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When you take on the challenge of learning Dutch, native speakers will commend you for trying your hand at their “really difficult” language.
Their eyes will widen in admiration as they tell you “Dutch is such a hard language to learn.”
They’ve got a point… it sure ain’t easy.
But the good news for us English speakers is that our languages are quite similar, particularly if you speak the American variety.
And it makes sense, too. After all, the Dutch were some of the first Europeans to settle in America. Holland, Michigan and New York’s Brooklyn and Harlem remain as tributes to America’s strong Dutch roots. In the 2010 U.S. Census, 4.6 million Americans (1.5% of the United States’ population) identified themselves as having Dutch ancestry.
As a result, much of the (American) English language comes from the Dutch. Take a look at the list below for the words we nabbed from the Netherlands and what they mean in Dutch. You may be surprised at some of the words on the list.
Boss – comes from the word baas, which has the exact same meaning in Dutch as it does in English
Yankee – this one is a combo of two of the most popular Dutch names for boys at the time: Jan and Kees –> Jan-Kees –> Yankee
Coleslaw – in Dutch, it’s koolsla, which literally means “cabbage salad”
Landscape – we get this one from landschap, which has the same meaning in both languages
Cookie – is based on the Dutch word koekje (“biscuit” or “cookie”), which is sometimes written/pronounced koekie
Cruise – the origin for this word is the Dutch verb kruisen, which means “to cross”
Frolic – here, we took from the word vrolijk, which means “happy” or “cheerful”
Pump – change the ‘u’ to an ‘o,’ and you get the word pomp, which means “pump” (as in a gas or bicycle pump)
Rucksack – comes directly from the word rugzak, literally “back bag,” also known as backpack
Roster – just add an ‘o’ and you get the Dutch word rooster (“schedule” or “timetable”)
Spook – spelled exactly the same in both languages, in Dutch, a spook is a ghost, phantom, or spirit
Waffle – in Dutch, it’s spelled a bit differently (wafel), but they mean the same thing
Wagon – is not that far removed from it’s Dutch ancestor the wagen (used when referring to trains)
Onslaught – the Dutch word, aanslag, has the exact same meaning
This is by no means a comprehensive list, so if what you’ve seen here intrigues you and you’d like to know more, Wikipedia has an excellent collection of English words of Dutch origin.
Another interesting tidbit: While there are several languages that are supposedly easier for native English speakers to learn because of their similarities, the closest language to English is Friesian, which is spoken in Friesland, a province in the Netherlands.