Dutch words in English: 10 English words of Dutch origin

Dutch words in English: 10 English words of Dutch origin

Earlier I posted that a lot of English words were initially Dutch words and this makes it a bit easier to learn Dutch from English. In this post I will tell you how these Dutch words ended up in the English language and I will show you which my 10 favorite words are. First we have to back in time to the 17th century.

The Dutch Golden Age

When we talk about the Dutch Golden Age we are referring to the 17th century in the Netherlands. It was a period in Dutch history in which Dutch trade, science and art were among the most acclaimed in the world. Most of the Dutch words that are now used in English found their way into the language then.

Today you can find more than 1500 words in an English dictionary that come from Dutch. Let’s begin with two very important things, food and drinks.

Food and drinks

If for breakfast you eat a pancake and a buckwheat waffle with butter, you are having a completely Dutch dish. Buckwheat comes from boekweit, a waffle is in Dutch a wafel and you can find butter as boter in a Dutch supermarket. Then you might decide to have a scone and a cookie, also two Dutch words. A scone is shortened from the Dutch schoon brood “fine bread,” and cookie comes from koekje “little cake”.

Later when you go to a bar, you order a beer (bier), brandy (brandewijn) and gin (jenever). If you drink enough of this booze (busen = “drinking”) you will be a drunkard (dronkaard,person who is habitually or frequently drunk)

Dutch places worldwide

Dutch words not only entered the dictionaries, you can also find them in the names of places. For example, New York is filled with Dutch streets and boroughs. Harlem (Haarlem), Flushing (Vlissingen), and Brooklyn (Breukelen), and also Wall Street (wal = “rampart”) and Coney Island (konijnen = “rabbit”) are examples.

And it is not only in North-East America that you find these Dutch names. If you go to the west coast and visit Vancouver you have gone to a town once called Van Coevorden and on the coasts of Australia you will find a lot of Dutch sounding islands and places, like Tasmania (Abel Tasman) and Van Diemen’s Land.

Sailing and the sea

English words of Dutch origin can reveal what was important in the 17th century, and of course a lot of things had to do with the sea. So you see that cruise was kruisen which means “to cross” in Dutch. And other words like corvette (corf = “small ship”), a sloop (sloep), a smack (smak – the sound it made on the sea), and a yacht (jacht).

My list of 10 favorite words English words from Dutch origin 

1. Boss

The Dutch form baas was recorded in English from 1620s as the standard title of a Dutch ship’s captain.

2. Yankee

Yankee, from Jan Kees a person’s name, originally used mockingly to describe revolutionary citizens. Nowadays it commonly refers to Americans from the United States.

3. Mannequin

A mannequin, a model to display clothes comes from the Dutch manneken “little man”.

4. Bazooka

How did such an innocent Dutch word (bazuin = “trumpet”) became a weapon known as a rocket launcher? The Americans probably took this word for the similar sound it made. 

5. Santa Claus

Sinterklaas is a Dutch and Flemish feast celebrated on the 5th and 6 December respectively. He came to the Netherlands and then moved to America. If you want to know more about this, check out the video I made.

6. Bluff

This poker term, probably derives from Dutch bluffen, which means “to brag, boast,” or verbluffen “to baffle, mislead.” 

7. Snoop

To snoop is from Dutch snoepen “to pry,” also “eat in secret, eat sweets, sneak,” 

8. Rucksack

Rucksack, also known as backpack, comes from the word rugzak, literally “back bag,” 

9. Frolic

Frolic, as in to have fun; the English language took the word from the frequently used word vrolijk, which means “happy” or “cheerful”. 

10. Iceberg

An iceberg is a direct translation of the Dutch ijsberg, literally “ice mountain,” from ijs: “ice” and berg: “mountain”.

Bart de Pau
online Dutch teacher & founder of the Dutch Summer School & Dutch Winter School

14 replies
  1. Rudina Maloku says:

    Hi, Bart de Pau. In Albanian language I found some word similar to Dutch.
    Vogel = bird. Al. Vogel=little
    lejlijk = ugly lejlejk= wader
    boer = farmer bur= man
    stoel is the same meaning but is write stol

  2. Adriaan Otte says:

    ; A ship,s captain in the 17century was not called “baas” but “schipper”(skipper) Catherine mixes up Germanic and Dutch. Dutch is a germanic language as is German..
    The Anglo Boer wars have nothing to do with the words “kopje(hilltop) veld(field or terrain)or kommando(a boer army unit). These words already existed a long time before these wars broke out. Boer is the Dutch word for farmer.
    A “lingua franca was spoken by seamen and traders along the Baltic,Swedish, Danish and British coasts .Many of these words can be found back in the dialects of the Frisian islands.Words .like Born,bearn(child) Hoss(horse) roop (rope)
    In short Western germanic languages are all related. and of course influenced by Latin. Russian maritime words come from dutch shipwrights working in the St Peterburg shipyards and sailors serving on Russian ships. The Russian language did not have its own maritime words.

    David Ferguson: Een “beetje beestje” is wrong.. It must be “een klein beestje” Beestje is is a diminutive word by itself and .”klein”is actually superfluous, but we use it all time..

  3. David Ferguson says:

    The relationship in some of these words to English is very loose; rucksack is as arguably German as it is Nedetlands. I would argue that there is a closer relationship between “doric scots” and Nederlands. Words such as Kerk (Kirk) beest (beast) and the diminutive je is similar to Scots ie; “een beetje beestje” translates as; “A wee beastie” That influence I can date back to the 16th Eeuw and Flemish jute trading across the North Sea.

  4. WIlleen Olivier says:

    And then a few originally Dutch words got into the English language via Afrikaans after the Anglo-Boer War, such as “veld” “kopje” and “kommando”

  5. Catherine says:

    But isn’t the Rucksack based on the German word “Rucksack”? Clearly German and Dutch are closely related but I would rather consider it a Germanic word than a Dutch word.

    Cheers from Italy

  6. contiualexandru says:

    How small is the world!
    In Romanian language which supposed to be birth from Thracian and Latin the following words have the same meaning:aisberg,rucsac,bluf,manechin.
    Bart, ga door met uw Nederlands cursus!Ik volgen u 🙂

  7. Berndt Gottberg says:

    On the other side, these words could as easily be Friesian and/or Plattdeutsch (North German). Not surprisingly many words in Swedish are of Dutch/ Friesian/ Plattdeutsch and/or Danish origin, or of a mixture of all of these. This also goes for Finnish and Estonian, these languages also have quite a lot of originally Germanic words.. Russian also uses a lot of Germanic words too.
    A finnish student of Dutch

  8. Lee Cox says:

    @DanielPopov It’s equally likely that those words came to Russian from German, especially given that the German word for “accountant” is “Buchhalter,” of which the Russian word is a direct transliteration, just as “шлюз” is a direct transliteration of German “Schluss.”

  9. Vicky says:

    I thought several of these (bluff, rucksack, frolic, iceberg) could have just as easily come from German. I consulted Wiktionary (not necessarily the ultimate authority) to verify. It did indeed give Dutch as the origin for all these except rucksack. Wicktionary says it is borrowed from German. And the spelling in English is identical to German, making that very plausible for me.

  10. DanielPopov says:

    Very curious read for language geeks such as myself. I’m ve discovered that in Russian there are even more loanwords from Dutch. For example: broek – брюки-pants; boekhouder – бухгалтер- accountant, sinaasappel /appelsien – апельсин; sluis – шлюз – lock; kajut – каюта – cabin. Most of the loan vocabulary is related to ships and navigation, which has to do something with Peter the first and his journey to the Netherlands and his mission to modernize the country. Funny enough, we got through Russian most of these ship related loan words also in Bulgarian language.

  11. Arkaprabha says:

    Ya,erg goed!
    But still I could not find ,why some Dutch words are so long and some looks horrible!

  12. Elio says:

    It is indeed very interesting! But of course @Robin the word “school” doesn’t come from Dutch, but rather they both come from Latin, along with the word for school in many other languages. And the word “week” doesn’t come from Dutch as such either, though it’s a bit closer, as it is a Germanic word (English and Dutch being Germanic languages!)

  13. Robin says:

    Very interesting. Thanks for All the info. I wonder how many Dutch words there are that haven’t even changed their spelling. I can think of three: school, week and open but I guess there must be others.

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