Most Googled: Holland vs the Netherlands - What's the difference?

Most Googled: Holland vs the Netherlands - What's the difference?

Holland or the Netherlands? The Netherlands or Holland? Living in this country, you pretty quickly become familiar with the two names, and the question of which one is correct. If you've ever found yourself wondering what the difference is between the two, then wonder no longer! We’re here to finally put the issue of Holland vs the Netherlands to rest, once and for all.

Is Holland the same as the Netherlands?

First things first, the most important question to answer is whether or not Holland and the Netherlands are the same place, and whether or not the two names can be used interchangeably. 

On an international scale, Holland is generally quite regularly used to refer to the country officially known as the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Furthermore, upon moving here you might have realised that the Dutch football fans will, for example, cheer on the national team by shouting “Hup Holland Hup”. 

So, if you’re after a quick and easy answer to your question, then the answer is yes, kind of. Both the Netherlands and Holland have been used (and are used) to refer to the Kingdom of the Netherlands. So, if you’re talking to someone and they use one (or both) of these terms, it's pretty much guaranteed that they’re referring to this rather small, exceedingly flat country that over 17 million people call home.

Where is Holland?

Okay, so now you know that if someone says “Holland”, they’re probably talking about the Netherlands. But you might still be left with plenty of other questions. What is Holland? Is it a place in its own right? Where is it? Is Holland in the Netherlands? 

What is Holland? Is it a country?

It’s pretty simple really: technically, the name Holland refers to just part of the Netherlands. Like many other countries around the world, the Netherlands is split into different provinces. There are only 12, but, most of the major cities are in just two of them, which perhaps unsurprisingly make up a large part of the economic hub of the country - known as the Randstad. These two provinces are called North Holland (Noord Holland) and South Holland (Zuid Holland) - do you see where we’re going with this?

Before these two provinces split, they were united as one big province called, you guessed it, Holland, which was first established as a fief of the Holy Roman Empire all the way back in the 12th century. 

Does that mean Holland is in the Netherlands?

Of course, a lot has changed over the last 900 years, and the province of Holland has split into Noord and Zuid, but yes, Holland is in the Netherlands.

In the province of North Holland, you’ll find the Dutch capital city, Amsterdam, as well as the Netherlands’ biggest airport, Schiphol, and various other towns and cities that are popular with commuters who work in and around Amsterdam (e.g. Haarlem and Zaanstad). In South Holland, you’ll find the cities of Leiden, Delft and Rotterdam, as well as The Hague, which is home to the Dutch government and the International Court of Justice.

Why do people call the Netherlands Holland? 

Holland isn’t a country, but together the two provinces make up a pretty important part of the Netherlands. So it perhaps isn’t all that surprising that people started to refer to the country as a whole as just Holland.

Are Dutch people from Holland or the Netherlands?

Because Holland isn’t the name of the country, Dutch people are from the Netherlands. However, it’s possible that you meet a Dutchie who is from Holland, but in this case, it would just mean that they’re from either the province of North or South Holland. 

This means that all Dutch people are from the Netherlands, and everyone from Holland is from the Netherlands - but not everyone from the Netherlands is from Holland. Confused yet?

For example, if you meet someone who was born and raised in Amsterdam, they can say that they’re from Holland, as Amsterdam is in the province of North Holland. However, if you meet someone who was born in Eindhoven, then they are from the Netherlands, but they’re not from Holland, as Eindhoven is in the province of North Brabant.

Is it “Netherlands” or “the Netherlands”?

So, now that you know the country is called the Netherlands and not Holland, you might be wondering what the proper way to refer to it is. Can you just say “Netherlands”, or is it always “the Netherlands”?

In Dutch, the country is called Nederland, so this can sometimes get translated as just Netherlands in English. However, according to the Dutch government, the official name of the country is the Netherlands - taken from the Kingdom of the Netherlands, or Koninkrijk der Nederlanden in Dutch. 

Fun fact for you: Nederlanden directly translates to “low countries” in English. Not really a huge surprise, considering how flat the Netherlands is!

Should you say “the Netherlands are” or “the Netherlands is”?

It's pretty simple really. The Netherlands is just one country, so even though the “s” on the end means the word looks like it should be plural, it is in fact singular. That means that when you’re talking about the Netherlands, you use words such as “is” or “has”, not “are”.

The Netherlands vs Holland

There you have it: the difference between Holland and the Netherlands. Not only is this great information to wield in your next pub quiz, but it also means you’ll be able to confidently tell people you meet that, actually, you live in the Netherlands - not Holland!

Victoria Séveno


Victoria Séveno

Victoria grew up in Amsterdam, before moving to the UK to study English and Related Literature at the University of York and completing her NCTJ course at the Press Association...

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