Dutch Language Blog

It Doesn’t Get More Dutch Than… New York? Posted by on Apr 13, 2014 in Uncategorized

New York. So many songs have been sung about you, so many things have been written about you, so many people have traveled lengths great and small to see you.

NY is so ubiquitous that it often feels like the Bible should read: “And on the eighth day, the Lord created New York.” (You need a day of rest in order to come up with something as awesome as New York.)

It’s hard to believe that New York has only been New York for 350 years. Before that, it was New Netherland, a colony established by – you guessed it! – the Dutch.

It all started in 1606, when the Dutch East India Company sent English explorer Henry Hudson on an expedition to find a Northeast passage to India. But things didn’t go quite as planned.

He ended up, instead, on the east coast of what is now the United States. They sailed into the mouth of a river just north of Sandy Hook Bay and discovered a beautiful area teeming with natural resources. He hurried back to his employers to share what he had found.

Seeing the golden opportunity before them, merchants from Amsterdam sent agents to the new land to collect food, tobacco, furs, and timber to send back to Amsterdam – which was, at the time, Europe’s leading trade city – by the shipload.

Others followed, and soon, a colony was formed. New Nederland ran from Delaware to Albany, New York. The settlement included parts of Maryland, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and New Jersey.

In 1626, the island of Manhattan was purchased from the Native Americans and renamed New Amsterdam.

The colony grew and prospered. And earned a fortune for the private merchants in Amsterdam who had laid a stake in it.

But all good things must come to an end. England had long been eyeing New Netherland and had become extremely jealous of its success.

So, in 1664, the English took New Netherland by force. King Charles II of England bestowed the land upon his brother, the Duke of York, and the colony’s name was changed to coincide with its new owner. And that’s how New Netherland became New York.

The name of the settlement may have changed, but not much else did. You don’t have to spend a lot of time in the Hudson River Valley area to see the Dutch influence that still exists there.

Harlem and Brooklyn are obvious ones (from Haarlem just outside of Amsterdam and Breukelen just outside of Utrecht), but there are many, many more.

See how many of these sound familiar…

Bowery (bowerij, old Dutch for ‘farm’) – a neighborhood in the south of Manhattan

The Bronx (named after Dutch settler Jonas Bronck, who had a farm there) – the northernmost borough in New York City

Coney Island (old Dutch: Conyne Eylandt; modern Dutch: Konijneiland) – a beach in southwest Brooklyn

Long Island (old Dutch: Lang Eylandt; modern Dutch: Langeiland) – an island in the state of New York

Rikers Island (most likely named after Dutch settler Abraham Rycken, who set up house on Long Island) – an island in the East River, between Queens and the Bronx, which serves as the city’s main prison complex

Staten Island (old Dutch: Staten Eylandt; modern Dutch: Stateneiland, named after the States-Generals who governed what was then known as the United Provinces of the Netherlands) – another one of New York City’s five boroughs, located in the southwest part of the city

Yonkers (possibly named after jonkheer Adriaen van der Donck, whose estate was located there; jonkheer = lord) – the fourth most populous city in the state of New York, located in Westchester County

Been to New York and want to add a Dutch influence or two to the list? Share them in the comments below!

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About the Author: tiffany

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


  1. Rick Taintor:

    I was in NY two weeks ago and found myself on Gansevoort (“goose ford”) Street. The name is Dutch, but the street is named for a general in the American Revolution (see http://answers.google.com/answers/threadview?id=58316).

  2. Matt:

    A Dutch influence can still be seen at the Spuyten Duyvil Library (Spuit den Duyvil), on the Catskill Mountains (and all the other “kills” around – Wallkill, Peekskill, and Fresh Kills), and with our famous NBA team – the Knicks (Knickerbockers). You can also see a lasting legacy of the Dutch if you take a look at the flags of NYC and Albany, both of which use a tricolor design (blue, white, & orange) derived from the flag of the Dutch Republic—the Prince’s Flag.

  3. Connie Wonnie:

    Bedford-Stuyvesant – Peter Stuyvesant 7th Director General of New Amsterdam (born in Friesland, NL).
    Harlem – Haarlem is west of Amsterdam, NL.

  4. E:

    You state that New York city used to be called New Netherland. That’s not true. It was called New Amsterdam.

    New Netherland was the larger colony it was part of.

    Also here are some typically American words or names which certainly or probably originated from Dutch:
    Harlem: from Dutch city Haarlem
    Brooklyn: from Dutch town Breukelen
    Santa Clause: from Sinterklaas (Sint Nicolaas), child feast similar to Christmas.
    Wall Street: from Walstraat
    Dollar: from daler or daalder
    Yankee: from Jan-Kees (strange person)