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Words from Dutch

Like German, Dutch is a member of the same language family as English: the Germanic family. Many of the original European settlers in North America came from the country that later became the Netherlands, and those early settlers were one of the sources of Dutch words in American English today.

Tip from the Top

A typical Dutch word in English is often a hybrid. It gives some clues to its Dutch origins either in sound or spelling, but it has also been made more English-friendly as a result of spending years on the tongues and pens of English speakers. When you hear "Dutch origin," the best bet to start with is just to spell the word as it sounds. But be on the lookout for unusual vowel-sound spellings such as those you see in furlough and maelstrom.

True in Part

Buckwheat is an example of a "part translation." When a word that has two parts (like English rowboat) travels from another language to English, we sometimes translate one part and keep the sound of the other part without translating it. The original Dutch for buckwheat is boekweit. When this word came into English, we kept the sound of boek and translated weit ("wheat").

Now You Try

  1. 1. All of the following non–study-list words are part translations from another language. Can you guess the original language of each? Use a dictionary if you can't guess!

    cranberry: Show Answer
    grosbeak: Show Answer
    alpenglow: Show Answer
    smearcase: Show Answer

    That's Correct! Cranberry, alpenglow, and smearcase are all part translations from German. Grosbeak is from French.