('colors' - 'to color') -
When you look at the Dutch words for the common colors, most look
somewhat similar - even though the spoken form may be harder to recognize:
The definite article ('the') can be either 'de' or
'het' in Dutch. Plurals take 'de' and diminutives
(ending in '-je') take 'het' but there are few
other good rules. You'll just have to remember
which are the 'het' words. 'Het' can also mean 'it,' but that is not used as frequently as in
The indefinite article ('a') is 'een' - or phonetically more
correct " 'n " - for emphasis you can say
(het) jaar 'year' jaren
The days of the week, the months and the seasons also look
recognizable. Some say they were adopted in the Middle Ages from the
Latin of the Roman Catholic Church, though both in English and Dutch
several refer to the old Germanic gods, like Wednesday for chief god
Wotan (Dutch: Wodan) - Thursday for god of thunder Thor (Donar) and
Friday for Mrs Wotan, Freya.
De dagen van de week
The days of the week
door de week [through the week] 'on weekdays' -
in 't weekend 2'in the weekend'
De maanden van het jaar
The Months of the Year
Spring - think of: 'Lent'
Fall, Autumn - think of: 'harvest'
The numbers are not very different in Dutch and English. Actually,
most numbers in the Indo-European languages are recognizable.
Note that from 'twenty-one' Dutch says 'éénentwintig'
Do note that Dutch 'half 4' (etc.) means 'half an hour
...' and NOT 'half past ...'
like (British?) English 'half ...'
The Human Body
For the parts of the human body many old words are still in use in
both Dutch and English, though the body itself is called
Some people say (het) lijf
(think of 'life' and 'to live') but to me it's a bit coarse.
'Body parts' are lichaamsdelen
- see also: medical.
The human (and horse) 'head' is
while animals have a
Likewise, humans (and horses) have
('legs' - singular (het) been)
while animals (and tables and chairs) have
singular: (de) poot
(think of: 'paw.')
Some books and websites will try to tell you that (het)
been (irregular plural: beenderen) is the Dutch word for
'bone,' but it is really very old-fashioned. In modern Dutch, 'been' is
only found as 'bone' in a few compound words like
('soup bone') and
As you've seen in the lines above, 'been' is the regular
Dutch word for 'leg.'
The common Dutch word for 'bone' is
- plural: botten
Avoid learning-Dutch books and websites written by people who are not
native speakers of Dutch.
As you've seen above (de) rug
is your 'back' and (de) ruggengraat
is 'backbone' ((de) graat
is Dutch for 'fish bone') - (de) rugzak2
is 'backpack' - think of 'rucksack.'
(De) strot2 is a slang word
Dutch (de) familie
is the English extended family, all of your relatives.
Hij is familie van me
- 'he is a relative [of mine.]'
The nuclear family (mother, father,
children) is (het) gezin more Dutch family.
niece; female cousin
nephew; male cousin
For in-laws Dutch mostly follows the French model:
beau-père, belle-mère etc.
Dutch (het) ros
is related to English 'horse,' but it has come to mean
a trusted but aging horse
- you could jocularly call your bicycle
(het) ijzeren ros.
more food -
The Dutch general word for 'animal' is
dieren) - it sounds very much like English
'deer.' My computer's dictionary says the root word of 'deer'
meant any four-legged animal.
(The Dutch word for our modern 'deer' is
- plural: herten2.)
The Dutch word for 'mammal' is
('suckling, mothermilk-fed animal.')
The horse-donkey hybrid 'mule' is called
(het) muildier2 in Dutch.
Like English 'beast,' a wild, violent or ill-behaved animal or person
can be called (het) beest
'starling' - think of: sparrow -
Some people in Amsterdam will call any small bird
('finch') - or more likely (het) 'finkie'2
The check mark V is sometimes also called
Also see and hear the farm animals in the chapter above, and my
general animals pages.
(De) muziek 2'music' - (het) geluid
'sound' - think of 'loud'
The music words are not very old. In both Dutch and English, most are
16th- to 19th-Century loan words from Italian and French. -
more music vocabulary
If you don't see a use for these words you of course don't have to
memorize them, but looking at the spelling of the Dutch words and
listening to the pronunciation is a good exercise.
The ranks in the military
- singular: (de) rang2)
look so similar they don't need translation, though pronunciation differs.
'officer' - (de) onderofficier2
'non-commissioned officer, subaltern' -
Dutch independence came about
at the time of the birth of modern science, and in patriotic
language purism the Dutch made up names
for the sciences that differ from those in most other European languages.