It is that time of the year again, the holiday season. Christmas, New Year and, in Dutch there is even more to celebrate in the last month of the year. This is why you can discover ten useful words in Dutch, and with a twist!
Feestdagen in Dutch stands for holidays. In English, a holiday comes from holy day, but in Dutch, the emphasis seems to be on feest, which comes from feast. Therefore feestdagen literally means feast days and… if you like, you could also translate feest as party. Now it is very easy to imagine that it could also mean party days.
Here is another word that could be useful: Beest is beast, of course, so a new word would be feestbeest! Somehow feestbeest sounds wilder and better than party animal, don’t you think?
2. Lief & stout
If you like to get loads and loads of presents, then two key words could be lief & stout. In Holland, Sinterklaas will already start to give you little gifts in November and on the 5th you could be overloaded with presents. However…. There is one important condition.
As you may have noticed already, Sinterklaas tends to favor children when he gives presents, but they will only get presents if they are lief. Lief comes from the word liefde, which means love. It means that your behavior is mainly determined by love and, therefore, you always do the right things.
Een lief kind is a lovely child and also a sweet child. That child deserves loads of gifts and, unfortunately, some children prefer to be stout, naughty!
Stout is not that hard to remember. Just imagine that a child drinks loads of stout! That would be naughty, right? But here is the thing: children can be stout, and if you say: Ik ben stout (I am naughty), then all of a sudden, now that you are an adult, your words could have a whole different meaning.
Although it could be hard to understand for children, a new truth could also be this: once you are a grownup adult, you can be lief & stout at the same time. Your partner may like this special combination!
3. De zak van Sinterklaas
Sinterklaas gives thousands and thousands of presents and chocoladeletters, and he carries all of them in a kind of magical bag: de zak van Sinterklaas. This zak is truly miraculous because one of his pieten can carry it without too much effort and it always has enough presents for each and every child in the Netherlands. That is amazing, don’t you think?
However, zak in Dutch has also another meaning. Sometimes it has two balls. That is why de zak van Sinterklaas sometimes sounds suspicious, certainly for Dutch people! Not everyone wants to know what is inside of de zak van Sinterklaas!
Kerst is Christmas, and you can make many combinations with this word. You can combine it with man, and then you get kerstman; literally, Christmas man, and this is Santa Claus, of course.
Just like in English, you can also combine it with boom (tree) and then it turns into een kerstboom, a Christmas tree!
Stal in Dutch is stable, a place where you can stall cows and sheep. Kerststal is a place that is very direct and unpretentious. It is a stable with animals during Christmas time. Not necessarily a nice place to spend your Christmas. You may call it Nativity in English, and somehow it sounds much better and nicer, don’t you think?
And why not? You can also combine it with stress. Kerst is not necessarily merry for everyone, so if you like, you could say: Ik heb kerststress!
5. Wat? Versier je de kerstboom?
If you say: ik versier de kerstboom, it means that you decorate the Christmas tree. You hang it full of balls, lights and little angels.
In Dutch, if you say ik versier, ik does not just mean I decorate. It also has a second meaning, and in a sense, it is a bit like decorating, just in a different way.
Versieren (to decorate) also means telling how beautiful someone is. You give many compliments, and you try to do it charmingly. The goal, however, is very clear: you want to go to bed with this person!
That is why ik versier de kerstboom could have a double meaning as well. Imagine that you are all alone, just by yourself and that you feel lonelier than ever. One tip, however, is if you do it with a real kerstboom, then yes, it will probably hurt!
6. Een witte kerst does not have to be cold
Een witte kerst means a white Christmas, and just like in English, it means a white Christmas. A white Christmas is considered one of the most romantic versions of Christmas, but in Holland, you have to be lucky. It is not guaranteed at all that in Holland everything will be covered with snow.
However, een witte kerst could also have a second meaning. You could have een witte kerst in certain South American countries as well, even when the sun is shining, and you enjoy hot weather. With witte kerst there is also white stuff that looks a bit like sneeuw (snow), but it is something that goes through your nose…
7. If Santa Clause does not come, this could be the reason
Kerstman, literally means Christmas man and he has een slee (sledge) and also rendieren, which literally means running animal! However, in Holland there is a slight problem.
Do you know what Santa Clause loves to say all the time? Ho Ho Ho, right? In Holland, Ho means stop! Can you see the problem here? If you say ho ho ho all the time, then probably the reindeer will stop running!
Vuurwerk is fireworks, of course, and it literally means fire work. In Dutch, it is work, and if you use your imagination in English, it could mean that fire works; fire does its job.
Vuurwerk tends to be spectacular because it is a work of fire. In Dutch, you could also use it every day of the year. If you have vuurwerk in your relatie, you could be lucky. It means that there are many sparkles between you and your partner then if two people are clashing or fighting, it could be vuurwerk. It is something sensational, and often it could be fun to watch.
Nieuwjaarsduik is literally New Year’s dive. On the first of January, some brave-hearted Dutch people go to the beach for a swim, and in Amsterdam, some people might even swim in certain canals.
If you say ik duik in Dutch, it simply means I dive. However, you can dive into many things in Dutch. If you like, you could say: ik duik in de adminstatie, or even better: ik duik in mijn bed.
Voornemen is a logical combination of nemen to take and voor (for, before, in front of). Once you partied your way through de feestdagen like een wild feestbeest, you might say ho ho ho to yourself and wonder if you should adjust to a normal and healthier life again.
Voornemens are resolutions, and at the beginning of a new year, many Dutch people like to have goede voornemens, good resolutions, some good intentions for the rest of the year.
And sure… maybe you like to do more sports, speak more Dutch, eat healthier food. And sometimes, een voornemen could be that you do not have any good resolution at all!
Read Also: The Best Christmas Markets Across Europe
Anyhow, hopefully, you will have a good time this coming time during this holiday season, during these crazy times. Are there some other essential Dutch words that we should add to the list? If so, then let me know! Ik wens je gelukkige feestdagen! I wish you happy holidays!
Albert Both helps people to learn and speak Dutch fast. With his 7-day course, Dutch Brainwash you’ll learn how to look at Dutch differently so that you can unleash your fluency while having outrageous fun.