Dutch Language Blog

Curious Words in Dutch 10: Veelpleger Posted by on Jun 7, 2021 in Dutch Vocabulary

Sometimes we do bad stuff. And sometimes we do stuff that lands us in de gevangenis (jail). Well, maybe not. But some people are so good at it, that they become a veelpleger (frequent offender). Or zeer actieve veelpleger (very active frequent offender). Or draaideurcrimineel (“revolving door criminal”)! What do these curious words mean, exactly?

Previous posts in this series:

Curious Words In Dutch

What is a veelpleger?

Curious Dutch Words Criminal

Photo by Tim Hüfner on Unsplash

veelpleger is a frequent offender. So somebody that commits crimes multiple times. However, it is not just stealing from a jewelry store twice that makes you a veelpleger. If at least 10 processen-verbaal (criminal reports) are drawn up against you in your entire criminal career, one of which happened in the past year, you are a veelpleger.1https://www.om.nl/onderwerpen/beleidsregels/richtlijnen-voor-strafvordering-resultaten/richtlijn-voor-strafvordering-bij-meerderjarige-veelplegers-2013r017 But sure, you could still be a career criminal either way.

But there are more classifications! You become a zeer actieve veelpleger (very active frequent offender) when all 10 processen-verbaal happened in the past 5 years, with at least one that happened in the past twelve months.

Why is somebody called a veelpleger? The translation for offender is dader, for criminal it’s crimineel – so where does pleger come from?

This comes from the verb that the Dutch use to say “to commit a crime” – een misdrijf plegen.

Plegen is the verb here. The noun pleger describes somebody that commits – so veelpleger would directly translate to “frequent committer”.

So what’s a draaideurcrimineel?

curious dutch words criminal

Photo by Artem Sapegin on Unsplash

When you see the official definitions given for veelpleger, you’d think that a draaideurcrimineel is a sensationalist media term used to refer to veelplegers. But that isn’t quite right. There actually is a real difference between the two!

What’s interesting about a veelpleger is that a proces-verbaal can be drawn up against you, but it doesn’t mean you need to be veroordeeld (convicted) to be one. A draaideurcrimineel does!

And of course, when you have more than 10 processen-verbaal against you, there’s a good chance that at least one of those lead to a veroordeling (conviction). So the difference really is more technical than practical.

The word draaideurcrimineel comes from the idea that you leave the gevangenis or politiebureau (police station) and go right back in, just like you could with a draaideur.

So these words have specific definitions related to them. Other words that are often seen as synonyms are meerpleger (“multiple committer”) and – like English – carrièrecrimineel (career criminal). There is also the technical term recidivist (recidivist).

What are these words in your language? Does your language have special words for people that commit many crimes? Let me know in the comments below!

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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.


  1. Rachel Hauser:

    Danke voor deze leuke blogs!