Coolest Dutch Words You Should Know
Every language is unique and has its own set of words that really set it apart from the others. The Dutch language is full of words that’ll help you get a better understanding into the Dutch culture and mind-set. So we’re going to give you a quick run-down on the top nine cool Dutch words we think that you ought to know.
The institution of the borrel is one of our favorite linchpins of Dutch society. Borrels are informal gatherings at pubs or bars, that often include snacks like bitterballen and definitely include some kind of drink. Often companies or employers will organize borrels as a way to foster bonding and team-building. These can also just be a social gathering as well. If you spend any time in the Netherlands, then you’ll almost certainly be invited to one.
The term ogenblik is actually quite a straight-forward word that literally translates to ‘eye-blink’ and refers to any short amount of time. Dutch does have the word second (seconde) and moment (moment/momentje), but you’re much more likely to hear ogenblik. Dutch speakers frequently use the word to mean anything between a ‘jiffy’ a ‘second’ and an ‘instant.’ It’s so prevalent, the ATMs even use it when you wait for your cash.
English doesn’t really have an equivalent of the word uitbuiken, but it describes a universal act that transcends both language and culture. To uitbuiken is what you do after a good meal when you simply sit back and let your belly out. In fact, the word literally means ‘out-bellying.’ Try it out the next time you have too much bitterballen at the borrel.
Learning another language also means learning another way of expressing certain ideas and this is where the word trekker comes into play. You see, in Dutch, you don’t always lead a project or task. Instead you actually pull (trekken) it and the person who does the pulling is called the trekker.
The term trekker doesn’t have to just apply to those who pull projects, but it can also be used for social gatherings. The person in a social group who organizes a night out, makes the reservations and tells everyone what time to meet up can also be referred to as the trekker.
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If you’re just learning Dutch, one of the first things you learn is that the language has no expressions for liking something. In Dutch, you can’t simply say that you like or dislike anything. Instead you have to specify exactly how you ‘find it’ in order to express your opinion and the Dutch are a very opinionated people. As such, you can use the verb vinden with almost any adjective to make your thoughts about something known.
Ik vind het leuk – ‘I find it great’
Ik vind het lekker – ‘I find it tasty’
Ik vind het gezellig – ‘I find it cozy’
Ik vind het verschrikkelijk – ‘I find it terrible’
Hoor is a tiny little word in Dutch that doesn’t actually have any meaning on its own. It comes at the end of a sentence to give it a bit more flavor. Sometimes, it can be used to soften a sentence or make it sound nicer.
Sorry hoor – ‘sorry there’
Nee hoor, bedankt – ‘no, thanks’
Watch out though, hoor is not always meant as something polite. You can also tack it on to the end of a sentence or phrase to give it a sense of sarcasm.
De koud is niet slecht, hoor – ‘the cold isn’t bad, really’
The Dutch are famous for a lot of things like windmills, tulips and loving the color orange, but if you ought to know anything about Dutch culture, it’s the bicycle. The bicycle (de fiets) is essential to Dutch living as a huge percent of the population bikes (fietsen) to get anywhere. Likewise, since fietsen are so integral to life in the Netherlands, there are loads of compound words for describing different parts of bikes and their role in society.
Fiets(en) – ‘bike(s)’
Fietsen – ‘to bike’
Fiestas – ‘bike bag’
Bakfiets – ‘cargo bicycle’
Fietshelm – ‘bike helmet’
Bromfiets – ‘moped’
If you’ve spent any time in Dutch society, especially at a party, then you’ve heard this word many, many times. Dutch culture has a particular fixation on the idea of making things gezellig and maintain gezelligheid. The word gezellig has no direct translation in English, but is used regularly to describe anything that evokes feelings of coziness, enjoyment or good vibes. Often it’s used to indicate a sense of belonging, time spent with family, catching up with an old friend or just a general feeling of togetherness. If it makes your heart feel warm, then you can probably call it gezellig.
Alongside gezellig, the word lekker is the most used example of an untranslatable Dutch words. At first glance, you can use lekker as you would ‘tasty’ or ‘delicious’ and it is used for good food. However, the word can also have a lot of additional meanings, as you can use lekker to describe not only food, but also weather, a situation, and potential romantic interests.
Ga lekker zitten – ‘make yourself comfortable’
Lekker weer – ‘great weather’
Lekker ding – ‘attractive person’ (literally ‘tasty thing’)
Lekker brood – ‘tasty bread’
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Immersing yourself in Dutch doesn’t require you to travel abroad or sign up for an expensive language program.
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John Melnyk is a freelance writer and translator from Florida, USA. He has a masters degree in Linguistics and Communication and is currently working on his first novel.