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2 contemporary dutch painters
Nice gallery of two Dutch artists: oilpainting, watercolor's and drawings. Worth a visit.

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Dutch landscapes and other
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photographs from the Netherlands
Gallery of the Netherlands.
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language, dutch grammar, dutch spelling, dutch orthography, declension, declensions, surnames, dimminuti
Crash-course Dutch grammar for genealogists
On this page I will try to give you a little insight into the grammatical construction of Dutch surnames. Simple Dutch names like 'Backer', 'Jansz' or 'TerVeer' will not occasion much brain racking. More complex names, however, like compositions with 'Van der-', 'Ter-' or 'Tot-' for example will be a little bit tougher to fathom. And, what do these suffixes '-sen', '-sz' and others stand for? Wouldn't it be nice also to get a grip on all those unspeakable Dutch diminutive endings in order to get a better understanding of male and female given names? If you have a few minutes -it will not take much more- to follow this crash-course, a few mysteries might be disclosed forever...

diminutive endings
cases and case endings
orthographic anarchy
NOTE: to listen to soundfiles of Dutch diftongs, vowels and consonants: go to the Uitspraak-page of the Carpark-site
For the history and description of the Dutch languages and it's dialects and regional languages: go to the 'Language-page'


Dutch articles
Definite articles
DE , HET ('t)

Unlike in English, Dutch uses two definite articles. The gender of the noun to follow determines the choice of the article. DE is used for nouns of masculine and feminine gender. HET -or the substituting shortened 't- is the definite article we use when dealing with a noun of neuter gender. Examples:

De man, de mannen, de vrouw, de vrouwen (= the man, the men, the woman, the women)

Het schip, ('t schip), de schepen (= the ship, the ships)

In plural De is always used, irrispective of gender.


Note 1: diminutives will always be preceded by the definite article HET. Example:

Het vrouwtje (= the little woman)

Note 2: In earlier days contractions of the article 'De' and the radical words, starting with an 'h' have taken place in Flanders. This resulted in surnames like: 'Dhondt' (=de Hondt), 'Dhaen' (- de Haan) and 'Dhaese' (= de Haese).

Indefinite article


Like in English, Dutch only uses one indefinite article: EEN, or the substituting shortened 'n. Examples:

Een koekje,('n koekje) (= a cookie)


Cases and case endings
In the Old- and Middle Dutch language 4 cases were present: nominativus, genitivus, dativus and accusativus. We can still find them in the German language: der Mann, des Mannes, dem Manne, den Mann). Both in English and Dutch the use of this case-system did disappear in the course of time. In Dutch surnames we can still, however, see the remnants of these old cases:
De Koning, De Backer, Debacker, De Hondt, D'hondtNominative.
Hendricks, Govertsz, Jacobssen, Simonsdr Genitive ending. Actually: 'son of...', 'daughter of...'
Ten Eycken, Ter Heune, Van den Bogaerd, Van der Grift

Dative ending.Ten and Ter both are contractions of the preposition 'Te' (= at) and the articles 'den' or 'der'. 'Den' and 'der' being the dative male and female declensions of 'de'.

Ingendael, Angenendt


Dativeending. Dialectal forms of respectively 'In den' and 'Aan den'. ('In' and 'At') These forms are to be found especially in the German/Dutch area between Rhine and Meuse: south east Netherlands.

Den Hartog, Den Dunne, Den Duytsen


Accusative ending. This type of surnames originate from the 16th- and 17th century: not earlier. We don't find this type of names in Brabant nor in Flanders, but almost exclusively in the province of Zuid-Holland, especially in the Rotterdam area.


Aan deAandeweg, Aan de weg, Aendekerk

Aan de(n) = at, on. Preposition adjunct. Fieldnames, meaning respectively: 'living at the road' and ' next to the church'. [This type of fieldnames is appearing quite frequently in the Dutch province of Limburg, and, to a lesser extend in the province of Zuid Holland]

Aan ge

Aangeveld, Aangenend, Angenent

The preposition-article combination Aan de(n) can change to Aan ge(n) in the southeastern part of the Netherlands and the adjacent part of Germany. Actually one could roughly say: the area between Rhine and Meuse. The examples shown here respectively mean: ' next/close to the field', ' at the end (of a road)'
IngenIngendael, Ingebos, Ingenhove

Ingen = In de (English: in the) We find these names in the same area as the Aan ge(n) names.The examples shown here respectively mean:' in the valley', ' in the woods/forest' and ' in garden/ farmyard'

In the rest of the Netherlands we find inge spelled as in de, in den or in die

Op de(n), Op ter/ -tenOp den dyck, Opdyck, Op ten Brincke, Op ter MeentheOp de(n) = at, on, upon. Here:' upon the dike' and ' at the village greens'
TeTe Brinke, Te BosTe = at, in. We find these names -and all the following declension variations on te- almost exclusively in the eastern Netherlands (the province of Overijssel and the eastern part of the province of Gelderland) Names given here mean respectively: ' at the village greens' and ' at or in the woods'
TerTerbeek, Ter BeekTer = fusion of the preposition te with the declined article der. This example means: ' at the brook'
TenTen Brincke, TenbrinkTen = fusion of the preposition te with the declined article den. This example means: ' at the village greens'
T(h)oTo Swoll, Toe WaterOld spelling of te. Meaning: ' at -the city of- Zwolle' and ' at the water-/riverside'
T(h)oeVan Harinxma thoe SlootenOld spelling of te. The name here means: 'the family Harinxma living at Slooten'. Thoe can be found in Frisia.
VanVan Zutphen, VanCleef

Van = from. Geographical name, meaning: '...coming/originating from Zutpen, Cleef etc'

Van der, van denVan den Bogaerd, Van der Heide, Van der Heyden, VanderHeydenVan, meaning the same as mentioned above. Unlike the preposition te, van doesn't fuse with the article de. The difference between der and den is caused by the gender of the noun: before a female word the declined article gets an r, an n will be added in front of a male substantive.
VerVerheyden, Vervoort Ver is a fusion of the preposition van and the article der. These surnames respectively mean: ' near or on the heath' and ' at a fordable place at a river'
Uit den, Uyt denUittenhage, UytenhaegeUit = from. The article den becomes a t(t) as an effect of assimilation. The name here can mean both '...originating from the Hague', or '...originating from an area with bushes or a hedgerow'

In the Southern Netherlands -comprising nowadays Belgium and the Dutch provinces Limburg and especially Brabant- it was more a custom to join prepositions and/ or articles and the substantive. Where we usually find Van der Heide and De Keizer in the Northern Netherlands, we will find them spelled like VanderHeyde or Verheyde and Dekeyser in the Southern Netherlands frequently. Of course there are exceptions to this rule; but you might try to look for Dekeyser's roots in Belgium or the Dutch province Noord-Brabant first!


Diminutive endings

1.The Real diminutive endings:

-je, -(e)tje and -pje

EndingWord/ Given nameDiminutive
-je (-ie) Boot (=boat, vessel)Bootje






Aaltie ('ie' probably pronounced like 'je'. Writing an 'i' instead of 'j' was more a kind of a tradition, especially with female given names)

-tjeVader (= father) Vadertje
-etjeMan (= man) Mannetje
-pjeOom (= uncle)Oompje
-kje (Fr)JaapJaapkje
-(t)sje (Fr) RengerRengertsje

2. Diminutive suffixes used to create pet-names and nicknames.

-(e)ke, -(e)ken, -(e)kin, -(e)kijn, -ske(n), -(e)gen, -(e)gijn, -(e)chien, -(e)lijn, -ijn, -ijnne, -ien, -ine, -ina and -el

This group of suffixes can express both endearment and/or contempt, disrespect. The latter, however, is generally reserved when used with normal nouns. Given names and surnames obtain an endearing quality when these suffixes are added.

-eke(n)Jan, Mette Janneke(n), Metteke

-ken, -kijn

-kin (B)







-gen, -gijn (B)



-ijnne (B)





-ien (Dr) GeertGeertien
-chien, -kien (Gr, Dr)LammeLammechien, Lemmechien
-ine, -ina JacobJacobine, Jacobina
-el (old diminutive)Trom (= drum)Trommel


Orthographic anarchy

hebban olla vogala nestas hagunnan
hinase hic enda thu
uuat unbidan uue nu

Author: unknown Westflemish (probably) female person. Love poem, written about 1100 in the abbey of Rochester, County of Kent, England. Discovered 1932 in a library in Oxford. The spelling as showed above still is controversial. The same goes for the translation, but roughly it would translate to following English text:

'Have all birds begun to build their nest, exept you and me, what are we waiting for?'

Dutch spelling of ‘the vernacular language’,as used by the educated citizens, originates from the 12th- century.
From about 1100 the church had lost her monopoly of writing and copying. From that time on writing gradually came in the hands of the more educated citizens of the upcoming towns. For the Dutch language this process started in the southern Netherlands, spreading slowly to the north. Round about 1350 it had already become common to write vernacular language.
The characters of the Latin alphabet served as phonetic examples. The medieval Latin alphabet, however, knew but 23 characters: A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, K, L, M, N, O, P, Q, R, S, T, V, X, Y and Z. It has to be said, however, that the K, Y and Z weren't used much in Latin. For this reason we don’t see the K, Y and Z characters in early Middle Dutch writing. The same goes for the J and W characters which couldn't be found in the original Latin alphabet. So, the characters J, K, W, Y and Z in early Middle Dutch writing had to be represented by other characters. Differentiation of the U and V –which couldn't’t be found in the Latin alphabet- also took place in a later period of Middle Dutch spelling. All this resulted in a large freedom of spelling. The same word could be written in several spellings. But there was more, to add to confusion.
Middle Dutch –the name for the Dutch language between 1200 and 1550 - was not a standardized language. Middle Dutch actually is a umbrella term for a variety of Franconian and Saxon dialects, spoken almost at the entire territory of the Netherlands. (By ‘the Netherlands’ I mean: the Netherlands of those days, roughly comprising nowadays Belgium and the Netherlands. Note that Middle Dutch wasn’t spoken in the Walloon area of nowadays Belgium). The most important head-groups of Middle Dutch were: Vlaams, Brabants, Limburgs, Hollands and Oostelijk Middelnederlands. Vlaams (Flemish) was spoken in the Belgian provinces of East- and West-Flanders. Limburgs (Limburgian) was spoken in the nowadays Dutch and Belgian provinces of the same name. Brabants (Brabantine) was spoken in the nowadays Dutch and Belgian provinces of the same name and the province of Antwerp. Hollands was the language spoken in the nowadays Dutch provinces South- and North Holland and part of the Utrecht province. Oostelijk Middelnederlands was a more Saxon language, dialect spoken in the eastern Netherlands, in the provinces of Gelderland, Overijssel, Drenthe and part of Groningen. There were –and still are- great differences between these languages, dialects. These differences make it even more difficult to get a good understanding of the variety of old words and their various spellings. And, don’t forget: we are talking about a period, covering 4 centuries! Chronological and geographical diversity don’t make things easier as well.
Confusing? When it comes to the complete story about the use of characters, the Middle Dutch orthography and the variety of Middle Dutch dialects, I just showed the top of the iceberg.

In Old- and Middle Dutch, especially in Belgium, the 'e' and 'i' sometimes were used to prolong the pronunciation of the proceeding vowels 'a', 'o' and 'u':
aa - aeClaas - ClaesSound not present in English language
aa -aiAllaart -AllairtSound not present in English language
oo - oeAnthonus - AnthoenusSounds like the 'o' in the English word 'bonus'
oo - oiVan Doorn - Van DoirnSounds like the 'o' in Al Gore
uu - ueVan der Schuur - Van der SchuerSound not present in English language
u -uiGruter - GruiterDon't mix up with the Dutch diphthong 'ui'


The characters 'i','ij', 'j' and 'y' were completely interchangeable:

Actually the 'y' isn't a Dutch vowel. It is a so called 'i-grec' who entered the Dutch language in loan-words only. When we see an 'y' in old records it actually should be regarded as an 'ij'. This typical Dutch character evolved from the 'ii' .This was a prolonged'i'(sounding like the 'e' of the English alphabet). Later this 'ii' was written as 'ij', but mostly without the two dots. The sound also evolved to the sound of the Dutch diphthong 'ei'(which sounds -a little bit- like the English personal pronoun 'I'). This process of diphtongization started already in the 14th-century in Brabant. Not until 1700 it appeared in the northern Netherlands.

i - ij - yCornelis, Cornelijs, CornelysAll expressing the Dutch closed 'i'-sound (like in the English word 'bit')
ei - eij - ij - y - aiReiner, Reijner, Rijner, Reyner, RainerAll expressing the Dutch 'ei'- or 'ij' sound ( a bit like the 'i' in the English word 'fine')
i- ij - y - jHeie, Heije, Heye, HeyjeAll expressing the Dutch 'j'-sound (like in the English word 'yes' ) The Dutch character 'j' came late in our alphabet: till then the 'i' was used in most cases
i - ie - ey - ySimen, Siemen, Seymen, SymenAll expressing the 'ie'-sound (like in the English word 'tree')


The diphthongs'au' and 'ou' were interchangeable and often other vowels were added -seemingly- at random:

au - ouLaurens, LourensBoth diphthongs are sounding like the English 'o' in 'now'
au -aau - aue - aeuBlau, Blaauw, Blaue, BlaeuBoth diphthongs are sounding like the English 'o' in 'now'


The diphthongs 'oe' and 'ou' and the vowel 'u' were used alternately. We don't find it too often and it probably will have been caused by the influence of France and Germany. The French and German equivalents of the Dutch 'oe'-sound are, respectively: 'ou' and 'u'. (Like the English 'ou' in 'you'). It is not unusual to see the 'ou' and 'u' appear respectively in the southern- and southeastern Netherlands. Next to that in some cases 'ue' could be used instead of 'ou' or 'oe' :

oe -ou -ueVan den Broek, VandenBrouck, VandenBrueckSounding like the 'ou' in the English word 'you'
oe - u Roelof, RulofSounding like the 'ou' in the English word 'you'


The diphthongs 'ie' and 'ieu' could be used alternately:

ie - ieuLiewert, Lieuwert Sound not present in English language


Sometimes the separatecharacters of the diphthongs 'eu' and 'ue' simply changed places:

eu - ue Brueghel, BreughelSound not present in English language.


Long list of interchangeable (combinations of) consonants :
c - ck - kDirc, Dirck, DirkLike English 'k'
c - kCoert, Koert Like English 'k'
ch - c - kChristiaan, Cristiaan, KristiaanLike English 'k'
ch - gBrechtje, Bregtje The notorious Dutch 'G'
g- ghGerritsz, GherritszAdding of the 'h' only took place in front of the vowels 'e' and 'i'. Still the same sound as teh notorious Dutch 'G'
p - bJop, Job Both consonants like the 'p' in the English word 'pants'
d - dt - tGerard, Gerardt, GerartEach character (combination) to be pronounced as a normal sharp 't'
t - ttMetje, Mettje 
t - thTomas, ThomasBoth 't' and 'th' pronounced as a normal sharp 't'
ks -cs - cx - cks -x-ckxHendriks, Hendrics, Hendricx,Hendricks, Hendrix, HendrickxAll sounding like in Jimmy Hendrix
kw - quKwaak, Quaak

Almost identical to the 'q' in the English word 'quit'

s - zVan Santfoort, van ZandvoortSounding like the voiceless 's' in the English word 'sand'
v - fVolckert, Folkert Sounding like the 'f ' in the English word 'fat'
f - phJosefus, Josephus Sounding like the 'f ' or 'ph' in the English given name 'Rufus/Ruphus'
j Johannes, Jsaac Dutch 'j' is sounding like the 'y' in the English word 'yes'. The Dutch character 'j' came late in our alphabet: till then the 'i' was used in most cases. The character 'j' can be regarded as a vowel as well as a consonant. That's why the 'j' alternately served as a 'j' or an 'i'
xpr - chrXpristina, Christina


The Dutch characters 'u', 'v' and 'w'
u - vUytenbogaerd,VytenbogaerdSound not present in English language.
v - uLieuen, LievenSo unding like the 'v' in the English word 'victim'
uu - vv - wuuillem, vvillem, willemSounding a bit like the 'w' in the English word 'water'. But, the Dutch word is a labio-dental, which means that it is pronounced with the lower lip touching the upper teeth
© 2002 willem rabbelier


‘Korte geschiedenis van de Nederlandse taal’, SDU uitgevers, Den Haag, 2000 ISBN 90 5797 0716
Dr. E. Rijpma,‘Beknopte Nederlandse Spraakkunst’, J.B.Wolters, Groningen-Batavia, 1946
Jr. Van der Meulen, ‘Taalkennis en taalbeschouwing’, Wolters-Noordhoff NV, Groningen, 1969 Meerten Database of familynames