A collection of Dutch words that are easily
recognizable or similar to English words, to help you build
Hearing Dutch words that are recognizable or look
similar to English words will also quickly teach you the differences
between English and Dutch pronunciation.
A companion page shows Dutch and English
False Friends, words
that look identical but have a different meaning - also in
a shorter version.
The page has both basic and specialized words,
for students at many levels. See and hear the words that don't
look useful to you just as spelling and pronunciation examples.
You can always come back again later.
The words on these pages are not a complete basic vocabulary - but a good and
If the approach on this page doesn't appeal to you, there are
many other pages on my site you might like better:
Dutch and English both developed from the language of the Germanic
tribes that lived thousands of years ago in Southern Scandinavia and
in the North of what's now Germany.
About 2300 years ago those tribes started to expand into a wider area
and internal contacts became less intense, changes were no longer
shared while settling in new environments and ('boldly') meeting other
civilisations brought new words. Over the years,
local dialects became separate languages.
The Germanic tribes are the ancestors of most of the present-day
Norwegians, Swedes, Danes, Germans, Austrians, Swiss, Flemish, Dutch
and English people. 'Germanic' is not the same as 'German.' Germans
are only a part of that group.
The Dutch word for the 'Germanic' people is
and the Indo-European culture and languages are often called
The Dutch word for 'Germans' is
Dutch and English
Looking at a Dutch text, you'll notice a few words that are
similar to English, for instance basic verb forms like is, was
and had, and common words like in, wind, warm and
But only a few - it was with some difficulty that I thought up this
contrived and a bit silly Dutch sentence that looks very much like
English, and has the same meaning:
Het water in de tent was warm.
The water in the tent was warm.
(The line already shows one of the the basic
problems with Dutch for foreign students:
the definite article ('the') has
de and het.
A majority of Dutch words are de-words,
but there are few good rules. You'll have to memorize the
Unfortunately, when you hear the line, it doesn't sound as familiar
as it looked.
In English, most of the vowels and some of the consonants
are not represented by the same letters as in
Dutch, and some Dutch sounds are not found in English.
But still, when you hear Dutch you may recognize some words by their sound,
even if they don't look the same in writing, like in these lines:
De zon scheen de hele dag. The sun [shone] was shining [the whole] all day.
Dat is goed nieuws! That is good news!
Even words that mean about the same may sound rather different, and
many words that sound familiar look different. It is unfortunate that
when people started writing there was no international conference over
which letters should represent which sounds in all languages.
Words from a common root sometimes changed meaning, while staying in
the same area, like Dutch poort
is not a harbor but a 'gate,' like in 'city gate,' and Dutch
is not a 'pencil' but a small paintbrush. ('Pencil' is
- lood2 is the metal 'lead.')
Cognates and Shared Loan Words
Some of the words that look or sound similar in Dutch and English come
from words already used by the Germanic tribes of 2000 years ago -
those are called 'cognates.'‑>>
Many other words that look familiar are shared loan words
A large number of the shared words come from Latin,
both from the time as part of the Roman
Empire - for instance
and later from the Medieval Roman Catholic Church, like
the names of the months.
French also had a massive influence on both English and Dutch, though
at different times and not always in the same spheres. More foreign
languages also provided some words, like
('jackall') from Persian; and last but not least there are English words
in Dutch and also a few Dutch words in English.
Some of the recognizable words may just look alike by
coincidence, or just in my mind.
My short translations may also not do justice to the full meaning of
'Long' and 'Short' Vowels
Before we start on the words I have to explain something about how
Dutch spelling shows the pronunciation of vowels.
Dutch vowels have two forms, traditionally called 'long' and 'short' -
though the difference is actually more of tone.
There is no sound in English like Dutch 'long U.'
Double vowels (aa, ee, oo, uu and 'long i,' written as IE)
are always 'long.'
Single vowels at the end of the word or syllable are
'long' - except E at the end of a word, which is almost always
('sun') zonnen (zon-nen)
Single vowels followed by a consonant
at the end of the word or syllable are short.
The problem is of course: Where to divide syllables? You may read
the complete rules - but a simple (though
incomplete) version is that in the middle of a word a single vowel is
long when followed by a single consonant and another vowel,
and short when followed by two or more consonants.
It's a bit like the English 'silent E' (can/cane, pin/pine, hug/huge) -
but in Dutch the E or other following vowel is not silent. Many final
E's are voiceless ('unstressed.')
Double consonants are pronounced the same as single consonants -
they're not 'longer,' and there's no pause in between.
Letters Rarely Dropped
Unlike in English, almost all letters in Dutch are pronounced. There
are no silent E's in Dutch.
Like in English, many E's in Dutch are 'voiceless' ('unstressed.')
-E and -EN at the end of words of more than one syllable are almost
always 'voiceless,' but
there are unfortunately no other good rules that could tell you which E's
are 'voiceless' - I'm afraid this is one of the most difficult points
of Dutch pronunciation for foreign students.
Many of the Dutch plurals and almost all verb infinitives have an
(voiceless E + N)
verbs Many Dutchmen (maybe even a majority of the population) do not
pronounce those N's at the end of plurals and verb infinitives, but I
advise students not to drop those N's. Because they are always written,
not pronouncing them adds a rule; and pronouncing those N's is still
standard Dutch and I think it sounds better.
In most positions, Dutch adjectives end in -E
('voiceless, unstressed' E
But there is not something like the -LY ending of English adverbs.
Similar to English A in FATHER and DARK
but a little shorter, hear Dutch
There is no sound like Dutch CH and G in English, but it's similar to J in
European Spanish, and something like
it is found in Hebrew. It's like (softly) clearing your throat.
To native speakers of Dutch, there is a slight difference between CH
and G, they are not exactly the same, but students shouldn't worry
EI and IJ represent the same sound, somewhere
between FATE and FIGHT
- hear Dutch: feit
There is no sound like Dutch EI/IJ in English,
but it's very similar to French EI, like in
When you can't say the Dutch IJ, it is not a good idea to say these
words with English A like in FATE. It's better to say these words with
English I like in FIGHT. There are many Dutch words with a sound like
A in FATE ('Dutch long E') that have a different meaning
from words with EI or IJ.
meid2 is a slang word for
'teenage girl' - plural:
for 'side' is a bit old-fashioned, but will be understood. The common
word is kant.
There is no sound like Dutch EU in English, but French has a sound
like it in words like
('2') and German has a sound
like Dutch EU in some words with Ö or OE like
schön23 and you may
have heard of the city of
Göteborg in Sweden.
Dutch J is like English 'consonant Y' - except in the diphthong IJ
(see under EI/IJ.
A sound like English J is only
found in foreign loanwords and may be written as 'DJ.'
English 'jam' is actually pronounced with a French J:
but 'jeep' has the English J: jeep
There is no sound in Dutch like English TH. In Dutch, TH can be said
in two ways: either the H is completely dropped (it's a rare example
of a letter that's not pronounced in Dutch) - or, in compound
words, T and H are pronounced separately, similar to TH in English
To me, Dutch V is fairly similar to English V, but
Dutch W is different from English W. For English W the lips are round
and stressed (like for a kiss) but for Dutch W the lips are more
relaxed. Dutch W starts with the top of the lower lip touching the front
upper teeth, but not clearly blowing out air like for a V or F. For V,
it's more the back of the lower lip that touches the upper teeth.
The pronunciation of
('you' - singular, informal)
('your' - singular, informal)
is not very different, the meaning is usually clear from the
context, but the W may be exaggerated for emphasis.
There is no sound in English like Dutch Long U,
but is is found in French, like in
cru or dur
and in German, like in
Hügel and Muesli
is always long. Note the difference the W makes in pronunciation:
('you' - polite) /
('your' - polite.)
Brood smeren 2- 'to smear bread' i.e. to spread butter on it and put on cheese or
ham or whatever covering
De zeven dwergen 'the seven dwarves' /
De zeven zeeën
*2'the seven seas'
- hij spreekt vloeiend Nederlands
'he is fluent in Dutch'
Is het ijs dik genoeg?
2'Is the ice thick enough?'
potten en pannen
2'pots and pans'
Haastige spoed is zelden goed
slow"Hasty speed is seldom good" - 'hurry is rarely
Beidt Uw tijd
23'Bide your time' - be patient, wait for the right moment
De beste plaats om Nederlands te leren.
'The best place for learning Dutch'
Beter laat dan nooit
'Better late than never'
ranzig 2('rancid' - stale, old, off) -
ranzig vet 2('rancid fat') -
ranzige olie 2('rancid oil')‑>>
stilstand 2'standstill' -
wapenstilstand 2['weapons shutdown'] - truce
smetteloos 2'without a blemish, very clean' (think of: 'smutless')
broodkruimels 2'breadcrumbs' - but to coat baking containers or meat, ask for
doe-het-zelf 'do-it-yourself' gecompliceerd 2slow'complicated' -
't is te gecompliceerd
'it's too complicated'
Common Dutch Words from French
(French G and AI)
From 'High School' I remember some Medieval Dutch:
Het daget in het oosten,
Het lichtet overal,
Hoe luttel weet mijn liefken
Och waar ik henen sal 23
It's dawning in the East,
It's getting light everywhere,
How little does my loved one know
Where I'm going
Modern Dutch only has 'luttel' and the verb 'dagen' in
Luttele seconden later
2Just a few seconds later Het begint me te dagen
2It [starts to dawn] is dawning on me, I'm beginning to understand Of course, 'dagen'2
is also the plural of dag2
More Pronunciation:Reference Page
(hear about 2000 examples) -
Vowels and Diphthongs
Compared (hear all side by side)
The 'Reference Page' has some fine points I had to forego on this
page, and things like French words in Dutch.
Pictures Dictionary - Basic Dutch - By Subject:
Thank you Veronica Lewis for an instructive mistake, and thank you
'Boswachter' Forrest Stewart for email about Dutch and English