How to Properly Pronounce Appalachia


A P P A L A C H I A. Ten letters with quite a bit of controversy. How do we correctly pronounce the word? For many years, people have been pronouncing the word in two completely different ways: Appa-latch-uh and Appa-lay-shuh.


It is commonly stated that those who are from Appalachia pronounce it Appa-latch-uh. People who were born and raised in the area often believe that is the correct way to say the word. If you pronounce it any other way, you will likely be corrected.

Image by Ish ishwar, CC-by-2.0

Background of Appalachia and Appalachian

Have you ever stopped to think about where the words Appalachia and Appalachian came from in the first place?

Much like the debate over pronunciation, there is speculation over the true origin of the words themselves. Back in the 1500s, the Apalachee Indians were indigenous to the panhandle of Florida.

Image by Himasaram, via Wikimedia Commons

According to Spanish settlers, the Apalachee spoke what is now an extinct language, Muskogean. Many in the Southeast used this language.

The word Appalachian dates back to the 1500s as well when the Narvaez Expedition took place. This was a period when the Spanish explored and colonized in Florida and came across Tocobaga, the chiefdom who claimed further north there was a country called Apalache.

Thus, the word Appalachia was derived, referring to both the tribe and region.

Words from an Appalachia Novelist

Image by Ocgiii at English Wikipedia

Sharyn McCrumb, a Southern author from North Carolina who writes about Appalachia believes those who pronounce it in her eyes as the correct way, Appa-latch-uh, are to be trusted, whereas those who use Appa-lay-shuh are not.

According to McCrumb, “Appa-lay-shuh is the pronunciation of condescension, the pronunciation of the imperialists, the people who do not want to be associated with the place, and the pronunciation Appa-latch-uh means that you are on the side that we trust.”

Having a lot of experience with Appalachia life, McCrumb’s books are written from her point of view about living in the middle of Appalachia culture. Her opinion on the pronunciation of Appalachia is widely recognized.

A Line Drawn

Though some believe it is just a matter of whether or not you are from Appalachia on how the word should be properly pronounced, others believe it is a matter of what part of Appalachia you grew up.

It has also been considered that people from the northern part of Appalachia are more likely to pronounce it Appa-lay-shuh, while people from the south are more likely to pronounce it Appa-latch-uh. McCrumb fits this stereotype, as she is from Southern Appalachia and strongly agrees that the correct pronunciation is Appa-latch-uh.

Which was First?

Appa-latch-uh ihas given credit as the first way the word was pronounced. Though Appa-lay-shuh was also used, it did not officially show up in any dictionaries as a way to pronounce the word until much later.

Though there seems to continually be a cloud of confusion sitting over the pronunciation of the word Appalachia, I think we can all agree on one thing. Whether it is pronounced Appa-latch-uh or Appa-lay-shuh, the region is breathtakingly beautiful.

Try taking a trip to Appalachia yourself and create some memories. Maybe even ask some locals along the way how they pronounce it and the reasoning, then you can form your own opinion on what is right. Perhaps that is the best way to learn after all: through personal experience and storytelling.

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