Learn Dutch via email
Learn Dutch via email

Access the new, most popular and most interesting resources to learn Dutch

Combined Shape CopyCreated with Sketch.

Boost your progress with a weekly compilation of video lessons, podcast episodes, dutch grammar, stories, exercise pdfs and much more.

Always free, cancel anytime
Combined Shape CopyCreated with Sketch.

8 words that teach us something about the Dutch

All languages ​​have words for light and dark. That will not surprise you, because light and dark play an important role in every country and culture. We have day and night all over the world. It will also not surprise you that they have more words for rain in Dutch than in Italian. After all, it rains more here. And in Mexican they have many words for different conversations, because communication and mutual relationships are very important there.

Let's look at a few typical Dutch words that are difficult to translate.

1. Het gezin

They call it a family in English and familia in Spanish. But Dutch has two words: familie and gezin.

The definition of familie: group of blood relatives, such as your parents, brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, cousins

The definition of gezin: parents and their children.

Yes, you read that right. Grandfathers, grandmothers, uncles and aunts do not belong to this last club. And everything in the Netherlands revolves around this word, from gezinshuis to gezinsauto. The strength of the bond with the rest of the family varies from person to person. But you can say that Dutch people generally do not visit each other every day and children leave the house fairly young.

2. Neven & nichten

If you learn Dutch, you will soon learn the words for the different family members. The family tree consists of opa (grandfather), oma (grandmother), vader (father), moeder (mother), oom (uncle), tante (aunt), broer (brother) and zus (sister). The children of your uncle and aunt are your neven en nichten. But ... the children of your brother and sister too!

The definition of neef: 1) the son of an uncle / aunt 2) the son of a brother / sister The definition of nicht: 1) the daughter of an uncle / aunt 2) the daughter of a brother / sister

What this says about the Dutch? That cannot be said with certainty, but again it seems that the distant family ties are less important than het gezin.

3. Afspreken

Let's take a look at the following conversation.

  • > Wat heb je dit weekend gedaan?

  • - Oh, niets bijzonders. Ik heb met vrienden afgesproken en ik ben naar de verjaardag van mijn oma geweest.

  • > Leuk! Zullen we volgende week donderdag naar de bioscoop gaan?

  • - Goed idee, ik kan die avond vanaf 19:30.

  • > Prima, dan kan ik ook. Afgesproken!

The word afspreken would be translated literally as to agree, but in Dutch, afspreken is a broad and widely used term. And whether it's a doctor's appointment or a beer with friends: the Dutch take their appointments very seriously. Do you want to meet up with a Dutch person? Buy an agenda and plan ahead! Because Dutch people want to know what their week will look like.

4. Alles op een rijtje zetten

In Dutch you can basically "alles op een rijtje zetten", which means that you make things clear and order them. This makes sense when it comes to things like facts or your monthly financial charges. But the funny thing is that you can also list the most emotional issues, such as your feelings or your doubts. That way you can make informed decisions!

5. Bespreekbaar

In the Netherlands everything must be bespreekbaar. This means that you must be able to speak about everything. Do you have a problem at work? Make it bespreekbaar in the next meeting. Are you uncertain in a situation? Share it with the people around you! Are you annoyed by a friend's trait? Tell him. If people don't like it or feel uncomfortable, then that's it. Discussability is at the top of the priority list, so share those thoughts!

6. Polderen

There is a lot of talking in Dutch politics. A lot. And conflicts between different parties (think of trade unions, employers and the government) are resolved with comprehension and intensive consultation. Dutch even has a verb for this form of politics: polderen. This word has a second meaning: the construction and management of polders.

7. Voorpret

Are you going on holiday soon and are you already looking forward to it? Are you counting the days full of excitement until you get in the car or plane? Do you already dream of all the things that you will do during your wonderful holiday? Congratulations, then you have voorpret!

The cheerful feeling that you get before a fun activity takes place is called voorpret. We all know this feeling from our childhood. If it was your birthday in August, then you already had fun in July! Perhaps that's why Sinterklaas is coming to the Netherlands in November: to increase the anticipation before December 5. Because everyone knows that voorpret is the best pret.

8. Get the pleuris!

In many countries, such as England and Germany, there is name calling with genitals or feces. In many Mediterranean countries with family members. However, Dutch people swear with illnesses. This way someone can just wish you the typhus or pleuritis in traffic. Pretty? No, and many Dutch people are not proud of it themselves or choose to not use certain words. But it is interesting.

Commonly used diseases that are used are typhoid fever or tering, pleuritis (pleuris) and cholera (kolere or klere). The verb pesten (bullying) and the noun pestkop (bully) are derived from de pest (the plague).

It is not entirely clear where the name calling with diseases comes from. Perhaps it has something to do with Dutch directness, which in this case goes a bit far. What is certain is that new variations are being invented all the time.