When you think of the Netherlands, what do you picture? Do you think of tulips, windmills, bicycles, and canals? Or do you think of the Dutch masters and van Gogh? Did you know that about 1% of English words come from Dutch, and that there are many Dutch loan words in English? A couple of them may surprise you. Check out the most popular Dutch loan words below!


Aloof comes to English from the Middle Dutch word lof, which means a windward direction. Nowadays, we use the word aloof to talk about someone who is cold or distant and may not seem very friendly.

For example:

  • The king seemed like a very aloof person. Not many people liked him because he didn’t seem very personable.
  • As a boss, she was very aloof. But once you got to know her, she was actually very sweet and charming.


The Dutch had many colonies (countries/areas they ruled over) at one time, so a lot of Dutch loan words in English come to us through Dutch from their colonies. One of these words is bamboo. This word is originally from the Malay word mambu but comes to English from the Dutch bamboe.

For example:

  • Pandas love to eat bamboo! It’s their favorite food.
  • I have a piece of lucky bamboo growing in my house. I hope it actually brings me luck!


Who doesn’t love to eat cookiesCookies are a round, crisp, sweet snack, and they’re one of my favorite things to eat. Thanks to the Dutch word koekje, which means the same thing, we have a word for these delicious treats (something special).

For example:

  • I’m thinking of making some chocolate chip cookies today. Would you like some?
  • What kind of cookies do you think we should buy?


Have you ever seen a decoy before? A decoy is typically used in hunting and is a model that is made to look like something else in order to trick the prey (the thing being hunted). This word most likely comes to us from the Dutch de kooi (the cage), which was a setup of nets around a pond in order to catch waterfowl (water birds like ducks and geese).

For example:

  • When you go fishing, you usually put bait or a type of decoy that looks like a small fish on the line in order to trick bigger fish into biting the hook.
  • The prisoner made a decoy to look like him, so that he could try to escape without the guards knowing he was gone.


Do you know anyone who has eloped? To elope is to “run away” in order to get married, or to not tell anyone you are getting married and do it secretly. Elope comes from the Dutch ontlopen (to run away). Nowadays, people typically elope because they neither want a large wedding nor the pressure of planning it.

For example:

  • Many people elope to Las Vegas because it is quick, easy, and cheap to get married there.
  • I don’t want to plan a huge wedding. Do you want to just elope instead?


Picture a typical geek in your head, or you may have seen one played on TV. A stereotypical geek may have glasses, wear checkered shirts and khaki pants, and not know how to interact with people socially. Of course, not all stereotypes are true, but we have the Dutch word for a fool, geck, to thank for this word in English.

For example:

  • He played a geek on TV, but in real life he was nothing like his character.
  • Have you seen the show Freaks & Geeks? It’s one of my favorites.


What’s your favorite snack? A snack is a very small meal that you eat in between large meals. This may be a piece of fruit, some crackers, or something sweet. This is another Dutch loan word in English, as we get it from the word snakken (to eat/chatter).

For example:

  • I’ve just eaten lunch, but I’m already hungry. Maybe I’ll have a snack.
  • I love to eat some crackers and cheese as a snack.


Finally, we have the Dutch word wafel, which gives us the word waffleWaffles are a type of sweet breakfast food made of dough that is pressed in a hot iron until it is cooked.

For example:

  • She had a lazy Sunday morning so she decided to use the time to make some waffles for breakfast.
  • Would you like waffles or eggs for breakfast?

Do you know any other Dutch loan words in English? Which one of these is your favorite? Share with us in the comments below!

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Check out these other popular blogs: Dating Vocabulary in EnglishWhy You Could Use a Bespeaking ProofreaderItalian Loan Words in English, or these 5 Great Antonyms in English!

Erin Duffin lives in Hamburg, is an English teacher, blogger, yoga instructor, and bets you knew some of these words already, even if you didn’t know which language they were from!

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