Lost in Translation: English-Sounding Dutch Words

3 mins read

As an expat or a language learner, you might have encountered situations where you thought you understood a word, only to realize it meant something entirely different in another language. Well, welcome to the club! Today, we are going to discover some faux-amis from Dutch. Some English-sounding Dutch words might lead you in the wrong direction if you’re not careful. So let’s take a look to 10 “fake-friends” from dutch.

Mountainous landscapes, in a flat land like the Netherlands? Of course not! “Valley” takes on a whole new meaning. Being inspired by term “Silicone Valley”, it refers to all clusters of industries, especially those linked with innovation and startups. Who knew the flatlands had so many valleys to explore?

You might hear a Dutch person say that they are going to put their bike in the box. Well, in Dutch, putting it in a “Box” doesn’t involve cardboard box. A ‘box” storing cellar space. Dutchies do think outside the box!

Walking dinner
Now, who wouldn’t love the idea of a leisurely stroll combined with a delicious meal? Well, hold on to your appetites because in Dutch, a “Walking dinner” is more about standing and socializing while sampling bite-sized portions. So, get ready for a culinary adventure without the actual walking!

No, we’re not talking about your cozy winter layer. In Dutch, a “Vest” isn’t a sleeveless garment but rather a stylish cardigan. So, make sure you’ve got the right vest for the occasion!

What would you think if you would hear something like “Oh my dog is in the bench”? Isn’t your furry friend on the bench, not in the bench? The answer: No, they’re not on any piece of furniture. In Dutch, “bench” it’s more about being in a cage for training purposes. Sorry, Fido, no furniture privileges for you!


First up, we have “Mainport.” Now, you might think it sounds like the primary entrance to a bustling city, but in Dutch, it’s a term used to describe major transportation centers like Schiphol airport and Rotterdam port. So, next time you’re navigating through the Netherlands, remember, it’s not just about the destination, but the journey’s “Mainport” too!

This one might leave you scratching your head. A “Spencer” in Dutch isn’t some posh Englishman but a sleeveless jumper worn over a shirt. Who knew fashion could be so confusing?

Watch your step! In Dutch, a “Panty” isn’t the underwear you think of but it is a pair of tights. So, next time you’re shopping for legwear, remember to ask for the right kind of “panty”!

Raar” the Dutch version of “rare” it is, actually, translated to “strange” in English, while rare (zeldzaam, rauw) is the opposite of common and can also be used to order a lightly cooked steak.

Lights, camera, confusion! In Dutch, a “Beamer” isn’t a Hollywood projector but a simple overhead projector. So, adjust your lenses accordingly!

Phew! We’ve only scratched the surface of these linguistic adventures. Stay tuned! There might be a Part 2, where we can discover even more English-sounding Dutch words that might just surprise you. Until then, keep exploring, keep learning, and embrace the beautiful complexities of language!

Ever stumbled upon a language fake friend? Share your stories in the comments below! Let’s laugh, learn and grow together!


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