Dutch (name)

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The Netherlands has had over the centuries different names. The most important are:

  • Nederlands ( Dutch )
  • Nederduits ("Low German" meaning Dutch )
  • Diets, Duuts, Duits (" German " in the meaning of vernacular , i.e. Dutch.)
  • Hollands ( Dutch )
  • Vlaams ( Flemish )
  • Hoog-Afrikaans ( Hoog-Afrikaans )

Preliminary note on spelling and variants

The Dutch adjectives with "-sch" at the end ("Nederlandsch", "Duitsch" etc.) are in the spelling that was valid in the Netherlands until 1947. The "sch" was pronounced as "s" at least in the 20th century , while the "ch" was only there from tradition. This "sch" goes back to a Middle Dutch "sc", which was probably pronounced "sk", as it is even today in the Scandinavian languages with this ending (e.g. the Danish word for German = Tysk ).

The "ui" in "Duits" was also spelled "uy" in earlier centuries. It goes back to a Central Dutch "uu", which was pronounced roughly like the German long "ü". "ie" instead of "uu" is a south-western dialect variant.

This explains why, in addition to "Duits", there can also be the forms "Duitsch", "Duytsch", "Duutsch", "Duutsc", "Dietsch" and "Dietsc" in the literature on this subject.

Þeudisk and theodiscus

The Franks initially called their language "frenkisk" and the Romance languages ​​were collectively referred to as " * walhisk ". There was also the word " * þeudisk " for the contrast between Latin and the vernacular , but from the beginning ( 786 ) to the year 1000 it was only passed down in the Middle Latin form "theodiscus". The origin of this word is, due to similarities in phonetic form, with great probability in the West Franconian (or old Dutch) area of ​​the Franconian Empire. When, in the course of the early Middle Ages, the political and linguistic terms "Franconian" no longer coincided in the bilingual West Franconia, because the Romansh-speaking population also referred to themselves as "Franconian" (cf. French: français), the word " * þeudisk "for the linguistic contrast to" * walhisk "and a change in meaning took place, with the meaning changed from" vernacular "to" Germanic instead of Romanic ".

The adjective þeudisk is derived from a Germanic noun þeudô- which means "people". So Þeudisk means "folk" as in "vernacular". The Old High German diu diutisca zunga and the Latin theodisca lingua do not mean "German language", but rather "vernacular", in contrast to the language of scholars, Latin. So Þeudisk didn't just mean "Dutch" - it had a very broad (and vague) meaning.


  • The þ is for technical reasons as th reproduced. It is pronounced roughly like English th . See also: Þ .
  • The eu in þeudisk was a diphthong and was roughly pronounced "eu" (not "oi").

Latin alternatives

During the Renaissance , Dutch humanists mostly called Dutch lingua belgica . Also teutonicus and germanicus were used, but often in a poetic or broad sense where the dialects of German and Frisian were sometimes included.

Þeudisk in the vernacular

In Dutch, the Middle Dutch variants duutsc and dietsc emerged from the old þeudisk or from the Latin theodiscus . Dietsc is the Western form and duutsc the east and northeast. In the Rhineland the form was used diutesch , in Middle Low German dudesch .

The old French Thiois is also a continuation of þeudisk . Thiois was the name given to the Germanic-speaking inhabitants of Flanders, Brabant and Limburg, and sometimes also those of Holland and Zeeland.

The names dietsc and duutsc should not be translated as "German", but as "Continental West Germanic " or "Dutch". That is, they related to Dutch and were used to delimit their own language from French. Except for a few members of the clergy , it is assumed that at this time there was only a regional awareness in the Netherlands and no idea of ​​the larger linguistic relationships of the vernacular in the continental Germanic context.

Attempts have been made to show that in Middle Dutch there was a difference in meaning between dietsc and duutsc . It was said that dietsc refers to Dutch and duutsc to High German and Low German. However, this view has not been able to gain general acceptance.

Dietsc and teutonicus disappeared in the county of Flanders during the 13th century . In Flanders, their own language was now called vlaamsch ( Flemish ). In French texts from Brabant one can still find thiois , in French texts from Flanders, however, flamenc (in modern French flamand ). The new name for the language in Flanders is certainly related to the prosperity and self-confidence of the Flemish cities in the 13th and 14th centuries (especially Bruges , Ghent and Ypres ).

In the rest of the Netherlands dietsc was used for longer. But in the late 15th century is dietsch by Duitsch displaced as the name of the vernacular.

This duitsch is the normal continuation of the Central Dutch word duutsc . The ui or uy is (at least in later times) a diphthong that is pronounced something like "öj".

The English term Dutch for "Dutch" comes from "Duutsch" or "Duutsc".

Nederlands ( Dutch )

At the end of the 14th century, the term Nederlands ( Dutch ) appeared as the name for the vernacular of the Netherlands at that time and what is now northern Germany. The distinction between nederlantsch and overlantsch ( niderlendisch and oberlendisch in German at the time ) was emphasized . So originally Nederlands had the meaning "Dutch or Low German".

The oldest written text that speaks of Nederlands is an incunabula from Gouda from 1482 ("Drie blinde danssen"):

"So wel ... overlantsche as nederlantsche tale end sprake".

Another example is a translation of the " Ship of Fools " from Lübeck from 1519:

"uth dem hochdutzschen in sassche efte nederlendesche sprake".

The new distinction between overlantsch and nederlantsch was related to the invention of the printing press. For economic reasons, printers had to use a language that as many people as possible could understand. This made one aware of the linguistic differences between the north and the south of the Dutch-German language area.

In the 15th century, the meaning of the country name Niderlant and Nederland changed . The term now included an area that stretched from Flanders and Brabant to Kleve and Wesel.

The fact that Niderlant and Nederland now got a more precise meaning probably also had to do with the political unification of the areas in what is now Belgium and what is now the Netherlands . These areas were first united under Burgundian rule ( Burgundian Empire ) and later under Habsburg rule. Even before the official independence (Peace of Münster, 1648), these areas were a kind of unit. This unit was often called Niderlant or Nyderlande (the spelling is a bit random here). Emperor Maximilian called his Dutch territories Nyderlande or noz pays d'embas in his letters . Charles V's chancellery also used the expression deze onze Nederlanden in 1515 . The French name was pays-bas or pays d'embas .

The popularity of the names Nederlands and Nederlanden was probably also linked to the struggle for independence in the Eighty Years' War against Spain. This event made the population of the Habsburg Netherlands unique and that promoted its own and precise naming.

Even abroad, the (then) Netherlands was increasingly seen as a coherent unit. In Italy , since around 1550, the Dutch subjects of the Spanish king were named by names that no longer had any reference to a specific Dutch or Belgian area. The terms fiamminghi , flandri or Belgae were used even if they did not mean Flemings.

Nederduits , Nederduyts

In the middle of the 16th century, the name Nederduits (literally Low German , but translatable as Dutch ) appeared. While in Northern Germany their own language was still called Sassian or Nederlendisch , the term Nederduits was used more and more frequently in the Netherlands as a name for their own language . The origin is found in the Latin expressions Inferior Almania and Germania inferior . These words are found in Latin texts from the 16th century as names for the Netherlands and later Nederduyts (as a loan translation from Latin) became the adjective of the terms Netherlands , Dutch and Dutch .

The earliest evidence of Nederduits comes from 1551. It is a songbook by Tielman Susato , Antwerp 1551, "Het ierste musyck boexken mit vier partyen":

"liedekens in onser nederduytscher talen"

In the second half of the 16th century, three names were used in parallel:

  • Duits
  • Nederduits
  • Nederlands

In the mid-17th century, the use of the name Nederlands decreased while the term Nederduits became more common. This was due to the following reasons:

  • the Synod of Dordrecht has the name Nederduits Reformed Church a
  • In the vernacular the term Duits lived on for one's own language; the term Nederduits made a clearer difference to the German ( Hoogduits )
  • leading grammarians (such as Moonen, Huydecooper, and ten Kate) used the name Nederduits exclusively

Nederduits today

Today the term Nederduits ( Low German ) in linguistic texts includes the dialects of Northern Germany. So it has the same meaning as the English expression Low German . In this case, the state border acts as a language border, despite the fact that the Dutch-Low German language border is quite vague. There is a dialect continuum there .

19th century

In the Netherlands

The Dutch constitution of 1815 names the country Koninkrijk der Nederlanden . The singular Nederland has established itself in the modern language . The country's official name, Nederlanden , has also promoted the language name Nederlands . Another factor is likely to have been 19th century German linguistics, which applied the term Low German to the North German dialects. So the term nederduits had become imprecise and ambiguous. If you used Nederlands instead of Nederduits , you made it clear what was meant.

In Belgium

In Belgium the term nederduits was used much longer than in the Netherlands. In Belgium, at the beginning of the 20th century, a Nederduitsche Bloemlezing ("Dutch Anthology") was used as a school book. Nederlands as the name for the Dutch language was propagated there by the Flemish movement and by some intellectuals. In the vernacular, however, one said (and says) Vlaams ( Flemish ).

Vlaams ( Flemish )

In the Romance languages

The French word flamenc (today flamand ) originally referred to the Vlaanderen area. At the end of the 15th century it got an expanded meaning. Flamenc then also referred to the Brabant language and finally to Dutch as a whole. Vlaams also prevailed in the southern Dutch vernacular .

A book was published in Antwerp around 1500 with the title:

"Vocabulair pour apprendre Romain et flameng. Vocabulaer om te leerne Walsch ende Vlaemsch"

The French name has influenced the other Romance languages ​​as well. In the 16th century, for example, people in Spain said Flandes ("Netherlands") and flamenco ("Dutch"). In Italy at that time they said Fiandra ("Netherlands") and fiammingo ("Dutch"). The inhabitants of the Netherlands were called fiamminghi or Belgae there. This applied not only to the inhabitants of the County of Flanders, but also to the inhabitants of the rest of the Netherlands, including Walloons.

In Belgium

In the Spanish and Austrian Netherlands (later Belgium) - mainly under French influence - Vlaams became the fourth name of the Dutch language (alongside Duits , Nederduits and Nederlands ). Later, Vlaams also became a topographical term, namely the name of the Dutch-speaking part of the Austrian Netherlands. In the Kingdom of Belgium (from 1830) Vlaams and flamand became the common names for Dutch.

See also: Belgian Dutch

Hollands ( Dutch )

In the middle of the 17th century, terms such as Hollandtsch (1650) and Hollandtsche taal (1647) appeared. The Dutch dialects played a central role in the creation of modern Dutch. This is why the Dutch dialect has often been equated with Dutch and the Netherlands has often been called Holland , especially abroad and in the spoken language. In the written language a distinction is made between Dutch and Dutch .

The terms Vlaams and Hollands as names for Dutch have often caused confusion abroad, even among linguists.

See also

Web links

Wiktionary: Dutch  - explanations of meanings, origins of words, synonyms, translations
Wiktionary: Nederlands  - explanations of meanings, origins of words, synonyms, translations
Wiktionary: Dutch  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Mackensen, Lutz (2014): Origin of words: The etymological dictionary of the German language, Bassermann Verlag, p. 102.
  2. Polenz, Peter (2020): History of the German Language, Walter de Gruyter GmbH, pp. 36–7.
  3. a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w G.AR de Smet, The names of the Dutch language in the course of its history ; in: Rheinische Vierteljahrsblätter 37 (1973), pp. 315–327
  4. LJ Pauwels, Moeilijkheden met de benaming van onze taal ; in: Jacob Hoogteijling, Taalkunde in artikelen , tweede druk Groningen 1969, ISBN 90-01-40425-1 , pp. 436–451
  5. Lauran Toorians: Kelten en de Nederlanden: van prehistorie tot heden . Uitgeverij Peeters, Leuven 1998, ISBN 90-6831-981-7 , p. 223 .
  6. a b Luc de Grauwe, "also wel ... overlantsche than nederlantsche tale ende sprake". On the late bifurcation of German and Dutch in the language awareness of the Middle Ages and early modern times ; in: Lothar Jordan (red.), Dutch poetry and its German reception in the early modern period , Wiesbaden 2003, ISBN 3-447-04705-4 ; p. 21-34; p. 24-25
  7. J. Verdam, Uit de Geschiedenis der Nederlandsche Taal , Vierde druk, herzien door Dr. FA Stoett, Zutphen 1923, pp. 1-5
  8. CB van Haeringen, netherlandic Language Research , second edition Leiden 1960; P. 9