What’s in a (Dutch male) name?

Learning and pronouncing Dutch names can be a struggle. “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose would smell as sweet” — a statement that has stood the test of time.

A name doesn’t necessarily tell me everything about who you are or where you’re from (or whether or not your hips lie, just look at my name.) 💃

Yet, you see a Starbucks cup with the name “Harry” on it and say “So you’re basically real-life Harry Potter!” (Harry Styles also comes to mind).

You meet a Belinda and start humming along to “Me and my wife called, ‘Pretty Belinda, pretty Belinda, pretty Belinda…”

You read an article written by “Shaakira” and think, well, there’s a wealth of things people ask me based on my name alone. Some original and some not so much but all of them chuckle-worthy.

I can barely remember the anonymity I experienced before “Hips don’t lie” came out, and as a teenager hearing this song every morning, noon and night — the song was overplayed at that but no ones seemed to mind. I had no idea the effect it would have on my name in the years to come.

Skip ahead 13 years later and people will still hit me with “so…do your hips lie?”

There is already a great guide to Dutch female names, so here’s how to master the pronunciation of Dutch male names.

Culture shock: Dutch names

Photo-of-confused-woman
Dutch names can be really tricky for internationals. Image: Robin Higgins/Pixabay

When I moved to the Netherlands, I realised there was something I had thought about when it came to assimilating into society: names!

Now, as someone who understands the importance a name, I in fact pride myself on being good at remembering names. I was surprised when an incredibly tall colleague introduced themselves to me and, instead of hearing and repeating his name, “Koen”, I heard and thus repeated “Cool”.

It’s funny now, but at the time I was so overwhelmed trying to meet everyone else in the room that repeating “Cool” and having Koen trying to correct me was mildly mortifying.

This proceeded to happen more than once in my first few weeks in the Netherlands. I struggled over different Dutch names and remember remarking to a friend that, honestly, I could not understand why I was struggling with them so much! Apparently this is heel normaal.

Learning and pronouncing Dutch male names

Below are some of the common Dutch male names that I’ve noted throughout my stint here in the Netherlands:

Timo

Is this a version of the name Tim? Or is it a name of an exotic place that was appropriated by pronouncing it with a Dutch accent?

Job

Now I am certain there is some wonderful Dutch heritage behind this name (also there is a biblical reference) but in English of course ‘a job’ is where you work… maybe your parents naming you this was a way of ensuring your future financial success? Or perhaps it’s ironic; knowing that you might hate having said job and aspire to be a house-husband? Look, I don’t know your life, all I can do is guess… 🤷‍♂️

Jordy

Okay, this is just a classic English name that the Dutch stole, but the make it their own by pronouncing the “J” like a “Y”.

Jeroen

Now, this is a great Dutch name but I can imagine in an English or American accent it sounds very interesting. Is it the Dutch version of Jeremy? Or maybe Jimmy? Really rolls off the tongue either way…

learning and pronouncing Dutch names
Learning to pronounce Dutch names takes hard work. Image: Free-Photos/Pixabay

Joost

This name boggles my mind because it’s also quite an Afrikaans name. It’s spelt the exact same in Afrikaans but pronounced differently. Different accents make your name sound cute, but I’m sure “Joost” (NL: /Yow-st/) would not appreciate me calling him “Joost” (SA: /Yooo-st/).

Jelle

Even the appearance of this name in the list gives me anxiety that I will mess up the pronunciation. Because I have, many times. I was never quite sure how to pronounce it until I received some guidance: Apparently, you don’t pronounce it “Jel”, or “Jelly” but in fact more of a “Yelluh”.

Koen

The Dutch version of the name “Cool”. Refer above.

Mathijs

The Dutch version of the name Matthew. Matt. Matty.

Michiel

Michael of course. Or maybe the Dutch version of the French male name, Michele — we may never know for sure.

Jan

John (Basically like John Legend)

Niels

Neil (Yes, like Neil Diamond).

Pieter

The Dutch version of the name Peter, but not to be confused with “Peter” (longer “e” sound: /pay-ter/). Peter was obviously a popular name at some point and like all popular names, someone has to spell theirs uniquely (Eg: Megan, Meegan, Meghan etc.)

I feel that there are less traditional Dutch female names but this is probably just me being biased. Let’s recognise Dutch names for what they are — cool — I mean KOEN!

There are so many more unique Dutch names. Have you struggled with any names during your time in the Netherlands? Drop them in the comments below!

Editor’s Note: This image was originally published in June 2019, and was fully updated in February 2021 for your reading pleasure.
Feature Image: Free-Photos/Pixabay

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.

8 COMMENTS

  1. By the way you have Koen and Coen (you pronounce the same way).
    Also, very Dutch name is Pepijn,Pippijn, Michiel, Roelof, Barend, Freek, Hannes, Lodewijk, Loek, Mees, Ruud, etc…

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