Talk:Dutch proverbs

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Latest comment: 5 years ago by Risto hot sir in topic Attempt to treat briefly a rather gloomy subject
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Missing Sayings


(Sorry if my English is bad) I am looking for a couple of Dutch sayings which are absent on this page. 1. Alles weer op een rijtje krijgen. 2. De druppel die de emmer doet overlopen. I thought i'd just mention them to contribute something to this page! ;) Thanks for reading!



The difficulty with translating proverbs is: Do you find a relevant proverb in the other language or do you provide the meaning as exactly as possible? 01:10, 21 Dec 2003 (UTC)

The English Equivalent for Bossen and bomen: You/he/she cannot see the forest for the trees

Being Dutch this one was new for me:

  • Wie zijn neus schendt, schendt zijn aangezicht."
    • Literal translation: "He who hurts his nose, hurts his face."
    • Meaning: "Cutting off your nose to harm your face."

After reading the English explanation I still don't get the meaning. Erik Zachte

That's because:
  1. That's not the meaning, but an English alternative.
  2. This saying ought to be "To cut off one's nose to spite one's face".
  3. A saying rarely has the exact same meaning as a proverb, as a proverb usually comments on a state, while a saying usually comments on an action. A better English alternative would be: Don't cut your nose off to spite your face, but this is less popular than the saying.
Anyway, the non-literal meaning of the proverb is that harming your relatives will reflect on you as well. As can be seen from the use of "face" it's especially about reputation: Accusing a close relative will usually damage your own reputation as well.
In general, should this page be more strict in the difference between English (non-literal) meaning and English alternatives? Aliter 16:20, 24 Oct 2004 (UTC)
* Een half ei is beter dan een lege dop.
         o Literal translation: "Half an egg is better than an empty shell".
         o Meaning: "Half a loaf is better than no bread".
    The meaning of this proverb is a bit different then the meaning given here. It means:
    The inside matters more then the outside.



This page contains both proverbs and sayings. In the Dutch Wikipedia they have been separated. It is sometimes difficult to provide an exact translation from Dutch. Moreover a history behind the proverb or saying is sometimes useful. For instance: the No money, no Swiss originates from the Middle Ages when Swiss soldiers hired themselves out to fight wars. A left over from this is the Papal Swiss Guard. Adamhawk 02:57, 31 Mar 2005 (UTC)

Sorry to butt in, but the Cruyff proverb = Elk nadeel heb z'n voordeel. Which is a twist to "Elk voordeel heeft zijn nadeel" The Cruyff twist actually means to look for an advantage in a situation that seems bad. (Didn't know where else to leave this comment. Thanks for the work so far though!)

is this a traditionally Dutch one?

  • De weg naar de hel is geplaveid met goede voornemens -> it seems like a literal translation of an English one and I have never encountered it in classic Dutch works. I suggest deletion from this list. -ovvldc 08:28, 24 Jun 2005 (UTC)
    • Hmmm, if so, I would like to remove it. But before doing this, I prefer to listen to the others' opinions. On Japanese Wikiquote, I met some people who prefered to keep such "borrowed" proverbs. --Aphaia 08:32, 24 Jun 2005 (UTC)
      • On this website religious preaching people do use it, and state too that it is very old. It sounds to me (dutch) very Dutch.... and very calvinstic. And "good intentions" is not the right translation of "goede voornemens" "juist/goede intenties" is more like "good intentions", "voornemens" are things you plan to do. "Intenties" are moral plans and are mostly not something you think about and can`t be objects. 10:13, 21 July 2005 (UTC)Reply

What does this Mean?


Een boom zonder bos is als een bos zonder bomen

Does Anyone know what the following means?

I found it on a forum by this person

A tree without a forest is like a forest without trees 10:04, 21 July 2005 (UTC)Reply
It means: You can't live without any friends ('boom zonder bos'), it's an inevitable fact of life (='bos zonder bomen'). Not commonly used though.

Van het zelfde laken een pak


Van het zelfde laken een pak Literal Translation: from the same cloth a suit English: "A chip off the old block"

it means: they are the same (2 persons), not really positive...

The english translation isn't right. It does not refer to children at all. It simply means "(treated) the same (way)". Kleuske (talk) 00:08, 29 August 2013 (UTC)Reply

Just added, (confirmed)


I just added the entry Een ezel stoot zich (in 't algemeen) geen twee maal aan dezelfde steen. Could someone please check the literal translation and english meaning? My dutch is far from perfect.

Literal translation: A donkey (in general) does not bumb himself twice against the same rock.

Meaning: That was pretty stupid to make the same mistake twice.


Answer from a Dutch fellow:

Your translation is correct. By the way, the proverb is also expressed as:

een ezel in het algemeen stoot zich niet tweemaal aan dezelfde steen.

But this is nitpicking...

A regular reaction of people when this is used against them: "See, it shows I'm not a donkey..."

Not nitpicking, it doesn't rhyme without the word "algemeen" !

I usually hear it said like ‘(zelfs) een ezel stoot zich in 't gemeen / geen twee {maal|keer} aan dezelfde steen’, probably because it scans better than the variants already given on this page. 15:49, 26 December 2011 (UTC)Reply



Today, a huik is a sail-cover but the 1811 Weiland dictionary (available online as Google scan) gives two other meanings, one of which is a womans veil or hooded cloak. See: nl:wikt:huik nl:wikt:Gebruiker:Jcwf

Weiland's dictionary has been on a dialect, known as 'Nederduits' in Dutch or 'Low German' in English (written 'Nederduitsch' in his dictionary). See: Renierius (talk) 20:17, 20 October 2012 (UTC)Reply

Dutch sayings


Does anyone have a good English equivalent of these Dutch sayings?: - baasje spelen - ja zeggen, nee doen - eigen straatje schoonvegen

- '(To) boss (a person) around' (Literally: 'playing boss')
- 'Saying one thing, doing another' ((To) do the opposite of what you said you would, or literally: 'saying yes, doing no')
- 'Solving your own problems first' / 'Mind your own business (first)' (Literally: 'sweeping your own street (clean)')
Renierius (talk) 16:07, 17 October 2012 (UTC)Reply
"Eigen straatje schoonvegen" means producing a version of events which frees yourself from blame or guilt. It's advocacy on your own behalf. Typical strategies are "everybody does it", "it's true I was formally responsible but really could't have done anything about it", "he did something far worse", etc.—The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talkcontribs) 11:18, 16:49, 15 January 2014 (UTC)

Meet driemaal eer gij eens snijd


The meaning of this proverb might be unclear to some,but it is actually a common saying in any language. In our family of Dutch origin, when spoken aloud in english, we said, "Measure twice and cut once." It was used often when building some project or other and someone would cut a 2x4 lumber three inches too short. You have to check your measurements twice as you can't uncut the wood.

It seems more like an expression, versus a proverb.

I must admit, I am not familiar with this line of work, and found some more info when I double checked:
  • This expression is mentioned in a 1870 book about Dutch proverbs, called Spreekwoordenboek der nederlandsche taal, of verzameling van nederlandsche spreekwoorden en spreekwoordelijke uitdrukkingen van vroegeren en lateren tijd by Pieter Jacob Harrebomée... so it does is an old Dutch saying.
  • There seems to be a similar English and Irish sayings: Measure thrice and cut once.
Also there could be a reason, why Google didn't show any/much results the first time: because this is the first time this search-term is requested. If I am not mistaken, in this case Google just doesn't give any results, because it has no search results buffered.
  • For example the search for "Meet driemaal" (see here) already give more results to the same expression.
It would be interesting to check in a week or so, if more search results occur... Anyway it seems fair enough to restore the entry again (as old Dutch saying). It just needs some more effort to find the exact meaning. -- Mdd (talk) 19:58, 18 February 2013 (UTC)Reply
If it has the same meaning as "Measure thrice and cut once", then don't worry. :) --Spannerjam (talk) 22:03, 18 February 2013 (UTC)Reply
Yes, it has very likely that it has the same meaning. Shouldn't that be listed as idiomatic translation (here) in stead of A closed mouth catches no flies? -- Mdd (talk) 22:40, 18 February 2013 (UTC)Reply
Done :-) --Spannerjam (talk) 08:36, 19 February 2013 (UTC)Reply



I admire the work done on this page since my last visit, but it struck me that the sources used a) are apparantly quite old (17/18th century dutch as in Olijfant). I also corrected some spelling errors and cut out the very oldfashioned dutch. In the mean time, if help is needed with spelling or translations, don't hesitate to call me at the dutch Wiki, where i'm a regular. I'll probably do a better job than google-translate. Kleuske (talk) 00:40, 29 August 2013 (UTC)Reply

Attempt to treat briefly a rather gloomy subject


Being a native speaker of Dutch, I have studied this list for an hour or so, out of interest and curiosity. I must confess that apart from the efforts that must have been spent to create it, I see little merit in this list. Some of the sources are compiled one or more centuries ago, and - to put it mildly - not all of them are particularly notable. I think the spelling and syntax of forty percent of the proverbs is more than two hundred years old - and mind you: Dutch is less stable than English! At least a similar percentage of the proverbs is totally unknown to any literate native Dutch speaker with a university degree. Fatal errors are to be found everywhere, starting from the very first proverb in the list: "Aan de vruchten kent men den boom" does not mean "The apple does not fall far from the tree." (the article 'den' in "den boom" - the tree - is very oldfashioned). And so forth. For those of you who are able to read Dutch, I have treated this gloomy subject more extensively here. Theobald Tiger (talk) 21:29, 22 August 2014 (UTC)Reply

  • Hi! Thanks for taking an interest on this page. There are custom made translations and original research meanings which I admit is a mistake on my part. I do believe people find enjoyment in the archaic proverbs, both for their curiosity and content. But I also understand your point that you would like to see proverbs used in modern everday life. I suggest to you to be be bold and make the updates you deem necessary. Spannerjam (talk) 06:27, 23 August 2014 (UTC)Reply
All the proverbs were dialect in the beginning - so the more archaic, the better!--Risto hot sir (talk) 00:26, 26 July 2018 (UTC)Reply