English words you didn't know came from Dutch

English words you didn't know came from Dutch

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During the seventeenth century, which the Dutch call their Golden Age, the Netherlands was an economic world power with impact all over the world. Though the influence of the Dutch and their language has decreased a lot since then, Dutch words have survived in many foreign languages. In this post, Translavic, a translation agency, will address some Dutch loan words that have found their way to modern (American) English.

Who is the boss?

The word boss comes from the Dutch word “baas”. As the Dutch tried to be the boss in many places around the world centuries ago, this term is still used in 57 modern languages, according to a study by Nicoline van der Sijs in 2010. “Boss” is also used, for example, in Swedish and Danish. The Indonesians speak about “bos” and the Koreans about 보스, which is pronounced “boseu”.

Conquerors of the water

The Dutch have long been world leaders in water management. Therefore, it is no surprise that many expressions around this subject have been exported to English and other foreign languages. Dyke, polder and dam are all Dutch loan words.

Numerous terms to do with sailing and fishing are also found in English. Anchovy, buoy, caboose, freight, halibut, herring, hoist, keelhaul, skipper and starboard are all derived from Dutch.

Even when the water is frozen, modern English cannot do without Dutch loan words. The words skate, to sled and sleigh come from Dutch as well. If you are ever in Amsterdam, we advise you to visit the Rijksmuseum, where countless beautiful paintings show the relationship between the Dutch and the (frozen) water.

Dutch in and around the house

A surprising number of words used in and around the house have Dutch origins. Did you know that words like candy, cookie, crane, gin, knapsack, pen and pit originate from the Dutch language? You know now! You probably use objects with Dutch names on a daily basis. You might think about it the next time you pick up one of these things.

The almighty dollar

Have you ever wondered where the word dollar comes from? The most widely-used currency in the world takes its name from the Dutch coin daalder, which was introduced to the American colonies by the Dutch in the seventeenth century. During and after the revolution, the term dollar had the advantage of not being British. It was used in the government's records of public debt and expenditure during these times.

The Continental Congress adopted the dollar as a unit in 1786, when it set up the modern U.S. currency system, based on the suggestion of Gouverneur Morris (1782), and modified by Thomas Jefferson.

Do you ever bluff?

Poker is an all-American card game, but bluffing, which means acting like you have a better hand than you actually do, is derived from the Dutch expression "bluffen". This might have something to do with the negotiation skills of Dutch traders. Whether the Dutch were really great at bluffing is uncertain, but every time you say you’re bluffing, you’re speaking a little bit of Dutch.

Translavic provides translation services from and to all European languages, as well as translations from and to Chinese, Japanese, Turkish and Arabic. Texts are always translated by a native speaker. For example, a translation from English into Dutch is always handled by a native speaker of Dutch. Get a free quote for your translation now!

Mirjam Kolkman


Mirjam Kolkman

Production Manager Mirjam is a graduate in translation and interpreting of the Maastricht School of International Communication. Subsequently she obtained a Master’s degree in Slavic Languages and Cultures in Groningen....

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