Sep 15, 2019

What do Amish, Mennonite, rumspringa mean? A guide to terms used in Lancaster County's Plain community

What do Amish, Mennonite, rumspringa mean? A guide to terms used in Lancaster County's Plain community
Lancaster Online
September 13, 2019

When discussing the Amish, it's easy to get confused by some of the terms used.

(And it's especially confusing when television shows like "Amish Mafia" and "Breaking Amish" become the baseline in pop culture.)

The Amish use several terms that come from Pennsylvania Dutch and haven't quite made it to mainstream media.

To better understand our Amish neighbors, LNP worked to collect and define words that might be unfamiliar to those outside the Amish community.

Here are some frequently-used Amish-related words and their definitions:

Plain Sect Community

Characterized by living separately from the world, these Christian groups include the Amish and various Mennonite and Brethren groups. Most are of the Anabaptist movement, which traces its roots to the Protestant Reformation.

The Amish make up a group of traditionalist Christians that originated from Swiss German Anabaptism. The Amish are best known for their plain dress and aversion to technology. While all Amish people share common beliefs, practices vary from congregation to congregation. Within Lancaster County, there are 229 Amish districts — each with different rules and regulations. 


While often mistaken for the Amish, more conservative sects of the Mennonite faith differ quite a bit from the Amish. Most use electricity and drive cars and tractors. However, other sects of the Mennonite faith have assimilated into mainstream culture.

If you're not a part of the Plain Sect community, you're what the Amish call English.


While the Amish Mafia does not exist, Amish gangs do. LNP sat down with Charles Jantzi, psychology professor at Messiah College and researcher of Amish youth, who explains what an Amish gang is and how it impacts Amish teens. A gang is like a youth group. 


In popular culture, rumspringa has been represented as an opportunity for Amish youth to go wild. This isn't exactly correct. Rumspringa is a period during which an Amish teen has more freedom. Around the age of 16, Amish teens join gangs, which greatly determine how rebellious their rumspringa experience will be. Fancy gangs might allow more of an "English" experience, while plain gangs will be more conservative. Most Amish teens stick to the boundaries of their gangs during rumspringa. 

Mud Sale

Typically hosted by fire companies and nonprofits, these fundraisers often feature Amish-made goods such as quilts and food. Many Amish also attend these events.

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