Dutch Language Blog

3 Important Dutch Words On The Coronavirus Posted by on Oct 26, 2020 in Culture, Dutch Vocabulary

The coronavirus needs no introduction. If you really want one, we did write one before. But we haven’t really discussed the kinds of terms the Dutch use around the Coronavirus. Currently faced by one of the worst upturns in infections of Europe, the Dutch have come up with terms to deal with the dreadful situation. From Coronawaanzin to intelligente lockdown, here are a few terms to get you more familiar with the Dutch thinking around the coronavirus!

Intelligente Lockdown

The Netherlands has become a country notorious for its lax approach to handling the coronavirus. Only two weeks ago, the country went into a gedeeltelijke lockdown (partial lockdown), telling people to wear masks in public spaces and closing restaurants and bars. This comes after months of relaxed rules, and more advies (advice) than hard regels (rules) on how to behave oneself. For example, wearing mondkapjes (masks) was a dringend advies (“urgent advice”, strongly advised), but it was not required. This was also the case for gatherings and working from home. The reason was that the Dutch government trusted that the people would follow this advies and that they considered obligatory rules to be too strict. There are also legal issues that make it difficult to require people to wear masks.

In March, the Netherlands had one of the most relaxed lockdowns in Europe, giving the Dutch a lot of bewegingsvrijheid (freedom to move). Dutch Prime Minister Rutte called this an intelligente lockdown (intelligent lockdown). This was, in fact, just a partial, targeted lockdown, but Rutte gave it this name. So what made it intelligent? One could speculate about that. It could mean that with the advies around corona, he hoped people would be intelligent and follow it. It could also mean that it gives more flexibility to change and adapt the lockdown according to the situation, making it more “intelligent”.

On the other hand, the Netherlands is the only country that used the term, and perhaps was viewed by foreigners as an insult – the Dutch do it intelligently, while the rest of the world doesn’t really know what they’re doing.

Coronawaanzin or Viruswaanzin

Image by engin akyurt at Unsplash.com

This term was coined at the beginning of the coronavirus in March. Translated as “corona insanity”, it describes how coronamaatregelen (corona measures) are too stringent and overdreven (exaggerated). Unsure how to feel and how to act in these uncertain times, people are worried that these maatregelen may be going too far and take away people’s vrijheid (freedom). Some are worried that, as they allege, people just accept these maatregelen without questioning them. In a opinion piece in newspaper METRO, Imka Meeuwese writes the following: “Als een stel makke schapen volgen we klakkeloos wat ons opgedragen wordt en niemand lijkt nog zelf na te denken, zijn of haar gezonde verstand te gebruiken.” (“Like a group of docile sheep, we unquestioningly follow what we are told to do and nobody seems to think for themselves anymore, using their common sense.”1gezonde verstand literally means “healthy sense”. Thought that’s an interesting difference!)


Groepsimmuniteit, the Dutch word for “herd immunity” was an idea that the Dutch played with, as well. In March, this seemed like a possibility, but it soon became clear that this approach was not going to work. Groepsimmuniteit essentially means that a substantial part of the population needs to get the virus and recover from it to be immune. This way, the virus can no longer spread from one person to the next as easily. That turned out not to work in the Netherlands, with high infection numbers and an insufficient number of IC beds.

What are the kinds of words around the Coronavirus that stand out in your country? Let me know in the comments below!

  • 1
    gezonde verstand literally means “healthy sense”. Thought that’s an interesting difference!
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About the Author: Sten

Hi! I am Sten, both Dutch and German. For many years, I've written for the German and the Dutch blogs with a passion for everything related to language and culture. It's fascinating to reflect on my own culture, and in the process allow our readers to learn more about it! Besides blogging, I am a German-Dutch-English translator, animator and filmmaker.