Trace your Dutch roots

Traditional Dutch given names

External links
Popular babynames in 2005 (in Dutch)
Over voornamen (About given names, in Dutch)
Database of given names (in Dutch)
By the same author
Traditional Dutch first names for girls
Traditional Dutch first names for boys
The origin of your Dutch surname
The origin of your Dutch surname II

The origin of Dutch names

As in most European countries, most given names that are currently in use are derived from the names of saints. In the 12th and 13th century, the Germanic names that were used then were slowly replaced by the names of popular saints. A few Germanic names survived, like Dirk. In the north, especially in Friesland, indigenous names remained popular, and currently many Frisian names have their origin in the pre-Christian era.

Old testament biblical names have also been popular in The Netherlands, but never to the same extent as saint names.

Children were usually named after grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles. This habit meant that generation after generation used the same names, and there was no room for new names. This changed in the last few decades, and we currently see the traditional names being replaced by a new set of names.

Traditional names usually have a long form and one or more short forms. The long form is often the official name (used in almost all documents), but in daily life the short form will have been used.

Common male names

Adrianus, Adriaan. From the Latin name Hadrianus, the name of a Roman emperor and of several popes. Short forms include Adri, Adrie, Janus. English equivalent: Adrian.

Antonius, Antonie (and several spelling variants). Latin name, and the name of several Saints. Short forms include Anton, Ton, Tony. English equivalent: Anthony.

Cornelis. From the Latin name Cornelius. Biblical name (Acts 10), and the name of a Saint. Short forms include Cees, Cor, Cnelis, Nelis.

Dirk. From the Old Germanic name Diederik. The name of several counts of Holland. One of the few Germanic names that survived without the help of a Saint.

Gerardus, Gerard, Gerrit. From the Old Germanic name Gerhard. The name of several Saints. Short forms include Gert, Geert (but the full forms Gerrit and Gerard are also used as short forms).

Hendrik. Old Germanic name. Name of a Saint, and of several German emperors and French, English and Castilian kings. The most common short form is Henk. English equivalent: Henry.

Jacobus, Jacob. From the Hebrew ja'aqob. Biblical name, and the name of several Saints, and of kings of Aragon (Jaime) and England. Short forms include Jaap, Co, Kobus. English equivalent: James.

Johannes, Jan. By far the most common male first names in The Netherlands. From the Hebrew Johanan. Biblical name, the name of many Saints, the name of an English king. The most common short form is Jan, other forms include Hans, Johan. English equivalent: John. A 1961 investigation shows that a staggering 11% of the male population used the first name Jan (source: Meertens Institute).

Pieter, Petrus. From the Greek word petra, rock. The name of the main apostle (given to him by Jesus in Matt.16:18). The most common short form is Piet. English equivalent: Peter.

Willem, Wilhelmus. From the Old Germanic name Wilhelm. The name of several Saints, the name of most Dutch stadtholders, the name of all Dutch kings, and the name of several English kings. The most common short form is Wim. English equivalent: William.

Common female names

Adriana. Female form of Adrianus. Short forms include Adri, Rie.

Anna. From the Hebrew Hanna. Biblical name, and the name of a Saint. Short forms include An, Annie, Ansje. English equivalents: Anna, Ann. Anna is one of the few traditional names that remained popular in the late 20th and early 21st century.

Catharina. Probably Greek. The name of several Saints. Short forms include Trijntje, Cato, To, Kaatje, Tinie, and many others. English equivalent: Catherine.

Cornelia. Female form of Cornelis. Short forms include Cor, Corrie, Neeltje.

Elisabeth, Elizabeth. From the Hebrew Elisjeba. Biblical name (Luke 1:5), the name of several Saints, the name of two reigning queens of England. Short forms include Lijsje, Lies, Bep.

Hendrika. Female form of Hendrik. Short forms include Riek, Rika, Hendrikje.

Johanna. Female form of Johannes. Short forms include Jo, Jannie, Jantje, Jopie. English equivalent: Jane.

Margaretha, Grietje. From the Greek word margarité, pearl. The name of several Saints. Short forms include Griet, Greet, Margreet. English equivalent: Margaret.

Maria. From the Hebrew Mirjam. Biblical name, the name of Jesus' mother, the name of several Saints, the name of several reigning English and Scottish queens. Short forms include Ria, Rie, Marie, Marietje. English equivalent: Mary. The name Maria is also popular as the second or third (but never first) given name for boys in the Catholic parts of The Netherlands.

Wilhelmina, Willemina. Female form of Willem. Name of a Dutch reigning queen. Short forms include Mien, Mina, Willie.

Popular baby names

The list of popular names has changed drastically in the last few decades. Traditional names are still used as second or third name, but not often as first name. Common short forms of girls names, like Bep, Mien, Marietje, To or Griet, have completely disappeared. An interesting exception is Anna, number three on the list of popular girls names in 2005 (after Sanne and Emma) and number three on the list of common traditional names (after Maria and Johanna).

The government agency responsible for distributing child benefit (SVB) publishes annual lists of the most popular baby names. The top 10 for 2005: Sanne, Emma, Anna, Iris, Anouk, Lisa, Eva, Julia, Lotte, and Isa for girls, and Daan, Sem, Thomas, Tim, Lucas, Lars, Thijs, Milan, Jesse, and Bram for boys.

Further reading

The Meertens Institute, a department of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences, researches given names. Over voornamen (About given names) has several articles about given names, and a large database of names with their meaning and origins (only in Dutch).

Several books on Dutch names ara available from Amazon, including Woordenboek van voornamen (Dictionary of first names), by Johannes van der Schaar (in Dutch).


Sources for this article include Over voornamen (About given names), by Doreen Gerritzen of the Meertens Institute, the database of given names at the the Meertens Institute, the lists of popular child names by the SVB, Huizinga's complete lijst van voornamen (Huizinga's complete list of first names), ed. A. de Jong and A. Kruijssen, 1998 (ISBN 90-5121-744-7).

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