Funny Dutch translations

Bitterballenbruid: 20 amusing Dutch translations

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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

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

Funniest Dutch translations

 2. Luipaard

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

Funniest Dutch translations

3. Koevoet

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

Funniest Dutch translations

4. Papegaaiduiker

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

Funniest Dutch translations

5. Tuinslang

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

Tuinslang by Laura Frame

6. Brandslang

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

Brandslang by Laura Frame

7. Gordeldier

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

Gordeldier by Laura Frame
8. IJsbeer

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

Ijsbeer by Laura Frame

9. Paardenbloem

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

Paardenbloem by Laura Frame

10. Madelief

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

Madelief by Laura Frame

11. Vingerhoedskruid

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

Vingerhoedskruid by Laura Frame
12. Bloemlezing

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

Bloemlezing by Laura Frame

13. Pindakaas

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

Pindakaas by Laura Frame

14. Toiletbril

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

Toiletbril by Laura Frame

15. Stofzuiger

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

Stofzuiger by Laura Frame

16. Stembanden

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

Stembanden by Laura Frame

17. Schoonmoeder

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

Schoonmoeder by Laura Frame

18. Feestneus

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

Feestneus by Laura Frame

19. Buitenbeentje

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

Buitenbeentje by Laura Frame

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!


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. For more illustrations, see Laura's Facebook Page.

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1 Comment To This Article

  • NikaTera posted:

    on 27th January 2016, 19:31:44 - Reply

    Like them all. My favourite is missing - the washbear!