Chicken Dan, and Other Amish Nicknames


Amish Man in Field

Photo by Julie Lea Waldron

Chicken Dan

Squirrel Junior

Beaver Amos

Zorbit Lee

and Sam Bip

are all names of Amish men my family knows. Then there’s Peanut, Git’s Omar, Push Johnny, Porky, Piddley, Spider, and Pumpkin.

My great uncle John Esh on the left, and his oldest brother, my Grandpa Jonas Esh on the right

My great uncle John Esh on the left, and his oldest brother, my Grandpa Jonas Esh on the right | Photo from Rose Myers

My Great-Grandmother Stoltzfus’s family was known as “The Sandy’s”, My mother believes the name came from the color of her father’s hair. And my mother’s Uncle “Johnny Esh” got the nickname Johnny Cash (yes, after the singer).

Amish Men Chatting

Photo by Julie Lea Waldron

I’ve always been fascinated by the nicknames used in Amish circles. Because there are so many people with the same first names (such as John, Daniel, Jacob and David) and last names (such as Stoltzfus, Beiler, Glick and Zook) throughout Amish Communities, they’ve come up with some clever ways of telling them apart.

Amishman on Scooter

Photo by Julie Lea Waldron

Of course there’s the obvious first-name nickname. Take for example my brothers Jonas and Isaac who are named after our grandfathers Jonas Esh and Isaac Dienner, and could be called Joney & Ike.

Amish Father

Photo by Julie Lea Waldron

And then there’s the identification of someone through their family. Because our father’s name is Jacob my brothers would be “Jake’s Jonas” and “Jake’s Isaac”.  Or for example; Abraham Stoltzfus’s son David would be “Abe Stolzfus’s Davy”.

Amish Boys

Photo by Julie Lea Waldron

But then there’s my favorite – the random nicknames such as the list I shared above.

Amishmen in buggy

Photo by Julie Lea Waldrom

“Chicken Dan” was obviously a chicken farmer. I’m not sure how the other names on the list came about. My sister told me about a family she & her husband know. Their oldest son is short and people called him “PeeWee Dan”. He had four younger brothers who were not short, but the name PeeWee stuck. They were called PeeWee Dave, PeeWee Lloyd, PeeWee Steve, and PeeWee Allan.

Chicken Dinner

Photo by Julie Lea Waldron

Although these names are usually given to men, there are occasional nicknames for women too, such as “Loopy Linda”.

In closing, I’d like to share a bit from the great article posted on this topic:

The most unusual nicknames often have the most fascinating stories. Here are a few, provided by a local Amishman…

“Buck Dave” and his sons got this name from the farm they bought, which had a forge formerly owned by someone named Buckley.

“Piggy Amos” got his name from his school days, when he pretended to be a pig during a recess game.

“Double Decker Ben” received his name because of the unique barn he owned.

The “Push Esh” family got its name when they rescued a horse that had gotten stuck in a snowbank.

A boy named Sam owned a car many years ago, when it was almost never tolerated for the young people. He and his friends tried to keep it a secret, and referred to the car as “the Chamba.” In time, he got the nickname of “Chamba Sam.”

Amish Men Relaxing

Photo by Julie Lea Waldron

I’m not sure there’s any particularly valuable lesson I learned from my Amish family when it comes to these names. But it makes me smile, and I feel it’s an important part of the Amish community and culture. Thanks for reading. I hope it made you smile too!

~ Justina Dee

Many thanks to Lancaster County street photographer Julie Lea Waldron for the great photos! If you enjoyed this post, I’m sure you’ll love reading “The Mennonite Game”

Click here to read more posts from the series “31 Lessons from My Amish Family”


Amish News article about Amish Nicknames

Amish America on Common Amish Names

GAMEO’s article on Mennonite Nicknames


John Schmid’s Amish Nicknames:

3 thoughts on “Chicken Dan, and Other Amish Nicknames

  1. Justina, I am so fascinated by your monthly posting on the beautiful Amish people! I love your honor of them as a people, and of their culture, and how you are bringing out the richness of who they are. Even though I’m thankful not to be Amish, 🙂 I am so grateful for this rich heritage! xoxo

  2. Clarita, thank you so much for following along! It’s been a special writing journey. I feel exactly as you do – blessed for the heritage we’ve been given, but happy to drive cars and have electricity for sure! 🙂 Hugs!

  3. Oh! This is wonderful! I’m soaking up every word since discovering your site an hour ago…and still reading. Could the “Chicken Dan” you reference have lived in the Churchtown/Morgantown area? Last summer I drove my sweet 80 year old Old Order neighbor from Spring Garden to that area to visit her sister. She mentioned that she grew up on a nearby farm. So off we went. (It’s such a special time to be in her company!) As we headed east and approached the property she said that her father was known as…yes, “Chicken Dan”. My sweet, aged friend shared her childhood memories that sunny day as we parked along the road and gazed up at that white house on a hill and then around the corner where the chicken house(s) had been. So, all this (and thank you for listening) to ask, to ponder…could Susie’s father be THE “Chicken Dan”?

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