A crash course in Dutch cursing

A crash course in Dutch cursing

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Dutch is a direct and often insensitive language, at least that is what many expats like to think. 

Normally if you do a language course, then you will learn how to be polite. Your teacher may even insist that you address other people with u, rather than je or jij, certainly if you don’t know them and if they are older than you. But how do you curse in Dutch?

Funny Dutch cursing

There are many things that Dutch people say to each other when they disagree or when they are mad at each other. It could be nice to give some vivid examples, just in case that you may need them one day. One warning though: be careful when you use them. You may lose a couple of friends or your boss may fire you.

Ga toch fietsen! is a great way to get started. What could be more Dutch than a bike? It means something like: go and bike you know. In English you would probably say: "go and take a hike!"

In Dutch there are many funny expressions like: je kan de boom in ("you can in the tree") which is something like: "why don’t you sit in a tree?" Then we have: je kan de pot op. Pot has many different meanings. It could be a jar and even a lesbian woman. But in this case it presumably refers to the toilet. So if you wish that a person walked to hell, then in Dutch you can start with the toilet first.

Wishing deadly diseases upon others

Somehow, Dutch people love to use words that have to do with diseases. Krijg de tyfus ("get the typhoid fever") or: krijg de klere! Klere does not refer to kleren (clothes) but to cholera here, which is not a nice disease to have. Also, just for your information, you could start in a very modest way here: je kan de pokken krijgen ("you can get the pocks"), which means: "it would be okay for me if you got pocks now."

Choosing the right disease

With these expressions, you can really use all kinds of diseases according to your taste. Should the other person only suffer for a short moment? Then use a mild disease. Would you like to see a person suffer for a longer period and then have a painful death?

There are many diseases to choose from. Sometimes Dutch people walk a middle road. They express their anger, but they choose a disease that sounds funny such as vogelgriep (bird flu). You see? When it comes to wishing diseases upon other people, you can really be creative!

The many meanings of Rot op!

Here is another one: rot op! Rot is rotten of course, and it literally means: "disappear by rotting away!" The meaning heavily depends on the way that you pronounce it. It could mean: "get the hell out of here", or "get lost!" when you pronounce it very seriously. But if you say it among friends it could also mean: "What? Are you crazy?"

Wishing death upon your foe

Let’s be honest, sometimes when you fight with other people you don’t want to wait. Even a deadly disease would take too long. That is why - if Dutch people are really mad - they could also scream: val dood ("fall dead"), which means "drop dead!" If you say this then most people will take it very seriously. Very likely, they do not want to be in your company anymore.

Then there is the all-time classic: sterf! ("die") Probably you will not hear it so often, because this is something that Dutch people will only say if they are really out of control emotionally. You could almost think that people really mean it, when they say it.

Here is another nice variation on the theme: stik! Don’t get mislead by this one, because it does not mean that you should stick to something, but it means: "choke!"

So although it sounds a bit nicer than sterf, the person that says it has a clear end goal in mind. You should stop breathing, which means that you’ll be dead right?

Wishing people would disappear

Here are some other expressions that sound more diplomatic. Zak door de grond means literally "sink into the ground", which suggests that all of a sudden the earth swallows you. Or, if you like, you could use a word that rhymes with grond and that is stront ("shit"). Although Zak door de stront sounds harsher, it could be actually quite friendly. At least it does not necessarily imply that you have to die at the end.

Falling back on an English classic

Here is another funny thing. Despite of the rich variety that Dutch people have for wishing bad things to other people, somehow Dutch people have one favourite expression from English. Somehow F*** you! seems to be the most appropriate words to use in so many different situations.

Pick your battles

Last but not least, an important message to all readers: Know that you will reap what you sow! Sure, you can use mean words and filthy words all the time, but what will be your harvest then? Spread as much friendliness and love as you can and, should you really need a rude expression now and then for a person who really deserves it, now you have something to choose from!

So, what do you think? Is Dutch cursing harsher than your native language? Or does your language have beautiful expressions that are nastier and meaner?

Albert Both is a specialist in learning Dutch fast while having fun. Sign up for his free workshop "Finding Dutch Flow: Opening The Floodgate to Dutch Fluency" on Sunday, May 29, in Amsterdam.

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Albert Both


Albert Both

I help with an approach of learning Dutch that is completely different from any other language course. It is called Dutch Brainwashing. The immediate result is that you learn at...

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