Dutch Language Blog

A Cookie From Your Own Dough and Other Dutch Idioms Posted by on May 28, 2014 in Dutch Language

3922742304_37f1e34c28_zWhat would a language be without its own unique sayings? In English, for instance, we color our communication with a number of clichés. How often have you heard someone talk about it being just the way the cookie crumbles or wax poetic about home, sweet home?

Turns out, the Dutch also love their expressions. But as I quickly found out when I told a Dutch acquaintance there was nothing like “thuis, lieve thuis,” these expressions don’t always translate literally.

Here are some of the uitdrukkingen you may encounter as you continue your Dutch language development:

“in ‘t huwelijksbootje stappen”
Translation: stepping into the wedding boat
Meaning: taking the plunge
English equivalent: tying the knot

“een koekje van je eigen deeg”
Translation: a cookie from your own dough
Meaning: when what you usually do to others is done to you
English equivalent: a taste of your own medicine

“iets onder de knie hebben”
Translation: have something under your knee
Meaning: having mastered something
English equivalent: have something under your belt

“een gegeven paard niet in de bek kijken”
Translation: don’t look a gift horse in the mouth
Meaning: never question a gift
English equivalent: beggars can’t be choosers (the literal translation also works)

“hoge bomen vangen veel wind”
Translation: tall trees catch a lot of wind
Meaning: those who stand out from the crowd hear a lot of flack
English equivalent: the bigger they are, the harder they fall

“de appel valt niet ver van de boom”
Translation: the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree
Meaning: Children bear a strong resemblance to their parents
English equivalent: a chip off the old block (the literal translation also works)

“roeien met de riemen die je hebt”
Translation: row with the oars you’ve got
Meaning: do what you can with what you have
English equivalent: make do with what you’ve got

“als de kat van huis is, dansen de muizen op tafel”
Translation: when the cat is away from home, the mice dance on the table
Meaning: people will behave badly when there’s no one in charge
English equivalent: while the cat’s away, the mice will play

“hoe komt een ezel aan twee lange oren?”
Translation: why does a donkey have two long ears?
Meaning: a smart-ass response to a question you don’t have the answer to
English equivalent: “why is the sky blue?”

“Joost mag het weten”
Translation: Joost knows it
Meaning: no one knows or I don’t know
English equivalent: only God knows


So how do you tell a Dutch person that there’s no place like home? Try one of these!

“oost, west, thuis best”
Translation: east, west, home’s best

“zoals het klokje thuis tikt, tikt het nergens”
Translation: nowhere else does the clock tick like it does at home

Can you think of any other expressions, either in Dutch or English? Share them in the comments!

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About the Author: tiffany

Tiffany Jansen is an American magazine and copywriter in the Netherlands.


  1. Don Cantrell:

    Other Dutch idioms:

    To a friends house the road is never long.

    When it can be heard that someone burps or passes gas:
    It is better in the wide world than in a small hole.

  2. Ron Grunefeld:

    “Joost mag het weten”
    “The Devil knows”

    Today not many people in the Netherlands know this but Joost is another name for the Devil. In earlier times people were afraid of using his name so instead they started to call im Joost.