Dutch Language Blog

Words of Shock and Surprise in Dutch! Posted by on Feb 27, 2019 in Dutch Vocabulary, News

English speakers tend to express shock and surprise with phrases such as Oh my God! or WOW! And while it is perfectly okay to use these in Dutch (because the trend with native Dutch speakers is to add some English words here and there), there are perfectly good words and phrases in Dutch you can use. In this post, I will explore some of these shockingly Dutch options!

Photo taken by Michelle Galloway found on Flickr.com with license CC BY 2.0


If you find something truly hard to believe, you can really just say it like that: ongelofelijk! I live in Limburg and there seems to be a bit of a separation between people from Limburg and politicians in The Hague. Because of this, Limburgers are always on alert when someone from “above the river” makes a blunder about the region. Every year, there is at least one article in one of the major Dutch newspapers that puts news from the Dutch Limburg in the buitenland section. This year, we have two political parties to thank for starting the year with some good blunders! Political party Forum voor Democratie had a big banner at a recent campaign event in Limburg with a beautiful church on it…except that this church is actually in the town of Limburg an der Lahn…in Germany!  The second political party we can thank is DENK. They have also started campaigning in the region and one of their points is protecting our beaches from construction. This all sounds lovely except for the fact that Limburg has no beach or oceans for that matter. Ongelofelijk! Someone needs to do their homework before publishing campaign material!

Meen je dat nou?

Literally translated, this means do you believe that, and with the right intonation it can certainly apply to many situations of disbelief. There are a few variations of this you can use such as dat meen jij niet! When someone tells you something you can’t believe you can reply meen je dat nou? to stress that you can’t believe it. The Dutch telecommunications company Ziggo used this phrase and a few others to stress how surprisingly low their rates are.


Onthutsend means staggering and is used negatively. When I added this word to this blog post, there is one piece of news that came to mind right away. The Dutch government increased the taxes for energy for 2019, and while there was some unrest at the moment, we were assured the increase would be minimal. After the first month, it was obvious that the increase was not that little. Some families have seen a difference of more than €200 just on the first month! What was the reason? An investigation by the Dutch newspaper AD or Algemeen Dagblad had some onthutsend results: the Ministry of Economy apparently used outdated numbers for their calculations.  Below is the news report by NOS.


I recently came across this word, and for some reason it has stuck in my head. Frappant! It means striking. A great use I can think of is walking around the Red Light District in Amsterdam on a summer evening. There are a frappant amount of tourists in the area, several of them drunk or high.

The recently appointed burgemeester of Amsterdam, Femke Halsema, wants to reduce the number of tourists in the area and increase security. There has been suggestions of moving the red light district to another part of the city to reduce the number of trouble-making tourists in the city center. A more short-term solution proposed is to increase the number of police in the area. Below is a video where a reporter of the Telegraaf joined burgemeester Femke during her walk in the Red Light District.

Which word or phrase would you add to this list?

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About the Author: Karoly Molina

Since I was a little girl, I was fascinated with languages and writing. I speak English, Spanish, Italian, Dutch and a little bit of French. I am a writer, reader, language teacher, traveler, and a food lover! I now live in The Netherlands with my husband Riccardo, our cat Mona, and our dog Lisa, and the experience has been phenomenal. The Dutch culture is an exciting sometimes topsy-turvy world that I am happily exploring!


  1. Tom Dawkes:

    Dear Karoly, A lovely post — but perhaps you ought to edit so as to spell “Limburgers” rather than “Limbugers”! Met vriendelijke groeten

    • Karoly Molina:

      @Tom Dawkes Thank you for catching that Tom!

  2. Constance F Brown:

    I’d like pronunciations for these new words.