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Douglas Harper's Etymology Dictionary

"of or pertaining to blacks on the sea-islands of Georgia and South Carolina," 1739 (first attested as a male slave's proper name), of uncertain origin. Early 19c. folk etymology made it a shortening of Angola (homeland of many slaves) or traced it to a W. African tribal group called the Golas.


The Gullah are the descendants of enslaved Africans who lived in the Lowcountry regions of Georgia and South Carolina, which includes both the coastal plain and the Sea Islands.

Historically, the Gullah region extended from the Cape Fear area on North Carolina's coast south to the vicinity of Jacksonville on Florida's coast, but today the Gullah area is confined to the Georgia and South Carolina Lowcountry. The Gullah people and their language are also called Geechee, which may be derived from the name of the Ogeechee River near Savannah, Georgia. "Gullah" is a term that was originally used to designate the variety of English spoken by Gullah and Geechee people, but over time it has been used by its speakers to formally refer to their creole language and distinctive ethnic identity as a people. The Georgia communities are distinguished by identifying as either "Freshwater Geechee" or "Saltwater Geechee", depending on their proximity to the coast.

Because of a period of relative isolation in rural areas, the Gullah developed a culture that has preserved much of the African linguistic and cultural heritage from various peoples, as well as absorbed new influences from the region. The Gullah people speak an English-based creole language containing many African loanwords and influenced by African languages in grammar and sentence structure. Properly referred to as "Sea Island Creole", the Gullah language is related to Bahamian Dialect, Barbadian Dialect, Belizean Creole, Jamaican Patois, Trinidadian Creole, and the Krio language of Sierra Leone, in West Africa. Gullah crafts, farming and fishing traditions, folk beliefs, music, rice-based cuisine, and story-telling traditions all exhibit strong influences from Central and West African cultures.

Usage examples of "gullah".

By the time Gullah Joe stopped singing and dancing, Denmark was lying on the ground whimpering, and there was blood leaking out of him instead of Piss.

But when Denmark rented the warehouse and brought Gullah Joe and the woman both to live there, Gullah Joe asked her what her name was.

Denmark Vesey was scowling at Gullah Joe today, as the old witchy man carried the basket of name-strings through the knotwork that guarded the place.

Unless it was Gullah Joe, the bird man who flew out to the slaveships.

Whoever this was had to be so powerful that Gullah Joe hardly knew what charms to try.

Abruptly, Margaret turned around, walked over to Gullah Joe, and dragged him to his feet.

In the instant, the bird disappeared and Gullah Joe lay there where it had been.

What Gullah Joe imagined, she had seen down ten thousand paths into the future.

Alvin, Margaret, and Arthur walked back to where Fishy, Gullah Joe, and Denmark and his wife waited for them.

The African Gullah Negro, from whom these are descended, believed in a God, you know, but he only created, then turned his people adrift to be preyed upon by malign spirits conjured up by their enemies.

Thunder rumbled through the black Mountain of the Dead and the altarhut of Gullah was thrown down by a wind from the Gulf of Ghosts.

Old One talk was incorporated into a working language, a gullah, used by the humans and Old Ones to communicate.

Next they obtained books on plantation farming, Gullah culture and early Indian inhabitants, and they combed through them, looking for something, anything, that might trigger a recollection from Skyler.

Thunder rumbled through the black Mountain of the Dead and the altar-hut of Gullah was thrown down by a wind from the Gulf of Ghosts.

Spots so isolated that until recent years the natives seldom got as far as even nearby Charleston, and even today speak a local dialect composed of English and Gullah, which is hardly understandable to a Yankee.