What’s in a (female) Dutch name?

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose wo-” *old record scratching sound*. Wait a minute. This opening line is sounding awfully familiar. That’s right folks, it’s time for the sequel to ‘What’s in a Dutch name?‘ but this time we’re focusing on the females!

In our last instalment, I regaled the tale of meeting my colleague “Cool” (aka Koen) and the mild embarrassment that plagued me afterwards. Strangely, I can’t say that I’ve had a similar incident with any female names and that’s probably attributable to the fact that females are a species far more superior at enunciation (*nonchalant hair toss*).

But, it’s also due to the fact that as I meet more and more Dutch people, I become more comfortable with being baffled by the pronunciation of Dutch names. I also get more comfortable asking someone to repeat their name.

How to never forget a Dutch name again

When you meet someone new, it’s inevitable that a name is missed, mispronounced, and most likely — completely forgotten. I know SO many people who are “not good with remembering names.” Truly, I have heard that line so many times that it’s becoming a common personality trait among humans. I wonder which star sign it would fall under?

“Ambitious, open-hearted and good with money, this sign is loved by many. However, a tendency to be selfish, controlling and bad with names also mean that this sign leans towards erratic behaviour…”

Star charts aside, here’s a little trick to help you come back from an embarrassing #namefail. Let’s set the scene:

You make eye contact and recognise the face. Yet, you can’t place the name exactly… Susie? Jessica? They’re heading over. You start to panic…your knees are weak, arms are heavy, but on the surface, you look calm and ready…and then they are right in front of you. You shake hands, smile pleasantly etc., and then you utter the magic words: “Oh yes! Of course I remember you! But I just want to check how to pronounce your name again?”

Pronouncing Dutch names

The wonderful thing with classic female Dutch names is that a lot of them look deceivingly familiar (just take “Charlotte”) and you might be tempted to say them in ye olde English way. Often though, the Dutch have a completely different pronunciation — even if the name seems common for English natives.

In this particular instance, Charlotte shakes your hand, smiles back warmly (you’ve remembered her, you’re just verifying the pronunciation, so you’re in the green 😉) and enunciates for you: “/Shar-lot-teh/”.

*Cue the two of you becoming the best of friends, having sleepovers, and becoming each other’s children’s godparents*

On that heartwarming note, let’s list some other female Dutch names with particularly interesting pronunciations:

Charlotte

Not pronounced the English way but quite fun to say either way. Refer above for pronunciation.

Floor

This one was interesting to me too. Really, the pronunciation is almost exactly the same as in English with the slight detail that there’s more emphasis on the “R” sound — which the Dutch really love to round out with.

Judith

Another deceptively simple one, the “J” is again changed to be pronounced as a “Y”. Yes, this means that Judy Blume would be “Yoody Blume” to a Dutchie. Charming!

Anna

Almost the same but there’s more emphasis on the first “A”… more of an “Ahhh” sound to begin. Like you’re realising how tricky Dutch names can be and you’re like “Ahhhh (I see).”

Annelieke, Annemiek

Now, this is interesting. It seems that “Anne” can also be the prefix to a name. A bit like in English, although it’s more of a suffix, with names such as Lou-Anne and Mary-Anne respectively…wait, did I just realise that all Dutch names have an English equivalent? I feel like a tourist who’s just realised that Amsterdam isn’t a country, aka S-M-A-R-T.

Mirjam

Literally sounds the same as “Mariam”, and is probably the Dutch version. Has nothing to do with actual jam. 😆

Sigrid

This one is just a treat to me. It’s really fun to pronounce. /See-gggg-rid/. A lovely guttural “G” sound makes you feel like you are an echte (There’s that guttural “G” sound again!) Nederlander.

Roos

Rose. “That which we call a Rose by any other name…” alright, alright. You get the picture. A sweet-smelling and picturesque name.

Yonne

Probably inspired by “Yvonne”, and more so by Yvonne Chaka Chaka (Just kidding, she’s a South African singer but then again South African-Dutch ties do run historically deep…)

Marjolien

Like “Marjorie” in English. But also like “marjolien” in Dutch. Which is a herb that I recently found at my local Jumbo (but Google tells me it is the herb, Marjoram in English.) I have literally no idea what Marjoram truly tastes like yet, though. Or what Marjolien will think of this blurb about her name.

This is by no means an exhaustive list but, hopefully, the name trick will serve you well. Did you end up using it? Stuck on a pronunciation for a female Dutch name? Let us know in the comments below!

Feature Image: anatols/Depositphotos

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in August 2019, and was fully updated in July 2021 for your reading pleasure.

Shaakira Vania
20-something year old traveller, coconut lover (Seriously-anything coconut), and Libran. I recently made the cross-continent move to Amsterdam and spend my weekends exploring the country, meeting new people and telling myself I will finish a book every month (a promise I'm yet to keep). If I had to sum myself up in three words they would be: quirky, curious, and meme-lover.

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