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Dutch idioms

After all the waiting we finally have Dutch available! Since we won't have bonus skills for a while I decided to look around the internet for a few Dutch idioms and share them with you guys. As always if you have anything you want to add feel free to do so, and if there are any mistakes please tell me.

  • Over koetjes en kalfjes praten, talk about little cows and little calves. This expression basically means small talk, dealing with unimportant subjects.

  • Nu komt de aap uit de mouw, now the monkey comes out of the sleeve. The Dutch use this saying when the true meaning of a situation or the character of a person comes to the surface.

  • Iemand met apenmunt betalen, Pay someone with monkey coins. It means to fool someone with someone with nice words.

  • Ieder dubbeltje omdraaien, to turn every ten cents. It refers to making-do with little money.

  • De kogel is door de kerk, the bullet is through the church. This is the Dutch way of saying that, after long deliberation, a decision has been made.

  • Weten waar Abraham de mosterd haalt, to know where Abraham gets the mustard from. The saying basically means to be informed and up-to-date on a particular issue.

  • Paarse krokodil, purple crocodile, A more recent expression, which entered the language after a 2005 commercial for insurance services and has come to signify exaggerated bureaucracy.

  • De lakens uitdelen, to distribute the sheets, meaning to run the show

  • iets onder de knie hebben, to have something under the knee. To have thorough knowledge of something, to master it.

  • Een appeltje met iemand te schillen hebben, to have a little apple to peel with someone. The expression means to be angry at someone and wish to pay him / her back, similar to "having a bone to pick with someone" in English.

  • Het Spaans benauwd krijgen, become Spanish breathless, The idiom refers to a state of fear or anxiety.

  • Als haringen in een ton zitten, to sit like herrings in a barrel. This is a way to suggest people being crowded, for example on public transport.

  • Alsof er een engeltje over je tong piest, as if an angel pisses on your tongue. One way to say the food tastes great.

  • Met de mond vol tanden staan, to sit with the mouth full of teeth. Meaning to be speechless.

  • Op zijn tandvlees lopen, to walk on one’s gums, meaning to be exhausted.

PD: tandvlees (gums) literally translates to something like teeth meat. How cool is that?

July 17, 2014



Another one is: 'oh, op die fiets'. [Oh, on that bicycle]. said when you finally get what someone means, as in 'oh, now I understand you'.


Here's another one: 'Wat heb ik nou aan m'n fiets hangen?' Literally: what is hanging from my bicycle? It means something like: what the hell is happening now?


Small typo : "Lets onder de knie hebben" : that should be "iets" onder de knie hebben


Unless you have mastered Latvian :)


'Weten waar Abraham de mosterd haalt' is also sometimes used when talking about a man who turned 50, as in 'Hij weet nu waar Abraham de mosterd haalt' (by the way, I have absolutely no clue on where this idiom comes from). A man who turned 50 is called Abraham, a woman Sara. Of course only on the day of their birthday, no one changes his name after turning 50 ;) Edit: Maybe it is because when you become fifty you are 'old' and therefore wise?


On the twitter account @dutchspeakwords you can see Dutch idioms and proverbs that are translated too literally.

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