 am

    Never heard or used toucheous but have heard and used Touchy. Although that sure sounds like a word by grandparents would have used.

  • Reply
    November 5, 2019 at 8:44 am

    It’s been a long time since I heard anyone say that. Mom used techous or ill to describe a whiny child.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    November 5, 2019 at 8:24 am

    Gee, it has been a lot time since I heard that. But it sure sounds like home. Those kind of folks sure are hard to be around. Have to walk on eggs around them lest you ‘set’em off’.

  • Reply
    Gayle Larson
    November 5, 2019 at 8:21 am

    I have heard and used touchy but never heard toucheous.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    November 5, 2019 at 7:56 am

    Yes, you would have good reason to fully understand this word! LOL!

  • Reply
    Ed Karshner
    November 5, 2019 at 7:45 am

    I’ve said it before…this is one of my favorite words. We always used it to mean irritable or grouchy. “Meanness” was a part of a person’s nature. But, even the best person could be toucheous.

    I do remember a guy who used the word to suggest someone was toucheous by nature. Just generally hard to get along with.

    A great word!

  • Reply
    November 5, 2019 at 7:25 am

    Toucheous, no. Touchy, yes. He’s still pretty touchy about losing that race. Or, Politics can sure be a touchy subject. But I do like the word toucheous and think I’ll use it!

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