Languages & Linguistics

Words that English should borrow from Dutch

Paul Won­ner. 1984. Dutch Still Life with Cook­ies and Candy. [https://​www​.wiki​art​.org/​e​n​/​p​a​u​l​-​w​o​n​n​e​r​/​d​u​t​c​h​-​s​t​i​l​l​-​l​i​f​e​-​w​i​t​h​-​c​o​o​k​i​e​s​-​a​n​d​-​c​a​n​d​y​-​1​984]

(This list is irreg­u­larly yet irre­press­ibly updated. All the new words go on the top.)


pro­posed pro­nun­ci­ation: /ˈlɛkər/, rhymes with pecker (hee­hee)

closest mean­ing: ‘good, nice’

When some­thing tastes good, it’s lek­ker. When someone’s attract­ive, they’re lek­ker. When you’re doing some­thing you’re enjoy­ing, you’re doing it lek­ker. When you pass­ive-aggress­ively want someone else to do some­thing, they should lek­ker do it. Lots of things are lek­ker in Dutch. And if you’re unapo­lo­getic about find­ing some­thing lek­ker, it’s gewoon lek­ker.

example: “Have you ever had pump­kin spice pulled pork with avo­cado on toast? It’s super lek­ker!”

bonus example: “Why don’t you just lek­ker fix it your­self?!”


(sug­ges­ted by Mer Almagro)

pro­posed pro­nun­ci­ation: /ˈɑrsgəˌwaɪ/, rhymes with arse why

closest mean­ing: ‘tramp stamp’

Tramp stamp is a bit sex­ist, isn’t it? A shame about the rhyme, but it’s gotta go. Never fear, though, as Dutch has got your back with aarsge­weiIt’s gender neut­ral, and it lit­er­ally means arse antlers, which you’re also free to sub­sti­tute if aarsge­wei is too dif­fi­cult to spell or pro­nounce.

example: “So then he raised his shirt and out popped his aarsge­wei!”


pro­posed pro­nun­ci­ation: /ˈbɒrəl/, rhymes with coral

closest mean­ing: ‘drinks’

After a present­a­tion, after a meet­ing, after a long week of work, you can go for drinks. What a hor­ribly unfanci­ful word, drinks. Instead, sub­sti­tute the Dutch word bor­rel. Ori­gin­ally and primar­ily it means a glass of strong liquor, but it’s been met­onym­ic­ally exten­ded to the prac­tice of imbid­ing drinks (alco­holic or non-) in a social, often pro­fes­sional, set­ting. Next time you organ­ise a con­fer­ence or a meet­ing, make sure there’s a bor­rel after­wards.

example: “I’m con­sid­er­ing going to her lec­ture, but only if there’ll be a bor­rel after­wards.”


pro­posed pro­nun­ci­ation: /ˈkeɪtər/, rhymes with later

mean­ing: ‘tom­cat’

OK, tom­cat is a nice word. It does­n’t have to be replaced. But con­sider adding kater. It sounds fun. While you’re at it, re-intro­duce puss as the word for a female cat. Con­sider com­bin­ing them into kater­puss or some­thing sim­ilar for extra credit. Added bonus: kater also means ‘hangover’ for some reason. Two words for the price of one.

example: “Susan, that dang kater of yours has been crap­ping in our garden again. Get your life!”