The Pennsylvania Dutch maintained numerous religious affiliations, with the greatest number being Lutheran or German Reformed, but also with many Anabaptists, including Mennonites, Amish, and Hutterite. The Anabaptist religions promoted a simple lifestyle, and their adherents were known as Plain people or Plain Dutch. This was in contrast to the Fancy Dutch, who tended to assimilate more easily into the American mainstream. Other religions were also represented by the late 1700s, in smaller numbers.
Pennsylvania German (Deitsch, Pennsylvania Deitsch, Pennsilfaanisch Deitsch, listen (help·info); usually called Pennsylvania Dutch) is a variety of West Central German spoken by the Amish, Old Order Mennonites, and other descendants of German immigrants in the United States and Canada, closely related to the Palatine dialects.
During the Middle Ages the use of "Dutch" in English referred to West Germanic speakers of continental Europe in general. From c. 1600 onward it was mainly restricted to the inhabitants of the Low Countries.
After the Second World War, use of Pennsylvania German virtually died out in favor of English, except among the more insular and tradition-bound Anabaptists, such as the Old Order Amish and Old Order Mennonites. A number of German cultural practices continue to this day, and German Americans remain the largest ancestry group claimed in Pennsylvania by people in the census.
The Pennsylvania Dutch live primarily in Southeastern and in Pennsylvania Dutch Country, a large area that includes South Central Pennsylvania, in the area stretching in an arc from Bethlehem and Allentown through Reading, Lebanon, and Lancaster to York and Chambersburg. Some Pennsylvania Dutch live in the historically Pennsylvania Dutch-speaking areas of Maryland, North Carolina, and Virginia.