A Blog by International Students at Leiden University

12 Dutch terms and phrases

When I first moved to the Netherlands I assumed that I would quickly pick up some od the local language as a result of being surrounded by a people whose native language was not English. However, I failed to account for the fact that the Dutch people have an incredible hold on the English language and would easily communicate with me. After being here for a few months and only picking up the typical ‘Dank je wel’ and ‘Astublief’ a friend from class suggested that I take a course at the Direct Dutch Institute in Den Haag. Well, last week I completed the A2 beginners course there, and while I am by no means fluent I definitely much more able to hold very slow and stilted conversations and understand conversations overheard on the train.


Having this newly acquired skill for stilted conversations and being nosy on the train, I thought now might be a good time to share some of my favourite Dutch terms and phrases with you. So here you are,


  1. Gezellig

This is one of my favourite Dutch words. It’s quite well known amongst internationals as a result of its Dutch ‘g’ sounds and inability to be perfectly translated into English. The common understanding is that it describes a ‘cozy’ room.

  1. Duwen en Trekken

Push and pull: Useful words to know if you don’t want to be walking into doors

  1. Ik spreek een beetje Nederlands.

I speak a little Dutch. (True in my case)

  1. Proost!

Similar to the English ‘Cheers’, and used when out for a drink.

  1. Links en Rechts

Left and right. You can also use linkshandig and rechtshandig for left handed and right handed.

  1. Glimlachen


  1. Vis moet zwemmen.

While this literally means ‘Fish must swim’, it is apparently said when a person agrees to have another glass of white wine

  1. Ja, hoor.

This is always amusing to English speakers because it sounds like you’re being rude, when in reality all that is being said is: ‘Yes, of course.’

  1. Wat zit je haar leuk!

Literally: You’re hair is sitting nicely. In reality; you have nice hair

  1. Hij is aan het eind van zijn latijn.

He’s at his wits end

  1. Hou op!


  1. Schiet op!

Hurry up.


Anyway, these are just a few of my favourites. Hopefully my ‘interpetations’ to these words and phrases are somewhat correct, and perhaps somewhat useful to you!


Tot ziens.

5 comments on “12 Dutch terms and phrases

  1. mandala56
    May 6, 2015

    I seem to recall that “Ja, hoor” is the correct spelling… Like “to hear,” so it would generally mean “Yes, hear me?”
    Make sense? Or have things changed?

    • admin@theleidener
      May 11, 2015

      Indeed it is – things haven’t changed 🙂

    • Danielle@theleidener
      May 12, 2015

      Haha, yes I believe you’re right…just an example of my struggling dutch abilities

  2. uli
    September 24, 2015

    “Ja, hoor” means “Yeah, sure”. The “hoor” in this case has nothing to do with the verb “hearing” (ik hoor je = i hear you).

  3. Annie
    November 14, 2015

    Thanx – as a native dutch speaker I did’t realize the funny facts on some of the terms.
    “Vis moet zwemmen” is indeed said while eating fish. It’s a pretense to drink more – for example white wine. Similar in french: Poisson sans boisson est poison (Fish without a drink is poison).

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This entry was posted on May 5, 2015 by in Living in Holland, Practical Stuff, Student Life, Study.

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