Search my site:

Cognates: English, Dutch and German Words from A Common Root

Everyday Dutch Words Basic vocabulary for conversation and reading
Useful Words and Phrases for Travelers
NEW Learning Dutch? (Lessons - Suggested Method)
Hear Longer Dutch Texts: Poems and a Song - Short Stories

Dutch Names Pronounced --- Dutch Pronunciation --- Exercise
Vermeer's World --- Rembrandt --- Old New York --- Sailors and Ships of The 17th Century
Frisian Spoken --- Hebrew Words in Dutch

For entertainment purposes only; not systematic; not exhaustive.
My English and German are not perfect but good enough: you'll get the idea.

About 2300 years ago, the Germanic tribes started spreading out over ("conquering") much of Northwestern Europe; consequently, their speech started to grow apart. Change was not random but mostly followed a pattern, as for instance (English/Dutch/German) old/oud/alt, cold/koud/kalt and many similar words, or like the 'softening' of many German consonants (book/Buch, apple/Apfel.) Dutch is generally more like German than like English, but sometimes developed like English (moon/maan/Mond), and sometimes went its own way (weather/weer/Wetter.)
Stricly speaking, cognates are words that are not only similar in different languages but also come from a common root word in the 'mother' language that those languages developed from. For instance, English/Dutch/German dream/droom/Traum and head/hoofd/Haupt. But words like English/Dutch table/tafel and curtain/gordijn are not cognates because they originate in Latin words. A word like 'computer' is also not a cognate.
Recognizable Words in Dutch and English

English Dutch German MP3
(ca 50K)
Dutch Duits Deutsch hear - 2 The Dutch and German words mean 'German.'
wife wijf Weib hear Dutch and German: (insulting) 'woman' (Do not use.)
life lijf Leib hear Dutch and German: '(human) body.'
thumb duim Daumen hear
thunder donder Donner hear
craft kracht Kraft hear Dutch and German: power
soft zacht sanft hear
to wait wachten warten hear
to sigh zuchten seufzen hear
sweet zoet süß hear
mouth mond Mund hear Western Dutch dialects also lost the N, as in 'IJmuiden.'
us ons uns hear
moon maan Mond hear
month maand Monat hear - 2
tooth tand Zahn hear
toe teen Zehe hear
thin dun dünn hear
head hoofd Haupt hear
eye oog Auge hear
day dag Tag hear
world wereld Welt hear - 2
Earth Aarde Erde hear
breast borst Brust hear
fresh vers frisch hear
thirst dorst Durst hear
fire vuur Feuer hear
water water Wasser hear
better beter besser hear
weather weer Wetter hear
clover klaver Klee hear
to believe geloven glauben hear
cheese kaas Käse hear
church kerk Kirche hear

English Dutch German
high hoog hoch hear - 2
nut noot Nuss hear
book boek Buch hear
oak eik Eiche hear
flesh vlees Fleisch hear The Dutch and German words also mean 'meat.'
to fold vouwen falten hear
fowl vogel Vogel hear Dutch and German: general word for 'bird'
fox vos Fuchs hear
six zes Sechs hear
seven zeven Sieben hear
ten tien Zehn hear
eighty tachtig achtzig hear
green groen grün hear
white wit weiß hear
yellow geel gelb hear
brown bruin braun hear
dove duif Taube hear
deaf doof taub hear
sail zeil Segel hear
hail hagel Hagel hear
dream droom Traum hear
to rub wrijven reiben hear
to wring wringen ringen hear English still writes the "w," Dutch still says it
to wreak wreken rächen hear Dutch and German: to avenge
to gnaw knagen nagen hear
knight knecht Knecht hear Dutch and German: male servant
needle naald Nadel hear
yesterday gisteren Gestern hear
shadow schaduw Schatten hear

English Dutch German
room ruim Raum hear Dutch noun 'ruim' is a ship's hold
cage kooi Käfig hear
nose neus Nase hear
cold koud kalt hear
sour zuur sauer hear
pound pond Pfund hear
pole paal Pfahl hear
harvest herfst Herbst hear Dutch and German: Autumn
heart hart Herz hear
stone steen Stein hear
salt zout Salz hear - 2
kitchen keuken Küche hear
cellar kelder Keller hear - 2
drop druppel Tropf hear
swarm zwerm Schwarm hear
slime slijm Schleim hear
snow sneeuw Schnee hear
soul ziel Seele hear
love liefde Liebe hear
free vrij frei hear

English Dutch German
I am ik ben ich bin hear
you are jij bent du bist hear
he is hij is er ist hear
we are wij zijn wir sind hear
you are (plural) jullie zijn ihr seid hear
they are zij zijn sie sind hear
I have been ik ben geweest ich bin gewesen hear Dutch and German employ both their 'to have' and 'to be' in the perfect tenses
I have eaten ik heb gegeten ich habe gegessen hear - 2
he comes hij komt er kommt hear
he came hij kwam er kam hear
house huis Haus hear
houses huizen Häuser hear note the plural shift to 'Z' in all three languages
louse luis Laus hear
lice luizen Läuse hear
father vader Vater hear
mother moeder Mutter hear
sister zus, zuster Schwester hear
brother broer, broeder Bruder hear
child kind Kind hear Note that the plural is similar in the three languages;
children kinderen Kinder hear irregular in English and Dutch, common in German
English Dutch German
one één eins hear
two twee zwei hear - 2
three drie drei hear
four vier vier hear - 2
five vijf fünf hear
six zes sechs hear
seven zeven sieben hear
eight acht acht hear
nine negen neun hear
ten tien zehn hear - 2
eleven elf elf hear
twelve twaalf zwölf hear
no nee nein hear - 2 - 3
man man Mann hear - 2
men mannen Männer hear - 2

Further Study: Basic Dutch Words - Pictures Dictionary - Easy Dutch - Lessons - Pronunciation - Listening - Reading - Grammar
The Most Basic Phrases - Weather - Food and Drink - Travel - Various - Fun Things to Say - Speaking Dutch, Speaking about Dutch

"G" in Northern and Southern Dutch, "CH" in German

Family Tree, Pond Ripples

Language development is often pictured as a family tree, groups growing apart and separating, but Schmidt's 'Wave Model' (1872) suggests that language changes spread from the dialects of groups that are politically or economically dominant, or culturally prestigious, like ripples from a rock thrown in a pond.


Frisian is nowadays only spoken by about a quarter of a million people in Holland and a few pockets in Germany and Denmark.
It is said that speakers of Frisian have little difficulty reading Old English: Frisian is closely related to the language of the Angles and Saxons that crossed the North Sea to England ca 500 AD/CE; but then there were 1500 years of separate development, and English was greatly influenced by the French of the Norman invaders and also by the languages of the Vikings, and Frisian was even more massively influenced by Dutch.
Spoken Frisian

Gothic and Old English

The Streamlining of English

The Scandinavian languages are the Northern branch of the Germanic language family. When the vikings came to England ca 800 CE, their languages and the English of that time were still not that different, people could understand each other. It probably sounded like a distant dialect to the other party. The close contact of the related languages led to a great streamlining of English grammar, hammering out many irregularities - English has far fewer exceptions than Dutch and German.
Still, I had been wondering where the English 'extended' archaic possesive in for instance "the friends of my father's" click to hear 2 came from, until I realized it is like in German, just the regular possesive-S in the noun: die Freunde meines Vaters click to hear - in Dutch the noun does not have the possessive-S: de vrienden van m'n vader click to hear

About a quarter of the cognates were found in B.C. Donaldson: Dutch (M. Nijhoff, Leiden 1983)

Thank you Fabian Wenzel and Frank Nitsch for pointing out several typos and mistakes in the German.

brought to you by Marco Schuffelen - Questions? Comments? Suggestions?
copyright © 1999-2006 Marco Schuffelen - All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, redistributed or hotlinked to.
Don't be a dief (thief) / dievegge (female thief) - diefstal (theft) - stelen (to steal) - heler (dealer in stolen goods) - hear Dutch - 2