Dutch is filled with English words, and it’s getting more and more. Workers are talking about ‘meetings’ when they want to arrange a get-together, everybody has to be ‘up-to-date’ and what used to be somebody who took care of the clothes hanging in a shop is now called a ‘floor manager’. The Netherlands has a top 5 notation of people who speak English the best besides their own native language. English is hot and happening, more Dutch words are getting replaced by English ones (also known as the English disease), and the upcoming social media isn’t helping. Was it always like this? No. Let’s go back in time, and find out which role the Dutch language played on the formation of the British English language. 

 Even Dutch specialties aren't safe anymore..


What are Loanwords anyway?
According to the Oxford Dictionary, the definition of the word ‘loanword’ is: a word adopted from a foreign language with little or no modification. A loanword can also be called a borrowing. The abstract noun borrowing refers to the process of speakers adopting words from a source language into their native language. "Loan" and "borrowing" are of course metaphors, because there is no literal lending process. There is no transfer from one language to another, and no "returning" words to the source language. They simply come to be used by a speech community that speaks a different language from the one they originated in. Please not that not all foreign words become loanwords; if they fall out of use before they become widespread, they do not reach the loanword stage.


What happens next?

-          The ‘new’ word stays the same (copy-paste into another language)

-          The new word adapts itself  to the new language

-          The word gets directly translated into the new language 

-          The word gets a complete new meaning

Loanwords. Not everybody seems to enjoy it..


History of Dutch loanwords into English
So how did Dutch words found its way into the English language? Back in the 17th century, the Dutch republic (officially known as the Republic of the Seven United Provinces) was very strong in terms of trading, science, military and art. This is why they named this century the Golden Age. Let’s go back to the 17th century.

400 Years ago, Henry Hudson sailed with his ship into the harbor of the Hudson River.  He was sailing for the Dutch trade organization named the VOC, (Dutch East India Company). He, along a group of 20 men, founded a colony and they named it New Amsterdam. Now this colony is better known as New York City, the city that never sleeps, The Big Apple. But this is not the only Dutch left over in Amerika.


Apartheid, Gin, and even Santa Claus.

More and more Dutch people followed Hudson, and they lived in small communities where they spoke Dutch. But when time pasted by, the Dutch lost most of their colonies to England, and Dutch immigrants got company from new people from all over Europe. This resulted into the disappearing of Dutch from everyday life. But not everything got vanished: the roots of this bit of Dutch history of the American capital can still be found in the English language. Words like apartheid, dapper, mast and even Santa Claus all find its origin in Dutch. And places like Harlem, Brooklyn and Hoboken are named after Dutch towns. Look at the table below for more examples with their origin. A lot of these, as you will find, have strong ties with trade and naval industries.



Dutch as a donor language
Which BE words found its origin in Dutch? Take a look at the examples below, and you will discover that there are quite a few:

bluff – bluffen                                 Landscape – Landschap                    spinach - spinazie

bos – baas                                      Life Guard – Lijfwacht                     split - splijten

candy – kandij                                Maid – meid                                    trigger - trekken

coleslaw – koolsla                        pancake - pannenkoek                      waffle – wafel           

cookie – koekje                             plunder – plunderen                         wagon – wagen

deck – dek                                     pump – pomp                                   yacht – jacht

dock – dok                                     scum - schuim

dollar – daalder                              sketch - schets

dyke – dijk                                     skipper - schipper

freight – vracht                              sleigh/sledge = sle (d)e

gherkin – augurk                             smuggle - smokkelen


Besides trade and naval industries, also the Dutch painters left their mark on the English language: Easel comes from the word ezel, a plate where painters put their paint on. Did you know that 1% of English words are from Dutch origin?

I wonder what his name would be otherwise...Biscuit monster?




I think it’s normal that our language is evolving right now. Every language is changing over time, and since English is everywhere, I believe it’s inevitable that lots of Dutch words are getting replaced by new ones. I don’t like to see it as an ‘English disease’, it’s everybody’s individual choice whether they want to take over the words or not. If you take a look at history, you can clearly see that languages have influenced each other. And that process is still going on.  So next time you hear someone say that it’s ‘such a shame Dutch is getting more and more infected by English’, just tell them that it is very retro  to borrow words: during the 17th century even Dutch words were hot and happening.