Keeping it short: Dutch abbreviations explained

Keeping it short: Dutch abbreviations explained

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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.

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.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
  • (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.


By Pep Mac Ruairi


Have you come across other Dutch abbreviations that you think should be included in the list? Send your suggestions to the Editor.



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11 Comments To This Article

  • Peter posted:

    on 11th December 2016, 14:32:53 - Reply

    '" = *m*et *v*riendelijke *gr*oeten = with kind regards
  • Gea posted:

    on 19th May 2016, 22:10:24 - Reply

    Hello Pep, thank you so much for this very useful article. I have been living in the UK for 13 years and teach Dutch here. After I realised I had used an abbreviation in a Dutch email to a student I thought I wanted to keep it in there but added the link to this article for my student so he would have a useful list of Dutch abbreviations. I teach through Skype and usually email my students in Dutch as soon as they are a bit advanced so they will have another learning opportunity that way. Thanks again for this great list en ook Patricia van der Vliet, dankjewel. Ik had nl ;-) de afkorting mbt gebruikt! Best wishes, Gea de Weerd
  • Maria posted:

    on 14th February 2016, 06:14:59 - Reply

    Thank you for your article - very helpful.
    I am translating ancient documents and am sweating blood - so difficult with ancient spelling, bad handwriting etc. Question: what does 'ra besz.' mean?
    sentence is '. . . van heeden voor een kinds gedeelte tot des zelvs melde erfgename geinstitueerd een zijnde het ra besz. Perceel ingevolge den inventaris der gemeen boedel van dezelve . . . '

    [Moderator's note: You can also post questions on our Ask the Expert free service.]

  • Yvonne posted:

    on 5th November 2015, 07:25:55 - Reply

    Katie, have you found out yet?
    It could be "onmondig" (legally incapable) according to
    What is the context?

  • Katie posted:

    on 7th March 2015, 00:03:27 - Reply

    question: On a Dutch document dated 1634 was the abbreviation onm. probably referring to parents or grandparents. Does anyone know which it might be?
  • Aspects of Spain Villa Holidays posted:

    on 5th January 2014, 11:03:19 - Reply

    Just received an email enquiring about one of our villas, that ended w.kloos, with the in blue and underlined as if it were a link! Google managed to translate all but the w.kloos (W. Kloos turned out to be the name of the client)

    Your post saved me from binning the whole thing as spam! thanks very much!
  • Grace posted:

    on 21st November 2013, 14:38:16 - Reply

    Thank you !!!
  • Panagiotis posted:

    on 14th November 2013, 12:28:59 - Reply

    Thank you very very much,
    Veeeeeeeery helpful article and well done.
  • Lola posted:

    on 2nd May 2013, 17:07:49 - Reply

    this is mega helpful! thanks a million! blogged this on my blog
  • Shawn McCool posted:

    on 6th September 2011, 10:46:56 - Reply

    I just moved to the Netherlands from the USA and this article is of definite help to me. Thank you.
  • EditorNL posted:

    on 11th June 2009, 09:29:53 - Reply

    Thanks to Patricia van der Vliet for sending us the following abbreviations (afkortingen) which I have added to the list in the above article:

    m.b.t. (met betrekking tot) concerning
    mv (meervoud) plural
    o.l.v. (onder leiding van) supervised by
    ong. (ongeveer) approximately / about / around
    oorspr. (oorspronkelijk) originally
    vnl (voornamelijk) mainly / especially / in particular