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What Do the Amish Call Outsiders?

The Amish are one of the most popular and mysterious subcultures in the United States. Known for their insistence on living modest, humble, and faithful lives, the details of their day-to-day lives and even their speech are relatively unknown outside of Amish circles. 

But the Amish are aware that they are not like everyone else. In fact, they fully understand that the majority of people in the world are not Amish. 

This makes a lot of people wonder: What do the Amish call outsiders?

In this blog, we'll talk about the two most common answers to this question, along with some history behind why they may be used. 

1. "English"


Most of the time, you'll probably hear the Amish refer to non-Amish people as "English."

There are a number of historical reasons why this may be the case. 

First, the Amish historically hail from the Alsace-Lorraine region of France. This region is important because it's essentially a series of valleys among mountainous, challenging terrain that's very hard for armies to cross. 

The Amish fled to Alsace-Lorraine shortly after their founding, a period called the Great Schism where Jakob Ammann and several other Swiss Brethren excommunicated one another from their church. 

The Swiss Brethren kept their name, and those who followed Ammann were called "Amish."

Eventually, King Louis XIV exiled the Amish from Alsace-Lorraine, and they wound up in the New World. 

However, the Swiss-German roots of the Amish faith have remained incredibly strong, despite the generations and miles separating the original Amish from today's. 

This heritage was most noticeable when the Amish arrived in the Americas prior to the founding of the United States -- back when they were British colonies. 

So when the Amish arrived, the most common non-Amish person they saw was most likely English. 

The Amish themselves are today scattered across several US states and even into Canada. However, the terminology of calling non-Amish people "English" still persists to this day, even in the most isolated and rural Amish communities. 

Even if you're not English -- and even if you don't speak English -- you're still considered "English" to the Amish simply because you're not a baptized member of an Amish community. 

Still, "English" isn't the only term that's used to describe non-Amish. There's another one that takes no a more modern connotation. 

2. "Worldly"


If an Amish person doesn't call you "English," they'll most likely call you "worldly."

The term "worldly" generally means that someone has a sophisticated and experienced viewpoint, sometimes with the ability to understand multiple languages, cultures, and worldviews that shape groups of people across the world. 

Becoming "worldly" in the traditional sense means engaging in travel, speaking with strangers, and making a concerted effort to truly understand someone who is entirely different from yourself. 

To the Amish, this is what the non-Amish are -- and it's what they do. Non-Amish people are, indeed, "worldly" purely because they are a part of the world and not the Amish. 

This division is important to understand as well. The Amish are a subset of Anabaptists, a Christian denomination that exists in parallel with Catholics and Protestants. 

The key difference in Anabaptists is that they choose to be baptized when they're adults -- they never baptize children. 

This belief gave rise to a creed that all Anabaptists -- including the Amish -- continue to follow to this day. They believe that they are called to be "in the world, but not of the world."

So if they believe themselves to be "in the world, but not of the world," then everyone else that isn't Amish is "worldly."

It's a bit of a strange track of logic if this is your first time learning about Amish beliefs. But if you've heard a little about their worldview and isolationist tendencies, it's a little easier to see the leap of how they got from an Anabaptist motto to a term for non-Amish people. 

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