Why are the Dutch called the Dutch? We have the answer!

Have you ever wondered why the Dutch are called ‘Dutch’? You might be surprised by the word’s origin.

The Dutch are famous for being very direct and straightforward people. Do you want a genuine opinion about your outfit? You got it! Want to split the bill? No problem! Do you want to have unlimited types of cheese to choose from? You got that tenfold!

Everything seems pretty simple here until you start asking yourself specific questions. Why does this country have two names? Is it the Netherlands or Holland?

And why are people here called the Dutch? And why do these words have nothing in common with one another? Well, we have the answers for you!

The Netherlands vs Holland: what even is the difference?

If you know the difference between the Netherlands and Holland, have heard the Dutch national anthem at least once, and know a thing or two about Dutch history, then you’re pretty much a half Dutchie. But for those who don’t know those things, let’s get it out of the way before we get to the main question.

That’s a lot of provinces for a tiny country. Image: Alphathon/Wikimedia Commons/CC3.0

In short, the Netherlands is split up into 12 provinces. However, the two provinces of North and South Holland are the ones that contain all the good (read: touristy) stuff.

READ MORE | Provinces of the Netherlands: the easy guide

Think tulips, windmills, canals, Amsterdam, and The Hague. So because the two Holland provinces are so popular, the whole country became known as Holland — even though its real name is the Netherlands. But why are the people here called Dutch? Well…

The British are to blame

England? English! America? American! The Netherlands? Netherlander? Hollander? No, Dutch! Why? Because logic.

But actually, the British are to blame. As if Brexit wasn’t enough to screw up half of Europe, the Brits messed things up for the Netherlands quite some time ago.

Now, we need your full attention for the reason why we call the Dutch, well, “the Dutch”. As we all know, the German word for Germany is “Deutschland”.

Now, for the British, everyone who spoke a Germanic language was one and the same. This resulted in the British calling people from Germany and the Netherlands both Dutch.

Then, as time passed, the Germans became known as, well, Germans. However, like a nickname you got in high school, “Dutch” still sticks with the Netherlands.

What do you think about the word’s origin? Did we surprise you with the reasoning behind it? Tell us in the comments below!

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in June 2018, and was fully updated in June 2023 for your reading pleasure.

Feature Image:Depositphotos
Veronika Licheva
Veronika Licheva
Living the short girl life in the land of giants. Veronika is a content creator who takes great interest in video, photography, and journalism. Her mission in The Netherlands is to build a vibrant and exciting career, while simultaneously petting as many dogs as possible.

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  1. Here in Australia we use to have a news paper called Dutch weekly, only it came out once a fourth night. In there they explained the reason why the Hollanders were called Dutch. Because a few hundred years ago there was war between the British and the Hollanders and the British didn’t like the Hollanders, they thought as the Hollander don’t like their neighbours, let’s call them Duits, but because they didn’t pronounce it right, it came out as Dutch. The Hollanders didn’t care what the British called them, so it stayed that way. That is also a reason why I call myself Hollands or Nederlandse, because I am Not Duits. ( no offence to my German friends ?? )

    • Pretty sure that a few hundred years ago we had no dislike of the Germans. And, I think your Dutch Weekly is wrong. The confusion of the Brits calling the people from the Netherlands “Dutch” comes from the Germanic language in that the German word for the German language is “Deutsch”. Now try to have an Englishman pronounce that correctly. Thinking that the language in the Netherlands was the same, or similar, we were given the same descriptive word of the language we were thought to speak: “Deutsch”, which soon became “Dutch”, and as Anneke van Wyk points out, we rocked the nickname and never let it go, even though it was understood to be a misunderstanding.

  2. Langauage is very dynamic whi h makes the traceability of the word’s origin sometimes difficult. Frankly speaking I believe, the word Dutch comes from the word Diets which is the language that was spoken in this part of Western Europe by the ordinary people. As language became more and more a written language and nations were being formed, languages spoken in (what now is) The Netherlands and Germany each got their own rules of grammer and spelling. The part that British may have called us Dutch may be true, but they may have said it to anyone who spoke this language, Germans and ‘Dutch’ alike.

  3. Veronika. Please Google a little bit more and talk to someone who studies Netherlands literature. Dutch is derived from the earlier common language spoken in the Low Countries called “Diets”.

  4. Holland actually comes from Holtz-land which is Germanic for wood-land. Indeed there are still two provinces north and south Holland. These provinces were also the ones starting the rebellion against the Spanish. With the help of English mercenaries. Still follow? And getting them drunk before a battle, to make them fight without fear, using Jenever (later adapted by the English to”gin”) is where the expression”Dutch courage” comes from.

  5. Unlike what your article states, the Netherlands are not called Holland because of the canals and other tourist stuff. The Netherlands are referred to as Holland because since the 16th century the international trade was originating principally from the region called Holland. And the government has always been based out of Holland.

  6. can i just say, the best attractions are not in the north and south holland. the world best attraction park ” the efteling ” is in brabant. near Arnhem are various attractions , the is the best zoo “burgers” the dutch open air museum. the veluwe. and many more attraction. de beekse bergen are in brabant. one of the best shopping cities in the netherlands breda is in brabant. utrecht is full with history and incredible castles. then there are the waterline towns with huge history , cities like maastricht , neimegen deventer amersfoort bergen op zoom etc are not in the holland provinces. i can go on and on . the netherlands might be small but has lots to offer outside holland …

  7. You guys have the cheek to blame this on the Brits, when you have that stuff in your national anthem about ‘duitse bloed’!! Oh yes, and in another verse you pledge allegiance to the King of Spain. What a bunch of crazy, mixed-up Europhiles! 🙂

  8. The word Dutch as well as the word Deutsch for German have the same origin. It’s from the Dutch language in the Middle Ages, where “diets” meant : from the people. So the “diets” country was your homeland. In German the same word was: Deutsch. In our national anthem there is a sentence: “ben ik van duitsen bloed”, meaning: am I of original blood of the homeland (not German blood!). There also is an expression in the Dutch language: iemand iets diets maken, which means: to make something clear to a person. The word diets in this case means something like “your own”. If you really comprehend something, it is your own, it is “diets”.

  9. Germanic Franks began to name themselves as Theodisk or Diutisk during the Carolingian Frankish Empire to distinguish themselves from the Romance speaking Franks (later French and Walloons). Later that spread to other continental West Germanic tribes like Bavarians, Thuringians, Alemanns and Saxons, but not to Frisians. The foundation of the Regnum Teutonicum, then Sacrum Imperium Romanum out oft the East Frankish Kingdom (always regarded as a German or Teutonic realm by neighbors) was the breakthrough for this ethnonym. Theodisk/Diutisk evolved to different dialectal equivalents like Diets, Duuts or Diutsch. Originally English equivalents were Dutch and Almain (from French Thiois (from Theodisk) and Allemagne), later also German. The Dutch called themselves and their Dutch language (Nederlands) Duits or Nederduits until around 1800. Therefore the English called all people from (modern) Netherland, Flandres, Germany, (German speaking) Switzerland and Austria “Dutch”. Because of the wars with the Netherlanders they later reserved that usage to the Dutch alone, leaving Germans for Germans and Austrians.

  10. I’m just gonna call them Netherlanders from now on. I’ve always thought it was weird to go around renaming peoples and their countries. Like Japan is really Nippon or China is really Zhong Guo.

  11. Well, I have learned something here! I always wondered whether “Dutch” people felt a bit insulted about being called “Dutch”, because it sounded like “Deutsch” to me….but I didn’t know about Diets. I can see that this could relate to “Teutonic”, and that the Netherlands probably has Teutonic heritage.
    So I am curious to find out whether the other “diets” — the medieval and early modern Imperial Councils of the Holy Roman Empire — were called that because they were supposed to be some sort of representation of the Teutonic people — as in the (infamous) Diet of Worms, that Shakespeare joked about. Any thoughts about this?

  12. “We” (most people don’t like me to easy associating on any level with them, so i am careful)) don’t call ourselves that, here we say “Nederlander” or “Hollander”.

    • I definitely am nót an Hollander. That is somewhat of an insult for people outside of only 2 out of 12 provinces. I’m Nederlander or Nederlands. If you want something more regional, just name the province someone lives.
      Most people who know a bit more about history and have more common knowledge don’t use Holland or Hollander if they are not from Holland.

  13. Lets see now: there is no such word as Dutch in Dutch, and there is no such word as German in German, nor in Dutch, and the Dutch call Dutch Hollands or Nederlands (pick one). In English the Germans are German but in German they are Deutsch and in Dutch the germans are Duits whereas in German the Dutch are called Niederländisch.
    Well that all makes imperfect sense.
    My family is from Zeeland, far from the Holland provinces, and always called ourselves Hollanders and our language Hollands, never Nederlands.
    I’ve heard ignorant Americans refer to the Dutch language as low German and German language as high German, clearly implying that the high and low distinction referred to status. This used to annoy me until I learned it referred to the relative elevation of the two countries and any other interpretation was butthead ignorant and pitiable. Before the various parts of Germany were assembled into a coherent country, Holland was known as neder Deutschland, or neder dietsland or neder duitsland. Meaning lower Germany, because of being low land. (Not low status dang it) Well I’m glad I cleared that up for all time. (or did I?)

  14. When religious settlers called The Amish arrived in North America, they brought with them the German language, Deutsch. But Americans of the time could not pronounce Deutsch; they settled for the easier pronunciation of Dutch. Today there is Amish Country in Pennsylvania and other States, like Ohio.

  15. This Holland, Nederland, Dutch thing continues to puzzle most English speaking people on this planet.
    There once was a German(ic)“ tribe “ called Duits , Deutsche and their language was called by those names. They got their name from the Germanic god ( idol ) called Tuisco and “ tuesday “ was named after this Tuisco chap.
    Not everyone living in Nederland is Duits and not everyone living in Deutschland is Deutsche but most are Germaans , Germanisch. ( Germanic )
    I have used the names Nederland and Deutschland as those are their names and not all that hard to pronounce and remember I should think for the English speakers amongst you.
    The English are also a germanic tribe and spoke a germanic language but I think that when they went across that water into Britain they became a bit forgetful .
    Germania ( Germany ) was a far bigger region as the one the English speakers call Germany. Now there was another tribe that settled in Nederland called the Batavi but that might become far to confusing.

  16. Unless I am grossly misinformed the explanation above is way over simplified. The Brits are in fact to blame for Nederlanders being called Dutch by outsiders (buitenlanders I mean). My understanding is that back in time Germany, as now, was called deutschland and what is now The Netherlands was called Nederdeutschland, or, lower Germany. In the the British ear and the British mouth, Deutsch was (and is) pronounced Dutch, thus, Germany was spoken of as Dutch land and The Netherlands was Neder Dutch land, both being abbreviated to Dutch land and further abbreviated to just Dutch. That explains why, as I like to say, there is no such word as Dutch in Dutch and no such word as German in German because those are both English words. This is kind of an old post so probably no one will deny, confirm, or refine my explanation but there must be other ideas out there.

  17. Interesting article!
    I do have to ask: why use the expression ‘ the fat, ignorant bully’?
    This is the kind of things you should avoid…
    Are you one of those people who think fat people are ignorant so you felt the need to stress that your bully was fat? (Because I hope this is based on your life experiences only)
    Imagine you replace the adjective ‘fat’ for the race of the bully and you will see how this is a very nasty thing to say.
    Do better.
    (yes, I am fat)

  18. Let me explain it to you in layman’s terms: how do you call people from Germany? Germans, From Belgium? Belgians, From England? Englanders ? From France? French.. So it is related in a way to the name of the country, So the only correct term is Netherlander(s).
    Dutch is a pejorative term just like Yankee is made up by the British to offend the Netherlanders.

  19. I’m reading all this because my mama said her grandmother called her dad an old Dutchman. Very interesting!
    No I think I know!

  20. Your article provided no reason as to why they are called Dutch. However, comments such as the very first one, did provide a seemingly logical answer.

  21. I’m totally confused now, and beginning to regret why I asked the darned question in the first place. As an expat Brit, now an Aussie, I can recall a music hall performer from long ago (Maurice Chevalier ), presumably French, singing about his wife “My Old Dutch “! Now if that don’t throw a Spanner in the Works,” what will ? Or should that be “Spaniard”? Oops, I’m outa here !

  22. Total recall conflicts with total confusion ! Abject apologies and correction to my previous post -the music hall performer was not Maurice Chevalier
    but ALBERT Chevalier, a Cockney not a Frenchman ! Which probably doesn’t matter MUCH, except for the reference to “MY DEAR OLD DUTCH !


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