How to use swear words like the Dutch

The Dutch are famous for their cheese, but amongst expats, they are just as well known for their whine. A common form of whining from our eccentric hosts is “bloody foreigners come and work here, but don’t speak Dutch!”. Actually, I can recall a politician called Rita Verdonk, the founder of a political party called Trots op Nederland, that wanted to ban English being spoken in public.  The Gods of Dutch norms en waarden, Henk en Ingrid have given the Shallow Man the task to help integrate pesky foreigners into Dutch society. With that in mind, you really can’t integrate with the locals if you don’t know when and how to use Dutch swear words, which brings me to the subject of today’s post.

Now this post might annoy some, and if as a result I’m captured by a group of angry posh Dutch ladies from Blaricum and am forced to watch all of the episodes of Gooische Vrouwen, while being made to say ijskast instead of koelkast, and vruchten instead of fruit, I’ll say to my captors “laat me met rust, ik wil niet bekakt praten, jullie stijve kakkers”.

The things I do for my readers!

The creative Dutch language

Dutch is a creative language. Every year new words and phrases are discovered and created. This means that as a user of the Dutch language that you can also provide your own input on the subtle nuances of this Germanic language. (Sorry hoor, maar het is zo!)

New Dutch words are known as neologismes. I don’t know why but that sounds kind of sexual. “Oh Shallow Man you gave me such a huge neologisme!”. (Yes I can dream). An example of a recently created Dutch word is ‘stemfie’  Which means taking a selfie in a voting booth. (Why would you do this?) Another new word, believed to originate from Amsterdam Oud Zuid and Het Gooi is ‘hang au-pairs’. (Au-pairs that have too much free time and hang around cafe terraces).

Where you can find the Dutch at their most creative (apart from making up excuses to cover up their infidelities) is when it comes to swearing. Diseases and sexual organs are thrown around like xtc at a festival. Incredibly, the creativity in swearing does generally conform to a basic structure, which I’ll outline below.

The formal structure of Dutch swear words

If you’re going to swear at a Dutch person, do it properly!

Prefix= op + negatively loaded word


Rotten= to rot. Obviously, fruit (or if you speak posh Dutch vruchten) can rot. The adjective rot is used to intone lots of negativity. For example rotwijf or more commonly “IF YOU DON’T LIKE IT HERE ROT OP NAAR JE EIGEN LAND!!” (Don’t mention Zwarte Piet)

Grofheidsrating/Rudeness rating 2/5



Flikker= 1. A curse word for homosexuals. 2. Als iets ‘flikkert’ that can mean that something fell on the ground. ‘’Ik ben heel hard van mijn fiets geflikkerd” I’ll add (while texting or ignoring a red light).

Dit is een zeer informele manier van spreken. /Incredibly informal
Grofheidsrating: 3/5


I’ll dedicate this one to Lars, who in response to a post I wrote about Zwarte Piet suggested that those that don’t like Dutch traditions should opzouten.

Zout=salt. It’s a mystery why salt can be used as one of the many common Dutch swear words. Perhaps one of my many Dutch readers or even Lars, you can explain how this came to be a curse word. It’s fairly inoffensive which is why my friends at Koentact gave it a low rudeness rating.
Grofheidsrating: 1/5

More Dutch swear words

“If you don’t like it here…”


Kanker= Yes, no kidding, some Dutch people use cancer as a curse word. In bloody credible. This is probably one of the worst forms of swearing possible, as just about everyone has or will know someone that has been affected by cancer. I’m rarely shocked (apart from by the clothes some people wear) but the use of this term is shocking.

Grofheidsrating: 5/5


Donder=thunder. This is not too shocking, although ‘donder’ for the conservative Dutch Calvinist could be linked to the Devil and be regarded as blasphemous. If someone asks you to donder op, they are not being friendly.

Grofheidsrating: 2/3


Tiefen = comes from the word tyfus. The negative use needs no explanation. It regards as less shocking than ‘opkankeren’ as tyfus barely exists anymore in the Netherlands.

Grofheidsrating: 3/5

Dutch swear words, the rules

So using the pleasant examples provided above, you can go ahead and create new words in Dutch and enrich the language. All you need to remember is to stick to the following rules: (In het Nederlands)

  1. De prefix is altijd ‘op’.
  2. Het element na ‘op’ moet een negatieve lading hebben
  3. Het element na ‘op’ moet twee of drie syllabes hebben
  4. Het element na ‘op’ moet altijd met een medeklinker beginnen en eindigen
  5. Het moet sowieso iets zijn wat lekker bekt.


Make your own Dutch swear words

The Shallow Man, using the rules above will make an attempt to create a new Dutch swear word.


Kakkers = posh Dutch people.

So if you’re at an upmarket establishment, and you’re irritated by a red jeans and cravat wearing Dutchman. Or if you’re in a conversation with a woman who tells you that her fathers new Porsche is not as good to drive as his Maserati, you can say ‘opkakkeren’ or ‘kakker lekker op’.

Another piece of valuable public service advice provided to my readers!

In short, there are a couple of rules, but the possibilities are endless.

Wat is het Nederlands toch een heerlijke, variable en vooral ook charmante taal. 😉

A big thank you to the Koentact Dutch language school for having the patience to provide rudeness ratings to the swear words I chose.

No kakkers were hurt during the writing of this post.