5 English Words You Didn’t Know Were Dutch

Today, I’m honored to have a fabulous guest post by Wendy @ Wensend on the blog!  Not only did I learn about some Dutch-to-English words in this post, but I also laughed out loud.


Wensend Guest Post

Hi Love at First Bookers! My name is Wendy and I blog at Wensend. Not only am I a bookblogger, I’m also a student at Utrecht University, The Netherlands.

Yes, that’s right. I’m Dutch. I use English in finding my way around the internet in the bookblogger community, but it’s not always as easy as it looks: English is not my native language and though I think I can say I’m pretty good at English I’m still lost for words sometimes.

Language isn’t as common to me as it is to most people. I’m aware of the language I use; sometimes I struggle with it, but most of the time I find it a privilege to be able to use different languages to express myself. I love books and stories, but what’s so special about them if not for the language they contain? I’m intrigued by the way people use language to communicate and tell those stories, because language can influence the way a story comes across.

Note: this chart is far from complete. This will only give you an idea about how languages have evolved

Language Varieties

This obsession with language made me decide a few years ago to go study Languages and Cultures, so right now I’m doing a major in language development and language variation. I discovered so many things about this subject while studying: I can’t even remember not knowing about these, because they have so much influence on the way I perceive things. For example: I knew Dutch, German and English were a lot alike, but did you know these languages are from the same language family, so actually we do have some sort of great-grandfather of our languages in common? Historical linguists call that language Proto Indo European (PIE). There are even researchers who are trying to reconstruct this language from what we know of the modern languages. Awesome, right?

So, in short: English and Dutch are both PIE languages, specifically speaking West Germanic. Also, the Frisian language that’s used by people in the north of The Netherlands is actually more similar to English than it is to Dutch. But… not only have languages evolved from earlier languages. There’s been a lot of contact between languages from all over the world. In this chart for example you can spot a dotted line between French and Middle English. This indicates the influence of the French language on English after the Norman invasion. Different sources say almost 30% of English words have their origins in French.

As you might know the Dutch have been living in America for quite some time. In 1613 the first Dutch people came to America on behalf of the East India Company which was very successful in the Dutch Golden Age. They made New Amsterdam their capital on the east coast, a city that’s now well known as New York. Not only did these people bring their culture; they also brought their language. Dutch also had an influence on English because of trade and contact between Dutch/Afrikaans speakers and English speakers in South Africa. Though Dutch hasn’t had that much influence on English as French did, there still are quite a lot of words in English that have their origins in Dutch.

Five (or more) ‘English’ words you didn’t know were actually Dutch

So English and Dutch are from the same language family, but there’s also been contact between the two modern languages. Therefore it’s very difficult to say which words in English are actually from Dutch origins, because those words could have been evolved from one and the same word in West Germanic. But fortunately there are some people who like to investigate these things. Today I’m going to try and tell you about the origins of five (or a little more) of them, not claiming I know everything about those words and that I’m 100% right, but just trying to teach you something about my language and what influence it had on yours.

  • Apartheid
    This was the official system of race segregation in South Africa between 1948 and 1994. This word literally means apart-hood and can be translated into English as separateness or being apart. The word is usually viewed as Dutch or Afrikaans. Apartheid was introduced in South Africa during the colonial rule of the Dutch.
  • Blare and mannequin
    This is actually a funny one, because the word blèren isn’t used in modern Dutch anymore, except in my dialect, Brabantian, and is viewed as somewhat rude in general, though in my dialect it’s just a common word. This word means something like to wail. The word mannequin is also derived from a Brabantian word, namely manneken, which means little man.
  • Booze and dope
    Does it come as a surprise these two words have Dutch origins? I don’t think so. The word booze is derived from the Middle Dutch word busen, which means to drink in excess. The word dope is derived from dopen, which originally meant and is still meaning to baptize, but can also mean to dip in.
  • Brooklyn, Harlem and Flushing (Queens)
    Brooklyn is actually named after a Dutch city, Breukelen, which is near Utrecht, in central Netherlands. The same goed for Harlem, which is named after the Dutch city Haarlem, near Amsterdam. Flushing is named after the Dutch city Vlissingen.
  • Forlorn hope
    I was astonished when I came across this expression in English, because it’s a Dutch word you just pronounce in an English way. In Dutch we say verloren hoop, which literally means lost hope.

As you can see you Americans aren’t superior, because you just stole your vocabulary from us. Haha, just kidding. 😉 I think it’s awesome there are so many similarities between languages, but of course there are also languages that are not Indo European or that are from a different language family, so they look absolutely nothing like English or Dutch. I love the way languages differ from each other and how you can express different things with different languages.

I hope you enjoyed reading this. I want to thank Rebecca for allowing me to guestpost on her blog and I hope you all want to visit my blog Wensend.


37 thoughts on “5 English Words You Didn’t Know Were Dutch

  1. Pingback: Guestpost @ Love at First Book: Five (or more) ‘English’ words you didn’t know were actually Dutch | Wensend

  2. I found the chart with the languages broken down by countries fascinating, Thank you for ssuch an informative and enjoyable newsletter.


  3. Fascinating stuff and nicely written, too. I was an English major in college and have been an English teacher for 17 years. I love the history of English, language development and structure, etc. So I knew much of this (particularly the place names in NYC), but I still learned some interesting things. The language family tree is always an eye-opener to examine. Thanks for writing this. If you’d like to write a guest post for my blog, let me know. Keep up the good blogging, Wendy!


  4. Very interesting. But as a pedantic Scot, I don’t agree that Scottish descends from Celtic. Scottish is a form of English, hence Germanic/Latin. Gaelic is descended from Celtic but is a language that was/is spoken only in part of Scotland (the Highlands and Islands), and was never known as ‘Scottish’.

    I’m fascinated to know the origin of ‘Flushing’ though – it’s something I’ve wondered every year when watching the tennis from Flushing Meadows…


    • I know, this chart isn’t complete and I don’t claim everything is correct, so I understand where you’re coming from. I don’t know a lot about Celtic and Gaelic, but isn’t it like this: There are Scottish Gaelic and Celtic Gaelic (and Manx Gaelic), which decend from Celtic languages. I think in this chart they mean Scottish Gaelic instead of just Scottish, because you’re right about Scottish being a dialect of English. 🙂


  5. Thanks for sharing this, Wendy! Language is so fascinating, and this post is really informative! I can’t remember if I told you I’m interested in Dutch language in any of our chats? After visiting a few years ago, I decided I was going to learn to speak Dutch, but there are very few English resources for learning it. All I really learned was how to count to ten and a few phrases 😛


  6. That chart is really cool. It’s pretty amazing how so many languages are connected. Great post! I have a friend who was born in India, moved to Canada as a teen, and came to America as an adult. She and her husband both speak like three languages. I think any military-language use is quite an accomplishment. And personally, I can never really tell that English isn’t your first language!


  7. Wendy, Thanks for the very interesting post! Languages are fascinating, and it’s often amazing to see the close relationship between them. And congratulations on writing so well in English and reading so many books in English too!


  8. Very insightful, Wendy! It must be fascinating to learn languages in this way. I always thought people who study languages just pick a few and learn the grammar, pronunciation etc, but now I know you learn language development and history too.


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