Traditionally, naming children in The Netherlands was quite a simple process. Names in Dutch were directly passed down from generation to generation. There were no arguments for Dutch parents over boy or girl names as their names had already been predetermined by tradition.
The Dutch version of a name was passed down from both the mother's and father's sides of the family. Boys would be named after the men in the family, while the girls would be named after the women in the family. Boy and girl names in Dutch would historically have been determined like so:
Firstborn - named after their grandfather
Secondborn - named after the mother's father
Third born - named after their father
Firstborn - named after their grandmother
Secondborn - named after the father's mother
Third born - named after their mother
As you can see, it was quite common for the Dutch to have large families. If more sons or daughters were born, they would be named for family members who had passed on or after aunts or uncles of the Dutch parents. There was very little creativity with names in the past, and there weren't many names to choose from. Hundreds of years ago, you'd be bound to meet many people that shared the same Dutch name as you, which could become confusing and is where Dutch surnames played a large role in naming or discussing people.
As was common in many traditional cultures, the Dutch typically named their children after common objects, animals, events, or jobs. It would seem silly or odd to meet someone today called tree, eagle, or happy. However, throughout history, Dutch boy names such as these were commonplace. Think about it; choosing a name for your child in Dutch would have been quite easy! The Dutch probably didn't dwell so much on selecting a name for their child; they just went with a common name.
|Popular Dutch Name||Dutch Meaning|
|Sjors or Jürgen||Farmer|
Being named after a job would make it quite easy for children to know their purpose in life. Imagine if we called children like this today; lawyer, teacher, doctor, TikTok; kids would feel the pressure if they were named doctor and grew up to be a florist!
|Dutch Name||Dutch Meaning|
|Doortje||Gift of God|
|Dael||Knowledge of God|
|Ilse||Pledged to God|
As you can see, the Dutch name variations for females are quite different from the boys'. The female names invoke power and often have some religious tone relating to gods or goddesses. What is nice is how the classically popular Dutch names would have made girls feel strong, brave, and intelligent.
Some of these traditional Dutch names are still used today for boys and girls, with Jade becoming a more popular name in The Netherlands.
As mentioned earlier, Dutch surnames played a large role in society, even though historically, the Dutch didn't have to have a surname. Surnames were an undocumented and unofficial part of the culture. Rather, people depended on patronymics.
Patronymics is quite a simple process. In a way, it's a shame that cultures, including The Netherlands, no longer use this system. Patronymic is a patriarchal system. It involves the father's first name, given to both daughters and sons as their last name.
Last names in Dutch would traditionally have an indicator that would determine who the child belongs to. For example, this is Resi, daughter of Kaj, or Viggo, son of Kaj.
For example, Viggo Kajsen would have his last name translated to Viggo, son of Kaj.
Today, this might sound like an everyday conversation: "Oh, this is Susan of Noah." Or possibly, "I saw John get in an accident the other day." "Which John are you speaking of?" "John of Rick."
For example, Resi Kajdr would have her last name translated to Redi, daughter of Kaj.
The use of patronymics changed around 1811 when Napoleon arrived. The patronymics of last names in Dutch came to cause quite the confusion. It was difficult for the newcomers to understand how a father could have sons and daughters with a different last name from him. How could you tell who belonged to which family? It caused disorder and chaos in the new land (The Netherlands), for the new people used to organize well-kept records.
The Dutch's last names were then changed and became mainly based on occupation or location. You can imagine the Dutch people weren't given much time to decide on their new last names. So they quickly decided by choosing new names from what was around them. It helped them remember names easily. To this day, many of these Dutch surnames are still part of family lineages.
|Classic Dutch Last Name||Dutch Meaning|
|Meijer/Meyer||Someone who helped to manage the household or farm|
|Van de Berg/Van der Berg/Van den Berg||"From the Mountain" is used to describe people who lived on or near a mountain|
|Brouwer||A brewer of beer or ale|
|De Vries||"The Frisian," is used to describe somebody from the region of Friesland|
|Smit||A smith. A person who was a smith or whose family came from a smithing background|
|Van Dijk/ Van Dyk||Living near a dike or from a place with the name Dijk or Dyk in it|
|Bakker||A person who was a baker or whose family came from a baker background.|
|Visser||A fisherman. A person who fished or whose family came from a fishing background|
Since the 17th century, The Netherlands has progressed to have many different name choices. Now it is common and not frowned upon to have a unique name! Names in Dutch nowadays are creative, unique, and yet still steeped with meaning.
You'll still meet many men named after a god and women named after a goddess. Knowing and recognizing names is just as important as knowing how to greet someone in Dutch.
Let's look at some of the more popular names the Dutch people use today to name their children.
While traditional Dutch language names are still used to name children, western names have gained popularity over the decades and often have a Dutch variation. As of 2021, the most popular Dutch baby name for a girl in The Netherlands is Julia, and the most common Dutch baby name for a boy is Noah. There are, of course, many other Dutch baby names that are quite favored.
|Dutch Name||Dutch Meaning|
|Lars||This is the male version of Lara which means to shine or lovely|
|Isaa||He will laugh, implying the child will be happy and care-free|
|Daan||Stands for, 'The Lord is my judge.'|
|Noah||Rest, peace - denotes Noah in the Biblical sense|
|Finn||He who finds|
|Arnoud||This is the Dutch variation of Arnold|
|Levi||Means 'addition,' which would imply this son is an addition to the family|
|Van||Hails from the days of patronymics meaning 'of'|
|Coen or Koen||'Bold advisor.' It is the Dutch variation of Conrad|
|Andries||Man, the Dutch variation of Andrew|
|Pim||Provider of resolute protection|
|Lucas||Bright, shining - denotes a man from Lucania|
|Ambroos||'Immortal' is the Dutch variation of Ambrose|
|Bas or Baz||The shortened version of Sebastian|
|Adrianus||Means 'from Hadria,' which is the Dutch variant of Adrian|
|Dirk||Ruler of the people|
Any of these Dutch names would make a great baby name for a baby boy! Now let's have a look at Dutch baby names for girls.
|Dutch Name||Dutch Meaning|
|Julia||Youthful or sky father|
|Amalia||Laborious or someone who will work hard|
|Beatrix||She who brings happiness (Just like Beatrix Potter and her stories!)|
|Elsje -||Noble (Elsa from Frozen has the same meaning)|
|Fleur||From the French word for flower|
|Lara||To shine, lovely (Think Lara from Lara Croft)|
|Jade||Like a green gem|
|Sophie||An old soul that can effortlessly synthesize information|
|Yara||Strength or courage|
|Milou||Short for Marie-Louise - analytical, guided by wisdom|
|Emma||Whole or universal|
The Dutch also have short-form nicknames for some boy names and girl names. It is similar to western names; such a Lucas would be Luke, or Michael, Mike. For girls, Elizabeth may be called Liz or Beth.
Johannes - Jan, Hans
Wilhelmus - Wim, Willem
Antonius - Toon
Nicolaas - Claes
Cornelis - Kees
Alexander - Sander
Jacob - Co
Wilhelmina - Mien, Willie
Josephina - Jopie
Hendrika - Henne
Catharina - Trijntje (Train-gee-a)
Margrieta - Grietje (Gret-al)
Elisabeth - Lijs (List)
Cornelia - Neeltje (Neal-ja)
Sophia- Fije, Fie (Fee-ray)
Now that you better understand the history of names in The Netherlands and Dutch, you can more easily recognize when names are being spoken and where those names came from. You may also find that your name has a particular meaning in Dutch!
It's also possible that you've met someone special who speaks Dutch and you're looking to express your love to them. Ling App is here to help! Here at Ling, we build the largest language database and would love to teach you Dutch with our interactive and fun language app with our friendly monkey friend, Ling, by your side.
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Tot ziens (Bye) for now!