Dutch to English and English to Dutch – 15 False Friends (part III)

Published on 24 October 2019 at 21:22

This is part III of a series, find part I and II here.

What are false friends in language terms? They are words in one language that look or sound like words from another language but which have a different meaning (also known as false cognates).

Here are some of the false friends I have come across while living in the Netherlands.



English - not only in the sense of touch (voelen) or emotions but idea, belief, attitude or opinion.



English – first meaning is a binder for holding documents (map), Dutch – a brochure, (reclamefolder). 



English – newly created or picked, not spoiled, Dutch - (vers niet fris), note: fresh water is (zoetwater)



English – a spirit of Arabian folklore (often kept in a bottle or lamp), Dutch - engineer



English – the whole world (wereldwijd, mondiaal), Dutch – not complete, total (globaal)



Dutch - not (goudvink) but (putter).



English – originally the same meaning as Dutch (grandioos) imposing, impressive, but now implies pretentious or over the top.



English – intense sorrow or mourning, Dutch – suffering (leed) or grievance (belediging, benadeling)


guest house

English – accommodation for paying guests, Dutch – pension not (gasthuis) which is an almshouse (hofje)



English – plural of hairdo, Dutch – (kapsel) not (haardos) which is a head of hair.



English – set of straps etc. used to control a horse, Dutch – (tuig) not (harnas) which is armour.



English – generally refers to the groin area medically described as “a protrusion of abdominal-cavity contents through the inguinal canal” (liesbreuk), Dutch – generally refers to the back “A fracture in the intervertebral disc” or (Een breuk in de tussenwervelschijf).


high school

English – (higher) secondary education, Dutch – not college (hogeschool).



English – dog used for hunting, Dutch – not translation of (hond).


(the) last time 

Dutch – not lately (de laatste tijd) but (de laatste keer).


Look out for part IV soon.

Let me know if you have any comments on the above or any False Friends in Dutch/English languages that you have come across!

The Goldfinch (Dutch: Het puttertje) by Carel Fabritius, 1654.

The work is in the collection of the Mauritshuis in The Hague, Netherlands.


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