25 Dutch slang terms & how to use them to sound more Dutch

There is tons of Dutch slang used by native speakers every day.

The frustrating part is that when you try to translate these terms, the results often make absolutely no sense!

I have been living in the Netherlands for the last three years and I have picked up on many of these Dutch slang terms and phrases.

Given my endless curiosity for the language, I always either Google new terms that I hear, or I ask a native speaker what it means.

At this point I have probably come across hundreds of terms but I tried to narrow it down to the 25 most relevant ones. These fall into four categories:

  1. Greetings
  2. Reactions
  3. Describing words / phrases
  4. Filler words

It’s also good to mention that I spend 99% of my time in North Holland, Utrecht, and Gelderland — so the slang that I hear every day may be unique to these provinces!

Dutch slang — Greetings

The Dutch love their greetings. 

And no Dutch learner can get by without learning both the etiquette and slang when it comes to greetings in Dutch.

Joe joe!

Here is the most common Dutch slang I’ve come across in the category of Dutch greetings:

1. joe / joe joe

Pronounced like the English “you” or “you you”, this is an informal way of saying “bye”

I typically hear this when someone is on the phone ending their call.

I have noticed that many Dutch speakers (at least in a business setting) end their phone calls with a chain of goodbyes. Something along the lines of, “Joe! Groetjes! Dag!” 

You’ll also hear this in the street as friends or neighbours say goodbye to each other.

“Joe” is a perfect, natural addition in this situation.

2. jo / jo jo

Pronounced like the English “yo” or “yo yo”, this is another informal way of saying “bye”

In English, “yo” is used as a way to greet someone (as in, “hey” or “hello”) or get someone’s attention. Dutch speakers use it in this way too! But in my experience, using it for “bye” is much more common.

Claudia of @latina_in_the_netherlands put it perfectly in this reel where she shows the progression of how you say goodbye over the years as a newcomer in the Netherlands.

With a bit of experience using the language, “jo” might come naturally to you too.

3. hallootjes

This is a playful way of saying “hello” — used in a casual / informal setting.

4. Werk ze (nog)

If you work in a setting where Dutch is spoken, you’ve probably heard colleagues saying to each other, “werk ze” or “werk ze nog”.

And if you have tried to look this up then you already know that there is no meaningful English translation to be found online.

Roughly speaking it roughly means, “good luck at work!”

As website onzetaal.nl explains, it can be used in many other situations.

Generally speaking, if you see or hear this construction, the speaker is wishing you luck / hoping you enjoy whatever you’re about to do (as indicated by the verb).

Other common examples:

  • Sport ze = have a good workout
  • Eet ze = enjoy your meal
  • Slaap ze = have a good sleep

Dutch slang — Reactions

Getting to know the Dutch slang is key if you want to be able to react in Dutch in a natural way.

Goed zo!

Here are the hard-to-translate reactions I’ve come across the most:

5. Lekker zeg

Lekker is definitely one of those foundational Dutch words that you need to know if you want to sound more like a native.

It means “tasty” but is used in so many more ways in Dutch than to describe the taste of something.

Lekker can usually be used to describe something that smells good or even something that feels good (e.g. a soft, cozy sweater can be “lekker zacht”).

“Zeg” doesn’t really have an English translation in this construction — but it is used to add emphasis.

Some examples:

Delicious looking food arrives at your table at a restaurant and is placed in front of you…
You: Lekker zeg!

After jumping into a pool on a hot day and after rising to the surface…
You: Lekker zeg!

“Zeg” can be added onto other adjectives as well. For instance:

  • Mooi zeg = beautiful
  • Shit zeg = shit!
  • Kom op zeg = come on
  • Lelijk zeg = how ugly

6. Goed zo

This one actually does give a pretty good Google translation — “well done”

You often hear people say this to encourage a well-behaved child who has done something well or followed instructions.

But this is definitely not only said to children! You might also hear a trainer saying this to someone in the gym to compliment their good form, or a dog owner to their dog for following a command.

Other variations of this construction (which change in meaning depending on the adjective used):

  • Mooi zo = beautiful / beautifully done
  • Prima zo = fine / it’s fine this way

7. Top

Meaning “great” or “excellent”

This word is also used in British English to mean “excellent” or something or someone of the highest quality.

In Dutch it is no different.

Variations of this word can be:

  • Toppie = excellent (informal)
  • Topper = an excellent person
  • Toppertje = an excellent person (diminutive, informal)
  • Een topdag = a great day

Examples:

Me: We will bring your coffee right over…
You: Top!

Me: I’ll have that report for you in half an hour…
You: Je bent een topper!

8. Doe (even) (eens) normaal

It means “act normal”.

It comes from the popular Dutch phrase “doe maar gewoon, dan doe je al gek genoeg”, which means: just act normal, that’s already crazy enough.

This can be in response to anyone acting in a way the Dutch consider “non-normal”. 

I found this article by Stuff Dutch People Like put best what you can do to warrant a response of “doe normaal”:

  • bragging
  • showing off or acting pretentious
  • discussing money (or how much you have or make)
  • showing a little too much personality
  • showing overt public displays of emotion
  • not following the ever-important unwritten rules and regulations of the Lowlands
  • acting or being perceived as too “weird”, “different”, “disobedient” or “foreign”

9. Weet ik veel

Meaning “I don’t know” or “how would I know?” — used in a casual/informal setting

10. Meen je

Meaning “seriously?” or “you can’t be serious”

It’s a shortened version of “dat meen je niet” (you don’t mean that).

11. Gadver

This is used as a reaction to something gross or annoying.

It’s a shortened version of “gadverdamme” (which might be comparable to gosh darnit). 

In other words, a softened version of “godverdomme” (god damnit).

12. Ja hoor / nee hoor

“Hoor” doesn’t really have an English translation in this construction — but it is used to add emphasis / another layer of meaning.

I found this native speaking redditor did a great job of explaining “hoor” in different contexts:

Comment
byu/shreddor from discussion
inlearndutch

13. Lekker bezig / goed bezig

Meaning something along the lines of “nice job” / “you’re on a roll” / “thumbs up”

It is usually used while someone is in the process of doing something (hence “bezig” — being busy with something) although it can also make sense after the fact.

For instance:

Your friend is explaining to you how they spent the entire weekend getting rid of junk from their shed and cleaning up their yard to prepare for spring.
You: goed bezig!

Apparently this can also be used in a sarcastic way, like saying “nice going” in English.

14. Kappen / kap ermee

Meaning “stop” or “stop it” 

15. Ik ga stuk

Literally meaning “I’m going to break” — is typically said by someone who finds something very funny.

They are implying they are laughing so hard that they’re going to break.

16. Hou op (met me)

Meaning “stop” or “I can’t handle it” or “I can’t” (in the colloquial sense)

For example:

In reaction to seeing a friend’s newborn baby…
You: Hou op met me! Zij is te schattig!

17. Vet

When used on its own as a reaction, it means “cool” / “nice” / “sick” (colloquial)

For example:

Your friend explains an amazing hike they did on holiday, while showing some photos…
You: Wauw, wat vet!

Dutch slang — Describing words / phrases

Like with any language, culture-relevant words tend to develop over time to perfectly describe things.

Here is the most common Dutch slang I’ve come across in the category of describing words and phrases:

18. Vet

When used right before an adjective, it can mean “so” / “super” / “really” / “very” — it emphasizes the adjective itself

For example:

  • Vet duur = so expensive
  • Vet mooi = so beautiful
  • Vet leuk = so nice / so fun

19. Heerlijk

Meaning “delicious”

It is more or less the same as the word “lekker” but just slightly stronger.

Just like “lekker”, “heerlijk” can usually be used to describe something that smells or feels good as well.

For example:

The sun is shining for the first time in weeks and you sit outside on your terrace to enjoy the sun rays on your skin…
You: Heerlijk dit!

20. Heerlie de peerlie

This is a playful way of saying “heerlijk” — used in a casual / informal setting.

As mentioned above, “heerlijk” (just like “lekker”) can usually be used to describe something that smells or feels good. But it can also be used in a more general way as a positive reaction to something not necessarily related to food.

The “peerlie” in “heerlie de peerlie” doesn’t add any meaning — it’s just a fun rhyme sort of like “helaas pindakaas” or the lesser known, “gezellie mozzarellie”.

21. Lekker

“Lekker” meaning “tasty” has been defined in number 5 above, but here are some examples of it used as an adjective:

  • Ik voel me niet lekker = I don’t feel well
  • Ik zit niet lekker in mijn vel = I don’t feel well (usually mentally)

22. Niet normaal

Meaning “not normal” — used in a casual / informal way and typically used to describe something shocking or unbelievable, like the word “unreal”.

This one can also be used as a reaction.

For example:

Me: Hoe lekker is deze appeltaart?
You: Niet normaal!

Dutch slang — Filler words

Filler words are great now and then to give your sentences more flow and avoid too many pauses.

Even kijken…

Here are the most common filler or “in between words” used in Dutch slang that I’ve come across:

23. Zeg maar

Meaning “let’s say” or “like”

For example:

Ik was zeg maar een kwartier te laat = I was like fifteen minutes late

24. Even kijken

Meaning “let’s see” or “let’s have a look” — typically when someone is looking for something or looking something up (e.g. on a computer) to indicate to another that they are busy looking (instead of staying silent).

25. Joh

Roughly meaning “man” — adds emphasis to the sentence

  • Hou op, joh = stop it, man
  • Joh, wat vervelend = man, that’s annoying
  • Nee joh = no way
  • Joh, echt? = What? really?

I hope you were able to learn some Dutch slang or better understand the context of words you’ve been hearing!

Feel free to leave a comment (especially Dutch speakers) if you would define any of these terms differently! And let me know what common Dutch slang and typical phrases you use or hear on a regular basis.

4 thoughts on “25 Dutch slang terms & how to use them to sound more Dutch”

  1. Heel handig. Bedankt! One of the most complete guidance (and vet leuk!) of the tastiest part of any language – slang and filler words!

    Reply

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