Where Are Dutch People From? Discover the Dutch Language

As suitable as that may sound – nope, they are not from Deutschland.

Where Are Dutch People From? Discover the Dutch Language

Today we are answering some of the world’s most burning questions: where are Dutch people from, who are the Dutch people, what countries speak Dutch and more. If you are interested in anything Dutch, you’ve come to the right place.

It’s true that Dutch and Deutsch look and sound somehow similar and there *was* a connection there. But not anymore. So let’s settle this out once and for all.

Where are Dutch people from?

It’s pretty obvious why this confusion still exists. There’s no surprise that even the reverse of this question (“what are people from the Netherlands called?”) is also a very popular Google inquiry. So what is the answer after all?

First, you should know that a demonym is a name used for the people who live in a particular country or state. Naturally, French people are from France, Polish people are from Poland, and Italian people are from Italy. So where are Dutch people from?

The Dutch people are from the Netherlands. As unrelated as that may seem, there is a whole history to it.

Why are Dutch people called Dutch?

It seems that the confusion stems from the English-speaking people and the reason can be found by studying the etymology of the word ‘dutch’. I won’t bore you with all the details, but the bottom line is that in the late 14th century the word referred to ‘a German language’ or to ‘German, non-Scandinavian continental Germanic’. Additionally, the word corresponds to the Old English adjective þeodisc (‘belonging to the people’) which was used to refer to the common language of Germanic people (as opposed to Latin).

As a consequence, over time, English-speaking people used the word ‘Dutch’ to refer to both people from Netherlands and Germany. ‘High Dutch’ referred to people living in the mountainous region (now southern Germany). ‘Low Dutch’ referred to people from the flatlands (now the Netherlands).

And this is not everything. Within the Holy Roman Empire, the word ‘Netherlands’ was widely used to indicate people from the low-lying (‘nether’) region (‘land’). That’s how ‘the Kingdom of the Netherlands’ got its name when it became a formal, separate country in 1815.

Where is the Netherlands?

The Netherlands and the Kingdom of the Netherlands are two different entities. While the Netherlands is a country located in Western Europe, the Kingdom of the Netherlands is a comprehensive sovereign state consisting of four constituent countries: the Netherlands, Aruba, Curaçao, and Sint Maarten.

So where exactly in Western Europe is the Netherlands? The country borders Germany to the east, Belgium to the south, and the North Sea to the northwest. Its largest city and capital is Amsterdam.

The Netherlands vs Holland

Okay, bare with me. There’s more.

Many people mistake the Netherland for Holland, but Holland is in fact a region of the Netherlands.

netherlands vs holland
The Netherlands vs Holland

It all goes back (again) to Old English. Originally referring to the people from the northern region of the Netherlands, ‘Holland’ literally meant ‘wood-land’. But over time, English speakers began to mistakenly associate it with the entire country.

Formerly the County of Holland (the most important county in the Low Countries region), Holland now consists of North and South Holland. These are two of the nation’s twelve provinces.

What language do they speak in the Netherlands?

If you read the above explanations, you probably already understand the rationale. People in the Netherlands speak the Dutch language.

According to Encyclopædia Britannica, in the Middle Ages, the Dutch language was called Dietsc or Duutsc. As previously mentioned, this was historically equivalent to the German Deutsch and simply meant “language of the people” (in contrast with Latin – the language of religion and learning).

The form Duutsc was borrowed into English and thus gave birth to modern ‘Dutch’. What many don’t know is that the official name of the language is actually Nederlands or Netherlandic.

However, to Dutch people, the language is also known as Hollands (Hollandish). This reflects the fact that the standard language is largely based on the dialect of the old province of Holland.

And become everyone seems to have a different name for Dutch people, their language and their country, it’s good to know that Belgians call the Dutch language ‘Flemish’.

language in the netherlands
‘Tulip fields in the Netherlands’ by redcharlie©

What other countries speak Dutch?

Having over 24 million speakers worldwide, Dutch is the official language of the Netherlands and, together with French and German, one of the three official languages of Belgium.

The Dutch language is also spoken in a small part of France and on the islands of Curaçao, Sint Maarten, Aruba (all three part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands), Bonaire, Saba, and Sint Eustatius.

If you travel to South Africa, you may think people speak Dutch, but they actually speak Afrikaans, a language that evolved from Dutch.

Is German Dutch?

Are Dutch and Deutsch the same? Given all the evidence we’ve brought forth so far, we can safely say ‘no’.

Although they are both West Germanic languages, German or Deutsch and Dutch are not the same language. It’s true they have a high degree of lexical similarity but different influences throughout history made them sound quite different.

However, it seems that some local dialects of Dutch are much closer to German than the standard Dutch language. So already knowing one will definitely help you while learning the other.

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Diana Lăpușneanu - Linguist at Mondly Blog

Diana is a Linguist at Mondly by Pearson. Learning English as a second language early on fueled her lifelong passion for language learning, leading her to pursue a diverse array of languages as a hobby alongside her academic endeavors. With a Master’s Degree in advertising and a fascination for historical linguistics, she brings a unique perspective to her role, making language learning fun for readers worldwide.

7 comments on “Where Are Dutch People From? Discover the Dutch Language

  1. My family is Pennsylvania Dutch. So I wanted to know where the Dutch came from. Paxson is my family crest.

  2. The Netherlands has two official languages: Dutch & West Frisian. You can study the West Frisian language at the University of Amsterdam. It is still spoken and taught at public schools in the province of Friesland. The Dutch province of Friesland is in the northern part of the country. Official town and village name signs are in both Dutch and Frisian languages…

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