How To Curse (Swear) In Dutch: The Infective Invective

  • Fergus O'Sullivan
    Written byFergus O'Sullivan
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How To Curse (Swear) In Dutch: The Infective Invective

If you’ve been to the Netherlands or have been learning Dutch, you may have caught on that Dutch curses are, well, different.

Not only does the Dutch language have an amazing variety and number of curses and swear words, it also does things that very few other languages can do.

The first is that you string swear words together, just like any other word in Dutch. This means that you can get swear words that are five other ones strung together. Add to that the scraping sounds of Dutch, and you get a wall of sound that comes across as pretty impressive.

The second, and this one is truly unique, is that in Dutch you can swear with diseases, along with the usual bodily functions and insults to heritage, like you see with French curses.

Let’s see what this looks like in practice, though be warned: strong language to follow, and if you decide to use the knowledge on the streets of any Dutch city, you do so at your own risk.

The “Infective Invective”

The Dutch habit of cursing with diseases — known as “infective invective” among linguists — is fairly unique in the world.

Though plenty of languages like to wish harm upon people they don’t like — Arabic is a good example, with curses like “may God break your arms” — only Dutch uses them as adjectives.

Where an English speaker would say “what a fucking mess,” for example, a Dutch person would say wat een tyfuszooi. In this case, “fucking mess” is a “typhoid mess.”

The two words don’t necessarily need to be related to each other: a tyfuszooi could just as easily be a teringzooi or a pleuriszooi.

It kind of depends on how bad the mess in question is, there is a hierarchy in how serious the words are, often related to how serious the diseases are.

Here’s a small table to illustrate, starting with the weakest, and ending with the strongest, though please note many people may disagree with some of the rankings.

Dutch Swear WordEnglish Meaning
HikHiccups
Kolere/klereCholera
PleurisPleurisy
TeringTuberculosis
TyfusTyphoid
KankerCancer

The most important thing to note here is that you should never use kanker in any circumstance, as it’s considered extremely offensive.

If you call somebody a pleurislijer (pleurisy sufferer; note that lijder drops the “d”) you’re basically calling him an asshole. He won’t like it, but he can shrug it off.

Call the same guy a kankerlijer, though, and he’ll take it badly, as will all the people around; don’t do it.

Besides using diseases like adjectives to “strengthen” a word (the Dutch word for swear words is krachtterm, or “power word”), you can also directly wish them on others, though again you may not want to do this.

Just say krijg de kolere or krijg de tyfus (“may you get…”) and they’ll get the message.

Some people also say it as an expression of surprise, too, though they usually will use a more innocent disease like the hiccups or something like krijg nou tieten (“may I grow tits”).

Telling Somebody to Go Away

You can also use the diseases to tell somebody to fuck off.

They change their form a little, though, so you get pleur op, tyf op and kanker op, though again you want to watch that last one.

If you want to play it safe, just say rot op. It’s still offensive, but you can get away with it.

Genitals

The next group of Dutch swear words is probably more familiar to readers, as many languages use curse words for genitals, or to call somebody a body part: i.e. “you dick.”

Below another table with some examples.

Dutch Swear WordEnglish Meaning
Lul, pikDick or cock; penis
KlootzakBall bag; scrotum
EikelDickhead; glans
Reet, aarsAss, butt; bottom
TietenTits; breasts
KutPussy, cunt; vagina
MutsClitoris

Not all the above can be used to swear at somebody: most of the male body parts can be used against men, so you can call a guy a klootzak or a lul, but you can’t call a woman a “tit.”

Depending on the Dutch dialect you speak, though, you can call a woman a kut or a muts, but then these are usually extremely offensive.

That said, women among each other seem to call each other a muts from time to time as it can also mean “silly woman” in some circles, though you may want to feel those situations out a little.

However, some of these words can also be used as adjectives, much like the diseases are.

The main contenders are klote (from kloten, the balls that are in the bag) and kut, which is probably the most popular of the curses out there, used by both genders.

Again, it has nothing to do with the actual genitals in question, it just adds some power to the word. So you can say kutzooi or klotezooi instead of pleuriszooi.

Generally, they’re considered less offensive than the diseases, but they are still swear words. I wouldn’t use these words while having tea with my granny.

Other curses

With diseases and genitals out of the way (there’s a sentence I never thought I’d write), let’s go over some of the sundry swear words and curses Dutch has.

These cover the gamut, from stupidity, to bodily functions, to sexual acts. We also have some blasphemy to throw in.

General curse words

If you want to call somebody stupid, you usually use the word mongool, which means “mongoloid” or, in other words, somebody with Down syndrome. It’s not very nice, but it’s stuck around despite efforts to eradicate it.

However, it’s never okay to refer to somebody with Down’s syndrome as a mongool.

The next word you’ll hear a lot is sukkel. It’s usually used for men, though not exclusively, and its best counterpart is the uncommon English word “drip,” as in “Jimmy is a real fucking drip.” Think an unmasculine, clueless guy.

The word “bitch” isn’t as common in Dutch, though its equivalent, teef, is used at times. More common is the word trut, which used to mean a stiff or unpleasant woman, but has more or less morphed into something akin to “bitch.”

More common when swearing at or about a woman, though, is to use the slang for woman, wijf, and add an adjective to it.

Examples are kutwijf, rotwijf or tyfuswijf. A more tuned-down version is takkewijf, which is sort-of okay to use in polite company.

Bodily functions and fluids

Like most languages, Dutch has plenty of swear words for bodily excretions and sexual acts. Although we’re not nearly as creative here as Spanish curse words, there’s a few important ones.

For the noun “shit,” say stront, while as an adjective or verb can use schijt and schijten, respectively.

So schijtwijf (shitty or horrible woman) and ik ga effe schijten (“I’m gonna take a shit”) are both perfectly correct Dutch.

For “piss” we use pis and pissen, but it’s rarely used as an adjective.

Another verb for taking a pee is zeiken, which can also mean complain, so if you ever hear a woman referred to as a zeikwijf, it has nothing to do with urine.

“To fuck” is neuken, but unlike English this only refers to the sexual act. Some people will joke and say wat de neuk, but other than that it’s only used as a verb for bumping uglies.

Other versions (there’s never just one, in any language) are palen, wippen and krikken.

Blasphemy

We’ll end this section with a Dutch word almost everybody seems to know: godverdomme.

Literally, it means “may God damn me” so you can compare it to the relatively modern English expression “fuck me”.

However, it’s not only used as an expression calling damnation on yourself or as self-pity, many people will use it as a simple interjection.

Examples are luister dan effe, godverdomme (“will you listen, goddammit?”) or ik breng godverdomme net de auto weg (“I just took the fucking car to the garage”). It’s kinda tricky to use, so maybe ease into it a bit.

However, it’s a very serious form of blasphemy, so religious people will not use it, and it’s even banned from some Dutch TV stations.

It’s only a common curse word because the overwhelming majority of Dutch people are no longer churchgoers. Using it in the presence of religious folk is considered uncouth.

How to use curse words in Dutch

Now that we have some overview of the many curses Dutch has (and there are even more, believe it or not), let’s teach you how to use them.

After all, you may think it’s cool to call somebody a mongool, but it likely won’t impress anybody. Call him a tyfusmongool however, and you’ll grab his attention.

Like all words in Dutch (and German for that matter), you can just squish them together to form a new word.

The fun part of curse words is that you can string as many as you want together. Real world examples include schijtteringkutmongool or kutklotezooi.

The true mastery of the art is found in pubs and cafes, were you may hear things like tot op het bot vertyfde pleurismongool (there’s a classic) as well as crazy compounds like krijg de overmaassehazewindhondpokken (a good one for you to try and unravel).

In all seriousness, though, as funny as some of these creations can be, they can cause grave offense when used around the wrong people; you should obviously exercise caution when cursing in any foreign language.

That said, swearing is a rich part of the Dutch language, so hopefully this article made you appreciate it a little more.


Do you know any other fun Dutch swear words?

Comment below.

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Donovan Nagel
Donovan Nagel - B. Th, MA AppLing
I'm an Applied Linguistics graduate, teacher and translator with a passion for language learning (especially Arabic).
Currently learning: Greek
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