Curious Words in Dutch 4: Ape(n)kop Posted by on Sep 9, 2019 in Culture, Dutch Language, Dutch Vocabulary

There are many strange words in a language. Words that are just not used much, words that are pronounced in a weird way… Just words that have something curious about them! And those are the ones we look at in this series. In last week’s post about Sayings and Expressions on monkeys, our reader Gre mentioned that her mother would affectionately call her and her sister apekop. Which means “monkey’s head”. That’s curious, isn’t it? Let’s have a look at apekop today!

Previous posts in this series:

Curious Words In Dutch

Apekop or Apenkop?

This is related to the tussen-n (“between-n”), a discussion for another day. To answer it very shortly, apekop is the old spelling, and apenkop is the new spelling. Which one is more correct we will discuss then. Officially, the Van Dale went with the new spelling, and so you will only find the translation apenkop in the dictionary. But we’ll get back on this.

Apekop literally just means “monkey’s head”. However, there are more meanings, and that is what makes this word curious!

Such a brat!

Such apenkoppen! (Image by Allen Taylor at

Apenkop refers to a deugniet (rascal), or a brat. But apenkop is not aggressive, but rather liefkozend (affectionate, loving). It is probably related to the old Dutch word apenaard, which is a kwajongensachtig karakter (rascal-like character). We alluded to that last week, too. And kop just refers to a person, as a pars pro toto (part to refer to the whole). So, in that sense, an apenkop is simply a rascal-like person – a rascal! S0 it is not related to apen (monkeys) after all!

More meanings

Mat’64 train in Haarlem. The end of the train looks like a yellow head with black mouth and eyes, reminding of a monkey’s head (Image by Koplopermau at under license CC BY SA 4.0)

Apenkop has more meanings. It also simply refers to an actual apenkop – a “monkey’s head”. But there is more.

Specifically, apekop without the tussen-n has more meanings.

Apekop was used to refer to the Materieel 64 or in short Mat’64 line of trains, introduced in the 1960s and discontinued in recent years. The new spelling with the tussen-n only came about in 2005, and so it made sense that there was no apenkop.

It also refers to one of the most popular snoep (sweets) in the Netherlands: apekoppen! This schuim met bananensmaak (foam with banana flavor) as the head and the eyes and ears covered with drop (licorice) really makes the Dutch happy. And since this snoep was introduced in the 1990s, it also does not have the tussen-n.

Have you heard of these meanings before? 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.