The 15 best Dutch winter proverbs

The 15 best Dutch winter proverbs

The Dutch language may not be the prettiest to the untrained ear. But when you look beyond the strange guttural sounds it is actually a surprisingly rich language with a long history of proverbs and expressions that are still alive and well in everyday use.

If you are taking a Dutch language course, you can impress your teacher with one of our 15 favourite winter-related Dutch proverbs!

Dutch winter proverbs

These five Dutch proverbs all use the word "winter":

Als de dagen gaan lengen, gaat de winter strengen.

- Literal translation: When the days get longer, winter gets colder.
- Meaning: The coldest part of winter comes after the shortest day.

Een bonte kraai maakt nog geen winter.

- Literal translation: One crow does not make winter. The bonte kraai is a species of crow that spends the winter in the Netherlands. 
- Meaning: Just one example is not enough for a definitive conclusion.

Zachte winters vette kerkhoven.

- Literal translation: Mild winters fat graveyards.
- Meaning: Mild winters often led to more disease than cold winters.

Men hoort van ver dat de winter koud is.

- Literal translation: One hears from faraway that the winter is cold.
- Meaning: It becomes quickly known when there is danger somewhere.

Zo komt Jan Splinter door de winter.

- Literal translation: That’s how Jan Splinter gets through the winter.
- Meaning: That’s how poor people get through the winter.

Dutch sayings about ice

These six Dutch sayings all use the word "ice":

Als de kalveren op het ijs dansen.

- Literal translation: When the calves dance on the ice.
- Meaning: Never.

Als het water zakt, kraakt het ijs.

- Literal translation: When the water goes down, the ice cracks.
- Meaning: Every cause has an effect.

Met de klompen op het ijs komen.

- Literal translation: Going onto the ice with clogs.
- Meaning: Going where you don’t belong, being careless.

Met de klompen van het ijs blijven.

- Literal translation: To keep one's clogs off the ice.
- Meaning: Minding your own business.

Niet over een nacht ijs gaan.

- Literal translation: Not walking over ice formed after one night.
- Meaning: Thinking before you act.

Zich op glad ijs begeven.

- Literal translation: Venturing onto slick ice.
- Meaning: Talking about something you know very little about.

Dutch expressions about snow

These two Dutch expressions are all about snow:

De engeltjes schudden hun kussens uit.

- Literal translation: The angels are fluffing their pillows.
- Meaning:  It snows.

Aprilletje zoet, heeft nog wel eens een witte hoed.

- Literal translation: April sweet, sometimes has a white hat.
- Meaning: It can snow in the beginning of April.

Dutch proverbs on freezing

A couple of Dutch proverbs about freezing:

Op oud ijs vriest het licht.

- Literal translation: On old ice it freezes lightly.
- Meaning: An old buried hurt or love can quickly surface again.

Het kan vriezen en het kan dooien.

- Literal translation: It can freeze and it can thaw.
- Meaning: It can go either way.

Have you encountered any of these? Do you know any other seasonal proverbs that are related to winter in the Netherlands?


Thomas Lundberg


Thomas Lundberg

Born as a Swede in the Netherlands, this life-long expat has spent his time in Belgium, the United States and Amsterdam. He began his professional career as a regional news...

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Jolanda Keur 08:05 | 23 February 2018

A general winter weather one: Maart roert zijn staart. Literal translation: March flicks its tail. Meaning: the weather can be very unpredictable and cold still.