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Introduction

In this node, I will try to give a short introduction about Dutch names. It will be more than a simple list of first names and surnames; I'll discuss the types of names people have, those silly little words that some Dutch names seem to have, give some very basic notions about spelling, discuss titles, how to use them, and even try to give hints on what names fit which people.

The number of names

For Dutch naming, it is very important to understand that the Netherlands has a religious divide: the southern provinces Zeeland, Noord-Brabant and Limburg are historically Catholic, while the rest has a more even distribution of Christian religions, but are mostly Protestant. The names reflect this fact. In the South, little kids usually will be given three first names. The first one is either the kid's usual name or a Latin version of it. Say, intended to name your kid Bart. You might then use Bartholomeus. Or just Bart. The former option is old-fashioned, but Latin is a very Catholic thing.

The other two names are either names of saints or family members you feel you need to pay homage to (Who do you fear more? God or your mother-in-law?). They do not have to reflect the kid's gender; female second names for kids are particularly common, especially in Limburg. Using Latin versions is quite common.

Using more or less than these three names is possible, but I think three is the most common. They are almost never used in full, always abbreviated.

In the North, there is more freedom in the number of names and less Latin. That's the price for not having had the counter-reformation.

Those silly little words

People who have seen Dutch last names know that they come with some funny little words in front of them. Think Ruud van Nistelrooy. Or Gerard 't Hooft. The most common are:

  • de: Means "the".
  • den: Means "the".
  • der: Means "the".
  • het: Means "the".
  • 't: Means "the".
  • van: Means "of". Often, the name of a city will follow.
These are definitely part of the last name. "Van", "van de", "van den" and "van der" are often abbreviated to v. and v.d. Mancunians like to call mister Van Nistelrooy "Van the Man". It's a good thing they typically don't speak Dutch and don't know what they are saying.

Spelling

First, a difficult bit about those little words. They are not capitalized. But, names always start with a capital. Confusion. The solution is to write the little word with a capita when it happens to come up as the first part of the name. Ruud van Nistelrooy. Mister Van Nistelrooy.

Second, the ij combination is a single vowel. A bit like an y. The oe is a pronounced like the oo in book.

Titles

People can have titles, typically academic titles. Nowadays, university alumni also get an Anglo-Saxon title like M.Sc. Still, many Dutch choose to use their legally protected university titles anyway. We have:

  • ing. Short for ingenieur, or engineer. Somebody who graduated from a polytechnic. Roughly equal to B.Sc.
  • drs.: Short for doctorandus. A master's degree.
  • ir.: Short for ingenieur, only this time a M.Sc. from a university of technology.
  • mr.: Short for meester in de rechten, or Master of Laws. A law master's degree.
  • dr.: Short for doctor. If you happen to be a doctorandus, your drs. disappears when you get this title.
  • prof.: Short for professor. Only full professors have this title. Unlike the other titles, it's not legally protected, and every bumpkin can call himself professor.
They are in front of the name, with the title last attained in front. Duplicates are possible, I have a friend who is ir. ir.

Using the name

Now, we have a Dutch person with a few first names, a last names, and perhaps some titles. Let's say his full name is mr. Johannes Godefridus Wilhelmus van Dam. Normally, a Dutch person uses his first first name as his usual name, or perhaps a shortened or delatinized version of it. If you are on a first-name basis with him, he will have told you his name, and you can use it. Guessing his usual name from his first names is tricky, for reasons outlined above. The combination usual name and last name is a very common way of expressing a name, so, in this case, Hans van Dam. Titles are rarely used, but possible. mr. Hans van Dam

An alternative is using his abbreviated first names. So, in this case, J. G. W. van Dam. Or J. G. W. v. Dam. With his title, mr. J. G. W. v. Dam.

If you are being very informal, it's possible to abbreviate his usual name and attach it to his last name. H. van Dam.

What is almost unheard of is the practice of using usual name, abbreviated second name, and then last name, like George W. Bush. Don't. For instance, because he doesn't really have a second name, but rather a second and third. So no Hans G. W. van Dam. No. Don't. Even if he happens to have two first names.

Notice that in all these examples, the first names are not fully written out. This is normal; in a normal relation with a Dutch person, you will not find out what his actual first names are.

The big list of Dutch names

Not all of the names on this list are "typically Dutch", they are, however, names a typical Dutch person might have. It is by no means complete. The source is the people I know. If the amount of people I know is a statistically significant portion of the Dutch population, this list is good. Otherwise, it isn't. It's a different language, the people tend to have different names.

I've added a few symbols to help in the usage:

  • (O) means it's a name typically associated with old people.
  • (Y) means it's a name typically associated with young people.
  • (C) means it's a very common name.
  • (L) means this is a long first name. The person is unlikely to use it as his usual name, especially if he's young. Suggestions on what he might use as a usual name are given.
Young people having names that are normally given to old people is fairly common, the reverse is much more rare. I'm not adding Latin or Latinized first names; as mentioned, a Dutch person wouldn't use them.

Male names:
Aad, Aart, Adriaan(L:Adrie), Adrie(O), Alex(Y), Alexander, Alfons(O,L:Fons) Alfred(O,L: Fred) Anton(C), Arie, Barend, Bart(C), Ben, Berry, Bert(C), Bob, Bram, Casper, Carel(O), Christiaan(Y,L:Chris) Chris(Y,C), Coen(O), Daan, Daniel,Diederik(O,L:Dirk), Dirk, Edwin, Eric(Y), Erik(Y,C), Evert(C), Ewout, Fons, Frank (C), Frans(O) Frits, Geert, Gerard(C), Gijs, Grad (O), Grard (O), Hans(C), Guido, Guus, Harrie(C), Harry, Hendrik(C,L:Henk, Rik), Hielke, Henk(C), Hennie, Huib, Huub, Jan (O,C), Jaap, Jack(Y), Jacob, Jaques(O), Jeroen(Y,C), Johan(C), John(C), Joost, Joop, Joris, Jules, Karel, Kasper, Klaas, Koen(C) Koos(C), Leen(O) Maarten, Marc(C), Marco, Mark(C), Mart, Martijn(Y), Mathieu, Merijn, Niek, Nico, Nicolaas(O,L:Nico, Klaas, Niek), Onno(O), Otto (O), Paul(C), Peer(O), Pepijn, Peter(C), Pier(O), Pieter, Piet(O,C), Quinten(O), Rien, Rini, Rob(C), Robert(C,Y), Sander, Sijmen, Stefan(C), Stephan(C), Tinus (O), Victor, Walter, Willem(C), Wim(C), Wout, Wouter(C), Zacharias(O).

Female names:
An, Angela, Angelique, Ank, Anke(O), Ankie, Anna(O), Anne(Y,C), Anneke(Y), Ans, Adrie(O), Betje(O), Bets(O), Birgit(Y), Brigitta(Y), Brigitte(Y), Cecile, Christel, Daniƫlle, Doortje(Y), Dorien(Y), Eef(Y), Eefje(Y), Elizabeth(O,L:Els, Lies), Els(C), Emma(O), Esmee, Esther, Eva(O), Francien(O), Francisca, Froukje(Y,C), Geertje, Geesje(O), Gijsje, Guusje, Hannie, Hennie, Iris, Ingrid(Y,C), Janna, Jannie, Josje, Jose, Karin, Kathleen, Katrien, Kitty, Lieke, Lonneke, Lot(O), Lotte(Y), Lydia, Nadine, Nel(O), Maartje, Maria, Marieke(Y,C), Mien(O), Mina, Olga, Petronella(O,L:Nel), Pia, Ria, Riek(O), Rieke, Rose, Sandra(C), Sanne(Y), Sanneke(Y), Sacha(Y), Stefanie(Y), Stephanie(Y), Thekla(Y), Toos(O,C), Trein(O), Treintje(Y), Trui(O), Wilhelmina(C,L:Mien), Willemijn.

Last Names:
Aarts, Aldenzee, Van As, Van Asten,Brandsma, Van de Berkmortel, Van Berlo, Berendsen, De Boer, Boersma, Brouwers, Van de Broek, Claassen, Van Dam, Damen, Van Deursen, Van Diepen, Van Dijk, Van Duin, Drost, Fransen, Freriks, Gerards, Hendriks, Van Hoorn, De Jager, Jansen, Koomen, Kuipers, Lammers, Van der Linden, Mandemakers, Van de Mortel, Van der Mullen, Oude Kamphuis, Pietersen, Philips, Raaijmakers, Schuurman, Vos, De Vries, Wagemakers, Winter, Van de Wal, Van Wijk, Van Zwam, van Zon.


Sources: I used www.goudengids.nl for a hints on common last names. Thanks to vandewal for reminding me that Van de Wal is also a common last name. Thanks to RubenAzarja for poining out a few small errors.

If you happen to have a Dutch name, and are curious about what it means, feel free to drop me a line.

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