Amish Naming Practices

Because the Amish don’t have much variety in either first or last names, it is rare to have a unique first and last name in a given community. Even though Saloma was not as common as Katie or Sarah in my home community, I was not the only Saloma Miller. In fact, there was another girl in my Amish school with my name. To differentiate between us, our father’s names were used before our own: I was called “Sim’s Lomie” (“Simon’s Saloma”) and the other Saloma was “John’s Lomie.” The apostrophe is used for those who are not yet married. Once she is married, she now takes her husband’s name before her own, but the apostrophe is dropped, as if the husband’s name becomes a prefix, rather than her belonging to him. If I were to go by the Amish naming practices, I would be “David Saloma.”

The men with common names will take their father’s name before their own. However, there are times when one has to go back several generations. For instance, there were more than one Joe’s Joes, one of them being my Uncle Joe. So he was called Mosa (Moses’s) Joe’s Joe. There are times when it is too cumbersome to go back that many generations, in which case the husband’s wife’s name is used as a prefix. There was a man in my community known as “Ada Joe” and his wife was known as “Joe Ada.”

There is another way that Amish naming practices differ from the mainstream culture. It is common to use the first name of the father in the family and add an “s” to his name to indicate the whole family. Someone in the mainstream culture would likely say if they were visiting us that they are visiting “The Furlong Family” while the Amish would say they are visiting “Davids.” If David’s name were common in the community, they might say they are visiting “Saloma Davids.”

Now that I’ve been out of the community for more than forty years, I see how strange all this sounds to those in the mainstream
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