Home Education Language Learning Bitterballenbruid: 20 amusing Dutch translations
Last update on August 20, 2019
Written by Bitterballenbruid

Giving someone ‘lovable maggots’ (madeliefjes) is completely acceptable in the Netherlands – and demonstrates why Dutch shouldn’t be translated into English.

About six months ago, I wrote a popular post on 30 amusing Dutch words. Laura Frame, my partner in crime and illustrator for that post, has come up with some more cute illustrations of amusing Dutch words. It would be a shame not to share more.

This post shows you why it’s a bad idea to directly translate Dutch words into English.

1. Eekhoorntjesbrood

Funniest Dutch translations

Eekhoorntjesbrood – literally translates into ‘little squirrel’s bread’ – actually means porcini mushrooms. Leuk, hè? 

 2. Luipaard

Funniest Dutch translations

It means leopard, but is literally translated as ‘lazy horse’.

3. Koevoet

Funniest Dutch translations

This is the word for a crow bar, but the literal translation is ‘cow foot’.

4. Papegaaiduiker

Funniest Dutch translations

You got it – ‘parrot diver’. But it actually means puffin.

5. Tuinslang

Tuinslang by Laura Frame

Continuing the animal theme, tuinslang translates into have a ‘garden snake’ – which is actually just a garden hose.

6. Brandslang

Brandslang by Laura Frame

But for real emergencies, you’ll need a brandslang – or a ‘fire snake’! It’s really just a fire hose.

7. Gordeldier

Gordeldier by Laura Frame

Gordeldier means armadillo, but the literal translation is ‘belt animal’. 


8. IJsbeer

Ijsbeer by Laura Frame

The direct Dutch translation for polar bear is ‘ice bear’. IJs can also mean ice-cream – even better!

9. Paardenbloem

Paardenbloem by Laura Frame

Paardenbloem crosses animal and flower genres to give us the ‘horse flower’ – but it is really the word for dandelion.

10. Madelief

Madelief by Laura Frame

Literally meaning ‘lovable maggot’, madelief is the word for a daisy.

11. Vingerhoedskruid

Vingerhoedskruid by Laura Frame

A foxglove (vingerhoedskruid) is literally translated as ‘finger hat herb’ – and also an ideal candidate for a funny English word illustration. 
12. Bloemlezing

Bloemlezing by Laura Frame

‘Flower reading’ (bloemlezing) is the way you say ‘anthology’ in Dutch.

13. Pindakaas

Pindakaas by Laura Frame

Literally meaning ‘peanut cheese’, pindakaas is the word for peanut butter.

14. Toiletbril

Toiletbril by Laura Frame

Where did I put my toilet glasses (toiletbril)? ‘Toiletbril’ means toilet seat.

15. Stofzuiger

Stofzuiger by Laura Frame

‘Dust sucker’! Thankfully it is the word for vacuum cleaner.

16. Stembanden

Stembanden by Laura Frame

Stembanden, meaning vocal chords, literally translates into ‘voice tyres’.

17. Schoonmoeder

Schoonmoeder by Laura Frame

Definitely one of my personal favourites! Schoonmoeder (mother-in-law) literally translates as ‘clean mother’. Schoon can also mean beautiful.

18. Feestneus

Feestneus by Laura Frame

Are you a ‘party nose’? You might be better known as a party animal (feestneus).

19. Buitenbeentje

Buitenbeentje by Laura Frame

A misfit (buitenbeentje) is literally translated from Dutch to English as a ‘ little outside leg’.

20. Brandweer

“Quick, call the ‘fire weather’!” Brandweer is the word for fire brigade; in this instance, weer comes from weren which means to avert. So ‘Brandweer’ means fire defence or fire aversion.

Brandweer by Laura Frame

What have been your biggest fails while learning Dutch? Ondernemer was a personal highlight of mine – I thought it meant undertaker, but it’s actually entrepreneur! Plus, “Ik heb mijn benen uit.” Totally normal to say that in English, but in Dutch it would insinuate that I have prosthetic limbs. Oops!