Gezelligheid and the Dutch– What’s it all about?

You may have heard that Dutch people are proud of their gezelligheid.

If you meet Dutch people for the first time and you start talking about typical Dutch things, this one always comes up.

The Dutch are proud of their gezelligheid and they claim it’s so Dutch that there isn’t a word in any other language that meets the definition of the Dutch gezelligheid. But what is it?

What is gezelligheid?                                       

The difficulty is that it’s not really possible to translate it.  Also Gezellig is a broad term that can be used in a lot of different situations.

So first some examples

  • Hoe was het verjaardagsfeestje? Gezellig
  • Zal ik vanavond bij je langskomen? Ja, gezellig!
  • Wat een gezellige huiskamer.
  • Zullen we gezellig samen shoppen?


  • How was the birthday party? Fun
  • Shall I visit you tonight? Yes, that would be nice!
  • What a cozy living room.
  • Do you want to go shopping together?

In general, I can say gezellig applies to three things: the convivial ambiance amongst a group of people, the cozy inviting look of a room, and the friendly cheerful appearance of a person.

So a room can be gezellig when it’s something like ‘cozy’ or ‘homelike’. An event or a person is gezellig when it’s ‘fun’.

What do Dutch people find gezellig?

Getting together on a rainy day and playing a board game.

A gezellig huis?

Not too big. Lots of places to sit or lie down. Subdued lights. Warm colours.

A gezellige avond?

Means having fun with friends, where the vibe was really good. There were drinks, people were laughing. It was gezellig.

Getting together, under a blanket and watching a movie. Dat is gezellig.

Words with gezellig

Gezellig is an adjective, but there is also a corresponding noun which is:

de gezelligheid.

This one is used less often but you can say for example:

  • Wat een gezelligheid!

The negative form of gezellig is ongezellig.

  • Stop nu eens met whatsappen! Doe eens niet zo ongezellig

Stop whatsapping now! Don’t be so unsociable.

And when it is super gezellig you can say:

  • Beregezellig (from bear, but this animal doesn’t have anything to do with it)

Some people use a variation which is

  • Gezellie

Where does the word ‘gezellig’ come from?

‘Gezellig’ comes from ‘gezel’. A gezel (mate or comrade, apprentice) was originally a person who was learning a craft or trade with the guilds, and was contracted to work for a master. During this learning phase, the gezel lived together with other gezellen.

The word gezel is based on the word zaal, which is hall.

So basically a gezel was “someone with whom one shares a house”

Words that are related to gezellig

If you are single (not in a relationship) in Dutch you can say.

  • Ik ben vrijgezel. (I am single)

Other words related to gezel or gezellig

  • Metgezel (partner)
  • Reisgezel (travelling companion)
  • Het gezelschap (company)
  • Gezelschapspel (game to play in a group like monopoly)
  • Theatergezelschap (a theatre company that rehearses and performs plays)

Expression with gezellig

  • Gezelligheid kent geen tijd (Time doesn’t matter in good company)

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