Dutch Quirk #41: Call everything ‘gezellig’ All. The. Time.

HomeUltimate List of Dutch QuirksDutch Quirk #41: Call everything 'gezellig' All. The. Time.

Okay, so we’re all aware of how Dutchies use the word lekker for everything, but there’s another candidate for most used, untranslatable word: gezellig.

Gezelligheid is an essential part of Dutch culture, and you’ll find that Dutchies love using this word to describe everything under the sun.

What is it?

The word gezellig has no direct translation. It can mean anything from cosy to friendly, comfortable, or even relaxing. How abstract!

You’ll hear it everywhere. Weather can be gezellig (though not likely in NL 😉), someone’s room can be gezellig, and talking a walk can also be gezellig. There is no limit to what can be considered gezellig in Dutch.

Why do they do it?

The word is derived from the word gezel which means “companion” or “friend.” Back in the Middle Ages, a gezel was also the Dutch word for a “journeyman.”

From there, the word could have developed from a noun into an adjective or adverb to describe something friendly and cosy, like a good friend. Aww! 💖

Why is it quirky? 

It’s used EXCESSIVELY in the Dutch language and it sounds pretty crazy to someone who isn’t familiar with the tongue.

Photo-of-couple-looking-surprised-over-coffee
Hearing Dutch people pepper their phrases with “gezellig” is quite a common occurrence. Image: Depositphotos

GEE-ZEL-LEG. You have to say the difficult Dutch “g” twice. 😱

Should you join in? 

Ja, zeker! (Yes, of course!) It’s quite an important and frequent word in Dutch, so it will only help you to better integrate if you know what this means.

READ MORE | We got it ‘gesaved’ – English words in the Dutch language

Plus, the Dutchies can’t get away with switching to English with this word so you might as well know it yourself. 😊

What do you think of this Dutch quirk? Have you experienced it? Tell us in the comments below!

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in December 2021, and was fully updated in December 2023 for your reading pleasure.

Feature Image:Depositphotos
Nicole Ogden 🇹🇭 🇺🇸
Nicole Ogden 🇹🇭 🇺🇸
Hailing from the bustling city of Bangkok, Nicole is a Thai/American international student who came to the Netherlands to study linguistics. When she's not reading books or listening to true crime podcasts, she's practising her singing and guitar skills! She is also attempting to pick up the Dutch language (moeilijk).

2 COMMENTS

  1. I like exploring how the Dutch use their diminutives, such as in ” Laten we samen een biertje drinken” I first thought they wanted to have a small beer but it turns out they hope that this will also be gezellig.

  2. Late to the party here, but “gezellig” can also have a negative meaning, much like how English words like ‘delightful’, ‘awesome’, ‘great’, etc. can have a negative meaning. When hearing some unpleasant news, for example “Jaap heeft een ongeluk gehad, en ligt in het ziekenhuis” (Jaap had an accident, and is in the hospital), it is entirely common to hear the reply “Nou, lekker gezellig”, which in this context would translate to something like “Well, that’s great”.

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