Home About the Netherlands Culture & History Keeping it short: Dutch abbreviations explained
Last update on November 26, 2018
Written by Pep Mac Ruairi

Learning to cope with a new language can sometimes be like trying to negotiate your way through a maze. The Dutch love of abbreviations can make things worse. Pep Mac Ruairi offers a road map.

“To make life easier for you,” the letter jubilantly declared, “we have created a combined bill for all local taxes, so you don’t have to pay your AFV, INGO, OZBG and WVOW separately anymore.”

Apart from being shocked by the unreasonably high amount demanded at the bottom of the bill, I was baffled as to what I was paying that huge sum for.

What do these words mean?

Perusing the accompanying brochure did draw my attention to some strange and very long words, such as ingezetenenomslag – a word no person, Dutch or otherwise, could explain to me. No sign, however, of the abbreviations.

Only after carefully putting my magnifying glass to the back of the letter like a true Sherlock Holmes, did I find them – in small print. It would be uncivil of me not to share this discovery with you.

  • OZBE/OZBG (aka* onroerende-zaakbelasting eigenaars/gebruikers): housing tax on ‘immovable’ objects for owners or users respectively
  • RRBE/RRBG (roerende-ruimtebelasting eigenaars/gebruikers): housing tax on ‘movable’ objects (such as house boats) for owners or users
  • RIOE (rioolrecht): connection to the sewage system (for house owners only)
    AFV (afvalstoffenheffing): charge for collecting your garbage
  • WVOB/WVOW (verontreinigingsheffing oppervlaktewater bedrijven/ woningen): water purification for businesses/houses
  • INGO (ingezetenenomslag): anti-flooding measures

Having taken considerable time solving that riddle, I realised it’s always the little words and abbreviations that trip us up when learning a new language, because these little devils can turn the whole meaning of a sentence around.

In the old days they used to write full stops in between the letters, so you would at least be aware of the fact that you were dealing with an abbreviation. But nowadays the Dutch just write them joined up, like secret codes intended to confuse poor expats who are doing their best to get a handle on this tongue-twisting language.Most languages use abbreviations btw*, especially since the introduction of text messages, but the Dutch seem particularly fond of them. And in no other language I have encountered can they change the meaning of a phrase so drastically.

FYI*, I have listed the most commonly used ones below. Like a top notch secret agent you can now decipher the code and face the enemy head-on, knowing what they know; the secret handshake, the wink, the chalk on the side-walk. With Ariadne’s thread to hand, you’ll never have to get lost in that labyrinth of Dutch abbreviations again.

A list of the most commonly used Dutch abbreviations

  • a.s. (aanstaande): coming; next, this (next week, this Friday)
  • aso (asociaal): anti-social person
  • aub (alstublieft): please
  • begr. (begraven): buried
  • beh (behalve): except for
  • BTW Belasting Toegevoegde Waarde: (sales tax, VAT)
  • ca (circa): around, about (usually more than sixty miles from where you are!)
  • dag (dagelijks): daily
  • dd (de dato – Latin): dated, from (our letter dated 6 January)
  • dhr (de heer): Sir
  • dir. (directeur): Chief Executive Officer (the boss)
  • dmv (door middle van): by means of
  • dwz (dat wil zeggen): i.e. (that is, that is to say)
  • EHBO (Eerste Hulp bij Ongeluk): First Aid [for accidents]
  • eea (een en ander): these things (refers to what has been mentioned before)
  • enz (enzovoorts): et cetera, and so on
  • exc (exclusief): exclusive of
  • geb. (geboren): born/date of birth
  • gesch. (gescheiden): divorced
  • igvn (in geval van nood): in case of emergency
  • iha (in het algemeen):  generally
  • iig (in ieder geval): in any case
  • ipv (in plaats van): in stead of
  • itt (in tegenstelling tot): in contrast with
  • ivm (in verband met): in connection with
  • j.l. (jongstleden): last (last Wednesday)
  • k.k. (kosten koper): costs charged to the buyer (of a house)
  • KvK (kamer van koophandel): Chamber of Commerce
  • L.S. (lectori salutem – Latin): To whom it may concern (on letter)
  • m.b.t.  (met betrekking tot) concerning
  • miv (met ingang van): starting at date/time
  • muv (met uitzondering van): with the exception of, excepting, save
  • M/V (man/vrouw): man/woman (in job ads)
  • mv  (meervoud) plural
  • m.vr.gr. (met vriendelijke groeten): with kind regards (letter)
  • Mw (mevrouw): Madam, Mrs
  • nav (naar aanleiding van): as a result of
  • notk (nader overeen te komen): to be agreed
  • nl (namelijk): namely
  • o.a. (onder andere): amongst other things
  • o.l.v.   (onder leiding van) supervised by
  • o.m. (onder meer): amongst other, including
  • ong.  (ongeveer) approximately / about / around
  • oorspr. (oorspronkelijk) originally
  • overl. (overleden): deceased
  • svp (Si’l vous plait – French): please
  • tav ** (ter attentie van): attention of, attn
  • tav ** (ten aanzien van): with regard/respect to
  • teab = (tegen elk aannemelijk bod): any reasonable offer accepted
  • tgv (ten gevolge van): as a result of
  • t/m (tot en met): up to and including
  • tnv (ten name van): in the name of
  • tov (ten opzichte van): compared/ in relation to
  • twv (ter waarde van): worth, valued at
  • v.a. (vanaf): from (mostly used for pricing)
  • vnl  (voornamelijk) mainly / especially / in particular
  • zgn. (zogenaamd): as a matter of speaking, so called
  • zoz (zie ommezijde): see other side, please turn over, pto

* aka: also known as
btw: by the way
fyi: for your information

** You can only tell from the context which one you’re dealing with.