Stofzuiger and aardbeien – Funny Dutch words!

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Studying Dutch means learning the grammar and important words. But you also encounter a lot of strange and funny things.

As an online Dutch teacher I’m always interested to see what you thought were strange Dutch words. Because for me, I sometimes don’t even notice it!

Today’s blog is about these strange Dutch words.

Examples of funny Dutch words

Foreigners in the video came with these words:

  • Lekker (nice)
  • Toch? (right?)
  • Heerlijk (delicious / heavenly)
  • Wat toevallig (what a coincidence)
  • Wat gezellig (how ‘nice’)
  • Aardbeien (strawberries)
  • Stofzuiger (vacuum cleaner) is literally in English a ‘dust sucker’.

What you said in the comments!

When we published the video, it attracted a lot of comments.

Here are some:

  • Ziekenhuis (hospital)

This literally translates as a ‘house for the sick’.

Other kind of houses are

  • Gemeentehuis (city hall)
  • Buurthuis (community centre)
  • Slachthuis (slaughterhouse)

And also klokhuis

  • Klokhuis

The clock house. What could this be? This is an apple core.

And by the way, it is also the name for a popular Dutch children television show. It is watched by a lot of foreigners to help learn Dutch.

  • Glimlach (a smile).

Looking at both words, in English you would say ‘a glimmer of a laugh’.

Words for laughing that may sound a bit strange:

  • giechelen (giggle, titter)
  • gieren (shriek with laughter)
  • grinniken (chuckle, snigger)
  • proesten (snort, splutter)
  • schaterlachen (roar with laughter, laugh loudly)

Other examples that I found in the comments:

  • Schoonfamilie

Your in-laws in Dutch are called your schoonfamilie – your ‘clean family’.

  • Piepschuim

Literally ‘squeak foam’, it means expanded polystyrene.

And the favourite for people learning Dutch: gloves which are called handschoenen. Shoes for your hands!

Strange Dutch animal names

These are not the only strange Dutch words. Some animals have strange names in Dutch.

  • Schildpad

A turtle is in Dutch a schildpad. Schildpad literally means shield toad.

Other strange animal names in Dutch

  • Buidelrat – Pouch Rat (Possum)
  • Nijlpaard – Nile Horse (Hippopotamus)
  • Aardvarken – Earth Pig (Ant-bear)
  • Zeehond – Sea Dog (Seal)
  • Vleermuis – Wing mouse (Bat)
  • Neushoorn – Nose Horn (Rhino)
  • Wandelende Tak – Walking Branch (Stick insect)
  • Gordeldier – Belt Animal (Armadillo)
  • Dolfijn (Dol-Fijn) – Crazy Fun (Dolphin)
  • Wasbeer – Wash Bear (Raccoon)
  • Naaktslak – Naked Snail (Slug)
  • Duizendpoot – Thousand Legs (Centipede)

A leopard, one of the fastest animals on the planet, is called a luipaard in the Netherlands. Luipaard is a ‘lazy horse’.

Strange Dutch words for food

If you translate different food products, you get some strange words.

A famous one is potato (aardappel) which is ‘earth apple’.

Other examplels are:

  • Pindakaas – Peanut cheese (Peanut butter)
  • Boterham – Butter ham (Sandwich)
  • Spiegelei – Mirror egg (Fried egg)
  • Patatje oorlog – French fries war (French fries with a lot of different sauces) 

Kalkoen / Turkey

In Dutch, we say kalkoen for turkey. You know, that bird like a big chicken that Americans eat at Thanksgiving. So what is the fun fact?

It is named after the place the Dutch thought it came from, Calcutta. English speakers thought it was from Turkey, and the French believed it was from India (dinde).


A palindrome is a word that is the same from back to front, such as lepel (spoon), and meetsysteem (measuring system)

Another example is:

  • Legermeetsysteemregel (army measure system rule)

Or in a short sentence:

  • Mooi dit idiom (nice this idiom)


Examples of Dutch words with more than seven consonants in succession are rare.

  • Angstschreeuw

Angstschreeuw (scream of fear) is the best-known example of this.  

Another one is

  • Herfstchrysant (autumn chrysanthemum, it’s a kind of flower)

Having three consonants that are the same doesn’t happen much in Dutch. But sometimes it does.

  • Stressstoornis (stress disorder)
  • Jazzzanger (jazz singer)
  • Fitnesssesie (fitness session)

So playing hangman in Dutch? Now you know your word!

Compound words

Dutch is known for joining nouns together. So you can come across long and difficult words.

  • Arbeidsongeschiktheidsverzekering (Occupational disability insurance)
  • hottentottententententoonstellingterrein (hottentotten is the name of people in southwestern Africa, tenten is tents, tentoonstelling is exhibition and terrain is area.

Isograms: Filmproducent and whiskyproducent

These words are the longest Dutch isograms. A what?

An isogram is a word in which each letter appears only once.

Uniquely Dutch words: Gezellig, ijsberen and uitzieken

Sometimes translating Dutch words into another language is impossible! These words, gezellig, ijsberen and uitzieken, are examples of this. These words don’t have a good English translation or a translation in any other language. 


A tongue twister is a sentence which is intended to be difficult to articulate correctly. One of the most famous ones is

  • Scheveningse scheve schoenen

This sentence has a lot of sch / g sounds. It was used during WW II to discover German spies. Germans would pronounce Scheveningen (a town close to Den Haag) as “Sh”.

The Dutch and swearing

You might know that the Dutch love swearing and that they have their own dictionary for it. But besides these words there’s a long list of strange and funny Dutch swear words. Here are some examples.


Literally this one means ‘ants’ (mieren) ‘fucker’ (neuker).

And it’s not a swear word you can use just anytime. This one is used especially when someone is really annoying and looking for small mistakes.

  • Doe niet zo moeilijk, mierenneuker!
  • Don’t be so difficult, mierenneuker!


A pancake, just a typical Dutch dish. But also something you can call someone.

Calling someone a pannenkoek means he doesn’t really know what he is doing.

Gehaktbal / bal gehakt

In the same food category, there is meat bal (gehaktbal or bal gehakt)

The meaning of this word is similar to pannenkoek. Calling someone gehaktbal is not really offensive, although the person knows you’re not happy with how things are going.


Again, food! The Dutch like to call you food!

You’re an oliebol! When you’re called an oliebol, this also means that you’re doing something wrong. You are making a very unintelligent or clumsy impression.


Going from food to things: a badmuts. A badmuts is actually a swimming cap.

You know, that thing that you can wear on your head when you go swimming.

Also, you are a badmuts if you don’t pay attention on the cycle path!


The origin of this word is not known. But kloot is the same kloot as in klootzak. And a klootzak is a common Dutch swear word which means something like scrotum or ball sack.

Viool is a violin.

Combine these and you are a klootviool.

The first person who put these two together must have felt really creative!


An aap is a monkey and ‘rans’ probably comes from ranzig, which means dirty. You dirty monkey!

If your roommate is really dirty, leaving dirty dishes everywhere, not cleaning anything, you can go ahead and call him a ransaap

  • Ruim je keuken eens op, ransaap!
  • Clean up the kitchen, ransaap!


This is just a lovely animal. The sloth.

But be aware that if you don’t do your homework in school, your teacher might call you a luiaard.

  • He luiaard, je ligt al de hele dag op de bank te slapen.
  • Hey sloth, you’ve been sleeping on the couch all day.

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