After a little linguistic trip to Japan, let’s go back to one of our European neighbours: France!

Did you know the two countries actually share a border in the Caribbean?

This time, our former intern (Matilda Gascon Delqueux) shares with you some examples of Dutch loanwords in her French language:

As often, words get absorbed between languages through trade. And what are the Dutch good about? Agriculture and water management!

The word for ‘rapeseed’ has an interesting story. Coming from the Dutch koolzaad, so literally “cabbage seed”, the word travelled from Flanders to Northern France and became colza. French Flanders, more or less what is now the region around Lille, then became a powerhouse for rapeseed oil during the 18th century.

When it comes to fish, two examples among many, hareng and cabillaud, originate from medieval Dutch, haring and kabeljauw (‘herring’ and ‘Atlantic cod’). Moulin and digue respectively come from molen and dijk (‘windmill’ and ‘dyke’).

Bière, the French word for beer, seems to trace back from the Dutch bier.

And one for the road: the word for ‘stock exchange’ in French, bourse, originates from a 13th century Flemish family in Bruges, the Van der Beurze, whose name gave birth to the word beurs in Dutch.

Dutch loanwords in the French spoken in Belgium

@Matilda Gascon Delqueux discusses how the French spoken in Belgium 🇧🇪 (40% is Francophone) has even more to share with the neighbouring language:

My mom’s family lives near Lille, at the border with Belgium. I grew up with some typical Belgian words that crossed the border for a few kilometres, and discovered new ones when making French-speaking friends from Belgium later in life.

As a student, I discovered the word kot. In Dutch, it means a little cabin, or even an animal pen. In Belgian French, this refers to a student room! Students hiring a kot are named koteurs.

Belgians have this cute word for when you have a crush on someone: boentje. Very Dutch-looking! It comes from boontje, so little beans.

Less romantic but very widespread is the word horeca. It’s a contraction of hotel, restaurant and café, and refers to the catering industry. What a useful little word! Since I discovered it in Flanders, I also use it in my daily French, even though my people at the other side of the border don’t have a clue what I’m talking about.

Even in legal contexts, Belgians sometimes use different words. Whereas we call the ‘mayor’ maire in France, our neighbours opt for bourgmestre, whose equivalent burgemeester is used in Dutch-speaking Belgium.

To sum up, many belgicisms originate from Dutch, usually from Flanders. Even if we share the same language, each side of the border has its national variations.

So here’s a little advice: if you need a translation into French (or any other language), you should take the country of your target audience into account, and not only for marketing content!

Scanning the approx.. 1500 Dutch loanwords in French, we selected some more remarkable words with Dutch origin in different categories:

– Fashion – ‘mannequin’ (model) comes from the Dutch “mannequin” or “manneken” in the Middle Ages, when Flanders was the centre of European “haute couture”.

– Sports – ‘Étape’ comes straight from the Dutch word for “pile” (‘stapel’). As in a place where merchants gather their merchandise

– City. ‘boulevard’ stems from the very old Dutch word ‘bolwerk’ (‘bastion’) and via some changes in the word bollewers, bolluwercq and bollewarque in medieval French, the word developed to boulevard in modern French.

– Nautical. ‘bâbord’ comes from bakboord (port), while ‘tribord’ (starboard) is said to descend from the 16th-century Dutch: stierboord (today ‘stuurboord’). But also: ‘cahute’ (from ‘kajuit’ or cabin), ‘amarrer’’ from ‘afmeren’ (mooring), ‘matelot’ from ‘maatroos’ (sailor, mat) and ‘hisser’ from ‘hijsen’ (hoisting).

– Furniture. ‘fauteuil’ a very common French word with Dutch roots – from ‘folding chair’ (‘vouwstoel’)

– Medicine. The French word ‘drogue’ (drugs) has a very innocent Dutch origin. It comes from Dutch ‘droog’ (‘dry’ in the meaning of ‘dried herbs’ or medicines). The Dutch have in turn borrowed the Frenchy ‘droguerie’ and worked into ‘drogisterij’ (drugstore).

Whatever you want translated, just ask Euro-Com for a competitive quote. We specialize in Dutch, German and French. Ready to help you set up your own global village.