English expressions and idioms with the word 'Dutch'

English expressions and idioms with the word 'Dutch'

The Netherlands has a long history of global trade and colonialism, and those centuries of international involvement led to a lasting mark on the English language.

The English, in particular, came up with some very colourful ways of describing or referring to the Dutch during the 17th century and beyond.

Reflection of Dutch - English relations

Most idioms about the Dutch in the English language came into being after 1665.

This was a time when the Netherlands had conflicts with the English on both land and sea, including the loss of the Dutch colony of what later became New York.

Idioms with the word Dutch

Here are some of the descriptive ways the English used to refer to Dutch people.

› Beat the Dutch: To exceed expectations.

› Dutch act / cure: Committing suicide.

› Dutch agreement: An agreement made while intoxicated.

› Dutch auction: An auction in which the goods are offered at gradually decreasing prices. The first bidder to accept wins.

› Dutch bargain: A bargain settled over drinks.

› Dutch collar: A horse collar.

› Dutch comfort: Deriving comfort from the fact that things could be worse.

› Dutch concert: Lots of noise, like that made by a group of drunken Dutchmen.

› Dutch courage: Liquid courage provided by alcohol.

› Dutch defence: A sham defence.

› Dutch generosity: Stinginess.

› Dutch headache: Hangover.

› Dutch leaf: False gold leaf.

› Dutch leave: When a soldier is absent without leave, AWOL.

› Dutch gold: An alloy of copper and zinc, yellow in colour, that’s easily tarnished unless lacquered. Imitation gold leaf is made from it, hence the name Dutch leaf. It is also called Dutch metal.

› Dutch nightingales: Frogs.

› Dutch reckoning: an excessively high bill that’s neither itemised nor detailed.

› Dutch rub: To rub your knuckles across the top of someone’s head while holding their head under your other arm.

› Dutch talent: More brawn than brain.

› Dutch treat: When you go out to eat and each person pays for themselves. To go Dutch has the same meaning.

› Dutch widow: A prostitute.

› Dutch wife: A long bolster.

› Dutched: Cancelled.

› Dutchman's draught: A very large beer.

› Double Dutch: Gibberish, hard to understand language. Also a jump rope game.

› To go Dutch: When you go out to eat and each person pays for themselves. Same as Dutch treat.

› To be in Dutch with someone: Being in trouble with someone.

› I'm a Dutchman if I do: A strong refusal.

› If not, I'm a Dutchman: Used to strengthen an affirmation or assertion.

› In Dutch: In trouble, out of favour, under suspicion.

› To talk like a Dutch uncle:  Being stern and firm.

› Well, I'm a Dutchman!: An exclamation of strong incredulity.

More positive idioms with 'Dutch'

It wasn’t all bad what the English use to say about the Dutch. Here are some nicer and some more modern expressions with the word Dutch.

› Dutch angle / tilt: a type of camera shot in films

› Dutch betting: the practice of backing more than one selection to achieve the same profit regardless of which selection wins.

› Dutch barn: A farm building with a curved roof on a frame that has no walls.

› Dutch bulb: The term used to describe collectively certain kinds of garden bulbs that are planted in the fall for spring bloom.

› Dutch clover: White clover, a valuable pasture plant.

› Dutch cousins: Close friends

› Dutch door: A door divided horizontally so that the lower or upper part can be shut separately.

› Dutch hoe: A scuffle hoe, a garden hoe that has both edges sharpened and can be pushed forward or drawn back.

› Dutch mineral: Copper beaten out into very thin leaves.

› Dutch oven: a heavy cast iron cooking pot with tight-fitting lid. A second (less pleasant) definition of Dutch oven also exists, it refers to flatulence in bed.

› Dutch roll: A combination of directional and lateral oscillation of an airplane.

› Dutchman's log: A rough method for finding a ship's speed by throwing a piece of wood into the sea well in front of it, then timing its passage between two marks on the vessel.

› Flying Dutchman: A ghost ship. A sailor who sees a Flying Dutchman will die before reaching home.

› Pennsylvania Dutch: This is actually German and not Dutch at all; the confusion stems from Deutsch, the German word for German.

Have you heard any of these old idioms about the Dutch? Any to add?

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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Leave a comment

Farhad Pourebrahim 18:19 | 7 March 2020

Hello There is an Idiom about 'Dutch' which is, Dutch Boy An old story about a famous boy who put his finger in a dike to save the lives of people. Thanks

Harvey Cedar 00:30 | 26 March 2020

a variation of what you posted, a saying that i have not heard in a while, "get in to Dutch" meaning to get in to trouble. Also, 2 additional thots on "Dutch" meaning German. the English in Philadelphia called Germans from the Palatinate "High Dutch" and Netherlanders "Low Dutch." The Palatinate Calvinists took this distinction with them calling their churches "High Dutch Reformed Church." Most of the Dutch REformed churches in Classis Philadelphia of the Reformed Church in America ("Dutch Refomed") were ethnically German. The First Reformed Church was one of them, and they migrated to the German Reformed Church after the American Civil War. 2nd thot is that on the frontier in upstate New York it was common to have joint German Lutheran/Dutch Reformed congregations, which probably helped to blur the distinction. BTW even as late as World War One Americans were calling the Germans "Dutchmen."