Wednesday, January 11, 2017

30 English Words Borrowed from Dutch

As a teacher, I have always been interested in word origins. English grew from many languages and cultures and we have also borrowed many words from other languages. Here are 30 English words we have adopted from Dutch.

During much of the 1600s, the Netherlands was a world power, especially at sea, and this influence contributed to the English language in the form of borrowings from Dutch into English of various nautically and aquatically themed words. Here’s a list of many of these terms (a few of which were adopted from, or may derive from cognates in, other languages) and their definitions and their Dutch origins. 

1. avast (“stop”): from hou vast, meaning “hold fast”
2. bow (“front of a ship”): from boeg (or from Old German or Old Norse)
3. brackish (“salty”): from brac (or a Low German cognate), meaning “salty”
4. buoy (“marker” or, as a verb, “mark with a buoy” or “keep afloat”): from buoy, ultimately from the Latin word boia, meaning “shackle”
5. caboose (“the last car on a freight train, used for the accommodation for the train’s crew”): from kabuis or kombuis, meaning “galley,” or “ship’s kitchen”
6. commodore (“senior captain” or “naval officer above a captain in rank”): probably from kommandeur, ultimately from the Old French word comandeor, meaning “commander”
7. cruiser (“warship larger than a destroyer but smaller than a battleship,” or “pleasure motorboat”): from kruisen (related to kruis, meaning “cross”), meaning “sail across or go through”
8. deck (“any of various floors of a ship”): from dek, meaning “covering”
9. dock (“mooring structure for vessels” or, as a verb “tie up at a dock”): from docke, meaning “pier”
10. dredge (“riverbed or seabed scoop” or, as a verb, “drag” or “scoop”): perhaps based on dregghe, meaning “dragnet”
11. freebooter (“pirate”): from vrijbuiter, meaning “robber”; the second half of the word is related to booty, also derived from Dutch
12. freight (“shipped goods” or, as a verb, “ship goods”): from a word variously spelled fraght, vracht, and vrecht and meaning “water transport”; the Dutch word is also the source of fraught, meaning “heavy” or “weighed down”
13. filibuster (“obstructive act” or, as a verb, “obstruct”): from vrijbuiter by way of the Spanish word filibuster (see freebooter above), which in turn comes from the French word flibustier
14. hoist (“lift” as a noun or a verb): from hijsen
15. jib (“spar”): from gijben, meaning “boom”
16. keel (“spine or structure projecting from a hull”): from kiel
17. keelhaul (“punish by dragging over the keel”): from kielhalen, meaning “keel hauling”
18. kill (“riverbed”): from kil
19. maelstrom (“whirlpool” or, by extension, “confused situation”): from maalstroom, meaning “grinding current” or “strong current” (the second element of the word is cognate with stream); possibly based on an Old Norse word
20. morass (“boggy or muddy ground” or, by extension, “complicated or confused situation”): from marasch, meaning “swamp,” partly based on the Old French word marais, meaning “marsh”
21. plug (“stopper” or, as a verb, “stop (a hole)”): from plugge, meaning “stopper”
22. school (“large group of fish,” unrelated to the term for an educational institution): from schole
23. scow (“small, wide sailboat” or “flat-bottomed boat”): from schouw
24. shoal (“large group of fish”; unrelated to the same word meaning “area of shallow water”): cognate with schole
25. skipper (“captain of a ship”): from schipper, meaning “someone who ships”
26. sloop (“sailboat,” either a small modern boat or a specific type of warship): from sloep, either ultimately from slupen, meaning “to glide,” or from the Old French term chalupe
27. smack (“small sailboat”): possibly from smak, meaning “sailboat,” perhaps from the sound made by flapping sails
28. smuggler (“illegal trader”): smokkelen or the Low German word smukkelen, meaning “transport (goods) illegally”)
29. stockfish (“cod or similar fish prepared by drying”): from stokvis, meaning “stick fish”
30. yacht (“small, light pirate-hunting naval vessel” or “pleasure motorboat or sailboat”): from jacht, meaning “hunt” and short for jachtschip


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