Bitterballenbruid: 30 amusing Dutch words

Bitterballenbruid: 30 amusing Dutch words

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Expat Hayley finds that the Dutch language is full of comical words when translated literally into English.

Learning a new language can be hard, frustrating even, but it can also be fun. You just have to know where to look and how to make it amusing. Luckily for me, in Dutch you don’t have to look too far to find funny sounding words and phrases, particularly when literally translated into English. Here are some funny Dutch words and phrases I’ve learned so far.

1. Apetrots

My first Dutch 'whatttt?' moment was watching a film with subtitles when the screen flashed up 'Ik ben apetrots op je' literally meaning 'I am monkey proud of 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

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' but it actually means squirrel. And what’s acorn I hear you ask? Why that’s 'eikel' – which can also mean jerk, and worse.

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

'Clock house' meaning apple core.

7. Pindakaas

Meaning peanut butter but it literally translates as 'peanut cheese'.

8. Patatje oorlog

While it literally translates into 'war fries' (chips in the UK), it 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.

13.
Tandpasta

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'.

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. To top it off, my 'clean mother' is named 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, including children.

18. Gelukzak


If you’re a 'lucky guy' you may well get called a 'happy bag'! 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 the word for ambulance.

20. Muilpeer

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 learned this word today. 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

Greyhound is literally translated in Dutch as 'wind dog'.

26. Zeewolf

'Sea wolf' – meaning catfish. [Ok, about a million Dutch people told me that catfish is meerval. Mijn excuses!]

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

The literal translation for 'raccoon' is 'wash bear'.

30. You tell me!

So what else have you got for me? Please feel free to comment below. For bonus points, ask a Dutch person to say 'crunchy nut' (in English). Kills me every time.


Reprinted with permission from Bitterballenbruid.

 Hayley (aka Bitterballenbruid) is 32 and lives in Hilversum, the Netherlands, with her Dutch husband and their cat called Paris (no, she didn’t name her – long story). Her blog Bitterballenbruid is about living in het Gooi, eating too many bitterballen, getting married in Holland, learning how to be Dutch, and dealing with the language. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter or check out her Instagram.

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12 Comments To This Article

  • Tessa posted:

    on 16th October 2015, 11:10:19 - Reply

    My american friend and I couldn't understand what all the fuss was about when people were talking about someone selling pencils outside our school....

  • my posted:

    on 5th October 2015, 11:12:24 - Reply

    Funny but Dutch are great people.

  • Elizabeth posted:

    on 31st July 2015, 16:46:36 - Reply

    I enjoyed your funny list of Dutch translations. I have one to contribute.
    to burp in Dutch is called Boeren... which also means farmers.
  • Hans posted:

    on 5th March 2015, 20:50:56 - Reply

    Not many Dutch people realize this but schoonmoeder as actually the literal translation of the French belle-mere. Disused meaning of schoon is beautiful (belle).
  • MaryJo posted:

    on 18th February 2015, 15:18:43 - Reply

    Cute article, Hayley. When I first moved to The Netherlands after marrying my Dutch husband, I did not know a word of Dutch and constantly heard on the news and around and about about the 'nations'. I was horrified. Ask your husband what the Dutch word for 'nations' is and sounds like. :).
  • Stephen posted:

    on 18th February 2015, 14:41:12 - Reply

    Stinkdier is skunk! I love that one.
  • Pieter posted:

    on 18th February 2015, 18:54:49 - Reply

    How about 'takkenweer' - terrible weather. I used to drive the Americans at GE mad when I said it was branch weather outside.
  • Shelagh posted:

    on 18th February 2015, 20:42:48 - Reply

    Kikkervis(tadpole) . Lol. Not even a fish. And neither is a walvis (whale) for that matter.
  • mikesetz posted:

    on 21st February 2015, 04:39:58 - Reply

    Uitstekend gedaan Bitterballenbruid! Tactful not to have translated #23 literally :)
  • Fred posted:

    on 21st February 2015, 04:52:29 - Reply

    I was taken aback when I got an invitation to see a toenail. Turns out that is the Dutch word for a stage play.
    Expats who've shipped belongings to/from the Netherlands - and who have not outgrown toilet humor - get a kick that the Dutch word for shipping sounds like "sheep fart."
    Which leads to the riddle: Why did the Dutchman become an astronaut? Answer: Holland is a small country; he just needed some ruimtefahrt.
  • Natexa posted:

    on 22nd February 2015, 18:24:27 - Reply

    mierenneuker has a literal translation that is very descriptive - a "mier" is an ant, and "neuken is slang for copulating - absolutely trivial!
  • Audrey posted:

    on 27th February 2015, 18:54:23 - Reply

    pompoen en de paddenstoel :-)