Dutch isn’t the most widely spoken language, but these cool Dutch words are worth learning for those moments that no English word can express.
There may be less than 30 million Dutch speakers in the world, but some cool Dutch words are worth memorising. Instead of fumbling for a string of words in English, sometimes all it takes is one, well-picked cool Dutch word.
There might not be an English-word equivalent but uitbuiken is a universal act; it means to sit back and let your belly out – literally ‘out-bellying’ – after a long meal to help digestion.
The refreshing act of going for a walk and getting some air, translated literally as ‘to blow out’.
This is a word you might hear from Dutch doctors that advocate the body’s natural healing ability. Uitzieken translates to ‘sick it out’ and essentially means waiting out an illness and taking it easy until you recover.
This is a hearty expression of satisfaction after a job well done or a hard day, for example, removing your shoes or sitting down for the first time in hours.
The feeling of excitement before an event is translated literally as ‘pre-fun’.
Translated literally to ‘polarbearing’, if that was a word, IJsberen is the verb to pace around in deep thought. The word is a useful one, although the imagery of pacing captive polar bears, reportedly the inspiration for this word, pulls on the heartstrings.
A word that lies at the heart of Dutch culture, gezellig has no direct translation in English but is basically used to describe anything that evokes feelings of coziness, enjoyment or feel-good vibes. Some might say ‘conviviality’ comes close, in the way of having a ‘jolly time’, but hè gezellig rolls off the tongue more often than ‘how convivial’.
To paint an image, one might say, “Gezellig zat ik daar met een goed boek aan het vuurtje,” or, “I sat gezellig by the fire with a good book.” It can also be used to describe a nice home, a fun event, a beautiful sunset or a good conversation with friends. Just make sure you’re not caught out for being ‘un-gezellig’, like texting while someone’s talking.
Modern daters might find this word useful, as the Dutch have a dedicated word for cancelling plans over the phone, literally translated as ‘off-calling’, and different to cancelling a subscription (afzeggen) or cancelling plans in general (afzeggen).
The Dutch take pride in toting tolerance as a cultural trait, and certainly the county’s drug and prostitution laws are more lenient than some of its neighbours. Gedogen, then, is to take a lenient stance or turn a blind eye to something, like the Netherlands’ drugs gedoog policy.
This word in itself can be roughly translated into tasty, except that it can be applied to almost anything, from having a nice body to nice conversation. It has filtered into many Dutch phrases; ga lekker zitten means to make yourself comfortable, or lekker puh is what children might say when they’re one up, as in ‘so there’ or ‘serves you right’. A modern twist takes it further: Wearing orange? Dat vind ik wel lekker (Like it).
What can’t be translated into English, however, is the accompanying gesture: when you’ve got a mouthful of something delicious, wave your hand across your cheek and smile; everyone will understand that what you’re eating is, indeed, incredibly tasty, or lekker.