30 Amusing Dutch Words

Learning a new language can be hard, frustrating even… but it can also be fun. You just have to know where to look.

Luckily for me, you don’t have to look too far to find funny sounding words and phrases in Dutch. Here are some I’ve learnt so far…

1. Apetrots 

My first Dutch WTF moment was watching a film with subtitles when the screen flashed up “Ik ben apetrots op je” literally meaning “I am monkey proud on you.” (The correct translation in English is “I’m really proud of you”.) A brilliant Dutchism… and it’s now one of my favourite Dutch sayings 😀

2. Boterham

Boterham, courtesy of Laura Frame Illustration

Boterham, courtesy of Laura Frame Illustration

Literally translated as “butter ham” – it actually means sandwich or a slice of bread.

3. Eekhoorntjesbrood

While we’re on the food theme… let’s go with the word for Porcini mushrooms, which literally translates as “little squirrels’ bread”.

4. Eekhoorn

Sounds like “acorn”… it actually means squirrel! (And what’s acorn I hear you ask? Why that’s “eikel” – which can also mean jerk/asshole/dickhead!!)

5. Spiegelei

Literally translated as “mirror egg” – this is what you need to order if you want a fried egg – sunny side up!

6. Klokhuis

Klokhuis, courtesty of Laura Frame Illustration

Klokhuis, courtesy of Laura Frame Illustration

“Clock house” meaning apple core.

7.  Pindakaas

Meaning peanut butter it literally translates as “peanut cheese”.

8. Patatje oorlog

Literally “war fries” (chips in the UK!) this means french fries served with peanut sauce, mayonnaise and finely diced raw onion… Depending on which region of the Netherlands you live in!!

9. Oorlog

We just learnt that oorlog means war, but oor means ear and log is cumbersome… So cumbersome ear!

10. Oorbellen

“Ear bells” or earrings as we like to call them. Super cute, huh?!

11. Kapsalon

This can mean hairdresser OR tasty Dutch kebab with chips, cheese and salad! Try not to get them confused 😉

12. Oliebollen

Or “oil balls” – a festive dough-based treat, traditionally eaten at New Year. (They’re basically doughnuts… but the Dutchies won’t have it.)

13. Tandpasta 

Tandpasta, courtesy of Laura Frame Illustration

Tandpasta, courtesy of Laura Frame Illustration

Tand is tooth and you can guess what pasta means… This is the Dutch word for toothpaste! (Thanks to the party poopers who pointed out that pasta can also mean paste!)

14. Handschoenen

Yup, the Dutch word for gloves is “hand shoes” tee hee hee!

15. Monster

Think your Dutch friend has mental issues when they say they’ve got a monster at home? Don’t fret,  it means “sample”.

16. Schoonmoeder

Meaning mother-in-law. (With thanks to Cinder for this prompt!) To top it off, my “clean mother” is called Willy!! True story, bro.

17. Bakfiets

“Bak” has a whole heap of meanings in Dutch, but I’m gonna go with “bin bike” or “fry bike”. It’s actually a traditional Dutch tricycle with a large box for transporting cargo e.g. – children!

18. Gelukzak

If you’re a “lucky guy” you may well get called a “happy bag”!

[Edit: gelukzak can also mean “lucky sack”. Alternatives include: Geluksvogel meaning “lucky bird”.]

19. Ziekenauto

That’s a “sick car” man. The cool kids don’t say that here – it’s an ambulance.

20. Muilpeer

Muilpeer, courtesy of Laura Frame Illustration

Muilpeer, courtesy of Laura Frame Illustration

Meaning “slap in the face” – the direct translation is “mouth pear”.

21. Toiletbril

The word for toilet seat can be literally interpreted as “toilet glasses”… 😛

22. Kangoeroewoning

Another cute one… granny flat’s literal translation is “kangaroo house”.

23. Mierenneuker

I’m (monkey) proud to have learnt this word today! Meaning “ant fucker” – it describes someone who frets and fusses over completely insignificant and minor details. Like “nit picker” I guess.

24. Kikker

Sounds like kicker. Means frog. Awesomeness!

25. Windhond

Windhond, courtesy of Laura Frame Illustration

Windhond, courtesy of Laura Frame Illustration

Greyhound is literally translated in Dutch as “wind dog”.

26. Zeewolf

“Sea wolf” – meaning catfish! [Edit… Ok, about a million Dutch people told me that catfish is meerval. Mijn excuses!] Damn you, Google translate!!

27. IJsbeer

Known for their logic, the direct Dutch translation for polar bear is “ice bear”. (IJs can also mean ice cream! Even better!)

28. Vleermuis

“Wing mouse” – uh huh, you got it… bat!

29. Wasbeer

Wasbeer, courtesy of Laura Frame Illustration

Wasbeer, courtesy of Laura Frame Illustration

My favourite pic of the series! The literal translation for “raccoon” is “wash bear”.

Massive thanks to Laura Frame for the amazing illustrations! For more Amusing Dutch words, expertly illustrated – head over to Laura’s Facebook page!

30. You tell me! 

So Dutchies / wannabe Dutchies – what else you got for me? 😀 Please feel free to comment below!

Hayley x

Ps – for bonus points, ask a Dutch person to say “crunchy nut” (in English). Kills me every time.

You might also like: 20 More Amusing Dutch Words

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1,335 comments

  1. Hahahahaha, it cracked me up! Thanks. By the way, I’m really Dutch but I’ve never heard of a kangoeroewoning. Another strange word for foreigners… theedoek 🙂

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  2. Number 7. Pindakaas is actually called cheese instead of butter because ‘butter’ is a registered and protected name in the Netherlands. Whereas cheese wasn’t at the time.
    It is really funny to read these being Dutch, because they seem so normal to me, you never realise someone from a different background could find them so funny.

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  3. Oorbellen may actually be a bit funnier still. “Oor” is just “ear”; but “bellen” can mean either bells, bubbles or the verb “to call” (someone). Which, as you know, can also be said as “to ring someone”.

    And then you’re back at earring again. 😉

    “Vleer” isn’t much of a word for “wing” though, at least, not in use.

    And since you asked for more:
    handschoen – “hand shoe” (glove)
    vuurtoren – “fire tower” (lighthouse)
    vliegtuig – “fly rig” / “fly scum” (plane)
    lieveheersbeestje – “nice reigning small animal” (ladybird) (ladybird itself is silly too, to compensate)
    verdrinken – “far drink” (drown)

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    1. Mwa, lieveheersbeestje more properly would be translated “the good lord’s small animal” or “small animal of the good lord”, with the good lord of course being the Christian God, as the -s- after heer suggests a genitive. (Mind, the verb heersen–to reign–is closely related to the noun ‘heer’ (sir, lord) anyway, but hey…)

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Martijn. I believe lieveheersbeestje comes from Onze Lieve Heer (Our Dear Lord) animal, shortened to dearlordanimal. Just a suggestion….

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  4. Haha! Thank you for this post about my language 🙂 The Dutch language has a lot of words which must not be taken literal. And the meaning of words changes in time. For example: Today “klootzak” means “motherfucker”. But In medieval times it was an accepted word for a bag to transport cannonballs 😀

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    1. In Eastern parts of the Netherlands it means the bag you carry the ‘kloten’ in, a ‘kloot’ being a wooden ball with a leaden core. They practise ‘klootschieten’ (walk in the environment, where you throw the wooden ball ahead and count how many throws you need comparing the scores with the rest of your party). (‘kloten’ means testicles, for the non-Dutch folks)

      Liked by 1 person

      1. IMHO “klootschieten” is a left-over from times gone by. It is played for nostalgic/touristic/folkloric reasons only.

        “Kloot” used to be the normal way to indicate anything round, like a ball. Nowadays it is only used in “de aardkloot” (= the globe) and of course as testicle, but this is rather colloquial.
        Hence “klootzak” (= scrotum) can only be used as an invective. Motherfucker or bastard would be adequate translations.

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Klootschieten

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    1. Definitely “broodje kroket” ….wish that we could get them here at the “patatboer” but we just have coffee shops that actually sell coffee…lol

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  5. I’ve read the ‘clean mother’ translation for schoonmoeder on several websites, but actually it’s more like ‘beautiful’. For example in the Statenvertaling (Dutch equivalent of the KJV of the Bible) you’ll find the word ‘schoon’ used in sentences like ‘Rachel was schoon van gedaante’ meaning Rachel was beautiful. Even in French you could use beau-frere (brother-in-law) or belle-mère (mother-in-law). 🙂

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      1. Not completely true.
        Although the Flemish “schoon” equals the Dutch “mooi” (as opposed to “proper” (F) which means “schoon” (D)), there are some standing expressions like “schone jonkvrouw” (= beautiful maiden) where water and soap are no issue.

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    1. The Germans also have schon (don’t know how to add umlaut) which means ‘good’ or ‘nice’. However, the Dutch comes from the Old Saxon skoni which meant ‘fair’ or ‘beautiful’, where schon came from the same root, meaning it originally meant ‘fair’ or ‘beautiful’.

      But you do still see this happening in English. Up North when asked whether their dinner was tasty, someone may reply with ‘oh it was nice’, but ‘oh it was beautiful’ is also valid.

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  6. 7. In the Netherlands “boter” is/was protected name for “roomboter”. Calling pindaboter was simply illegal.

    22. This type of home is discribed as the grandma and/or grandpa can live in the “pouch” for “mantel zorg”.

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  7. The best ever is ‘wentelteefjes’ which freely translates to little turning bitches 😂 but has nothing to do with a strippers club. It’s eggy bread

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  8. To me the most admirable Dutch expression is “potloodventer” literary: pencil-hawker, but meaning exhibionist,(flasher)

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  9. Funny stuff! Never thought about “wash bear”, even though – or probably because – that is the same word in Norwegian (vaskebjørn).

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  10. Schoonfamilie=beautiful family. Schoon is a synonime of mooi which means beautiful. When something is schoon it litterly means that all is beautiful. The word has changed but that is the origin

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I never heard of anything like a “gelukzak”. Sounds like a hybrid between klootzak and geluksvogel.

    Added, a kangoeroewoning is actually a house with a small house attached to it (hence the kangaroo, you know, pouch and all). It’s often used by families that take care of their parents; the new generation lives in the one and the older generation lives in the other house.

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    1. You won’t hear “gelukzak” in The Netherlands. You’ll have to drive to Flanders.
      I lived there for 10 years and I was about 60 when I first heard someone being called “gelukzak”.

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  12. broodje aap verhaal: basically means a story that’s been heard and retold several times by different people. What does ape have anything to do with this? 🙂

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  13. Just that you know,
    A monster can also be a monster and oliebollen are filled with rosens and defently don’t tase like dognuts. Also sometimes something soft and creamy gets called pasta and has nothing to do with the pasta you eat. Take for example chocopasta (it’s nutella) has nothing to do with your kind of pasta.

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  14. Not sure if this qualifies but I love “onzelieveheersbeestje” (a ladybird UK / ladybug US).
    We immigrated to Canada 60 years ago and this one still tugs at my heart.

    Like

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