A Dutch Essential: Leuk! But what does it mean? Posted by Sten on Nov 22, 2021 in Culture, Dutch Language, Dutch Vocabulary
When you learn, you’ll come across this word sooner or later: leuk. Like gezellig, we use it for all kinds of things. But how do you translate leuk, and what are all its meanings? Let’s find out.
Nice or fun?
Leuk in its most straightforward form means nice or fun. And you can sometimes translate it like that as well:
Wat leuk! – how nice!/how fun!
But that’s when leuk becomes problematic! Imagine that the sun is shining, and you want to communicate this to your Dutch grandmother. What would you say?
A. Wat een mooie dag!
B. Wat een leuke dag!
C. Wat een lekkere dag!
While they can all, in theory, mean “what a nice day”, A makes most sense. Wat een mooie dag (what a beautiful day) is what we say. A leuke dag means more like a “fun day”.
Now let’s say you want to discuss the musical you saw with her last night, what would you say?
A. Die musical was mooi gisteravond, hè?
B. Die musical was leuk gisteravond, hè?
C. Die musical was lekker gisteravond, hè?
In this case, you’d say leuk if it was fun, and mooi if it was beautiful/wonderful.
So you can think of leuk as a description of events that are fun or nice.
Unlike English, however, the Dutch use leuk like that for everything, it’s used more than the English nice, I’d say. Here’s a selection:
Oh, it’s so cool! – Oh, het is zo leuk!
Yes, it’s super nice – Ja, het is superleuk!
Isn’t that fun? – Is dat niet leuk?
Wat a nice jacket! – wat een leuke jas!
But there are more meanings!
A nice person?
So now you’re sitting on the couch with your grandma, watching TV. The presentator (presenter) enters and starts talking, putting a smile on your oma’s face: Wat is dat toch een leuke man! (What a nice/attractive man he is!).
So yeah, a leuke jongen (attractive boy) or leuk meisje (attractive girl) is also called leuk!
But it can mean more than just attractive. It can also mean aardig (nice, pleasant). So it doesn’t have to be a statement about how attractive somebody is.
Mostly, though, there’s a romantic tone to it, however. In the above clip, Boer zoekt vrouw presenter Yvon Jaspers makes it pretty crazy. It’s a LuckyTV clip, so it’s a parody. She did actually say that, though. She says:
Hij vindt je leuk. Heel leuk. Maar vind jij dat leuk, dat hij jou leuk vindt?
(He likes you. Very much. But do you like it, that he likes you?)
So yeah, iemand leuk vinden means “to like somebody”. It gets a lot!
This gives you a good idea of what leuk means. In short, it’s when you like something that you can use it – whether that’s a thing or a person. Just know that in relation to a person, it can have a romantic connotation. If you specifically want to avoid that, you can use sympatiek (sympathetic) or aardig (friendly, nice).
Have you heard leuk used in other contexts? Let me know in the comments below!
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