June 24, 2022

Dutch Insults and Swear Words – the History and Art

by Mateusz Wiącek

Understanding the Dutch language, and specifically Dutch slang, will benefit the eager beginner language learner. Learning Dutch swear words and insults is a fun way to get acquainted with the Dutch culture and is helpful when learning the Dutch language. Did you ever notice that Dutch people like to use insults and sometimes use the names of diseases as swear words? They have no qualms about calling down  a painful disease on you as they leave. Words like kankermongool and teringlijer will most likely be the first Dutch swear words you’ll learn when visiting a major city like Amsterdam or Rotterdam. Other common Dutch swear words like pleuris (tuberculosis), klootviool (violin balls), and pisvlek (pee stain) are still very much in use by Dutch people today. 

Does that mean visitors from abroad are allowed to randomly utter Dutch insults and swear words as they merrily go their tourist way around town? Of course not! Doing so might get you in a lot of trouble. Dutch swear words are not to be taken lightly at all. Although the Dutch use swear words and phrases riddled with the worst sicknesses, many of these utterings are frowned upon by the Dutch themselves. Dutch swear words mentioning homosexuality, cancer, AIDS, and also racist remarks could get you a response you did not expect. Language learners, tread carefully!

As I walk you through a short history of the Dutch ‘enriched’ culture of insults and swear words, the social aspects behind swearing, and the benefits of knowing Dutch insults, I will also share some tips and tricks for foreigners looking for the perfect starting point in learning the Dutch language. It will give you a head start for sure! Learning Dutch swear words and specifically Dutch slang will allow for amusing conversations and sometimes hilarious situations. As Dutch people complain a lot about the weather, learning Dutch swear words and phrases such as Wat een kutweer or pleurisweer (‘What shit weather!’) could prove to be a good ice-breaker when striking up a conversation in a local Dutch bar.

What is with Dutch people and swear words?

Dutch slang can be heard in local bars, train stations, and even while roaming the landscapes of Holland’s rural regions. Some Dutch swear words are used everywhere you go. Typically, these Dutch insults, mostly focussed on sicknesses, will be used by the younger generation more proficient in speaking Dutch slang. These Dutch swear words vary from kanker-mongool, which translates literally to the disease of cancer in combination with having Down Syndrome, to tyfus-hond, which translates freely to “scabby dog”. Still, an oblivious foreigner can’t help wondering why on earth someone would use such horrific insults in their swear words. As the Dutch have a long history of rebellious natures and mockery of the established government, their creative swearing ability is considered to be a fundamental aspect of the Dutch ‘DNA’.  

And there is more. Even the popular Dutch swear word teringlijer isn’t something to take lightly. It literally means someone wishes you to develop a painful tuberculosis-type disease. To make it even more awkward, in a specific setting and context, friends meeting each other will exchange these Dutch swear words as a type of greeting. Are the Dutch going crazy?! How on earth did we get there?

To understand the origin of Dutch swear words, we have to dive a little deeper and go back to a time when kankermongool, pest-pokken joch, and teringlijer originated. After reading this article, you will be fully informed of the do’s and don’ts in learning Dutch swear words, and also learn the impact Dutch insults have when uttered in various settings. As it’s not rocket science, it is strongly advised to pay attention and consider your choice of words and phrases before you put them into practice. This could mean the difference between having a good laugh with friends or a sucker punch to the face with a robust barstool in a local bar.

The Netherlands 200 years ago 

When scrolling the internet looking for clarity in this case, I stumbled upon a podcast dated 2019, in which a Dutch historian shared his take on the colourful Dutch swear words riddled with diseases like pests and plagues. And frankly, being a native Dutch speaker all of my life, it caught me by surprise just how little I know about the origin of the Dutch people’s use of terrible diseases in today’s Dutch slang. Are you a foreign language learner? This could be interesting for you! Learn Dutch swear words today, and don’t miss out on the fun.

Now, let’s take a look at a brief history of Dutch swear words and their origins. For that, we need to go 200 years back in time.

In early 1800 when cancer, smallpox, and consumption were the cause of the highest death rate in the recorded history of the Netherlands, little was known about the cause and effect of living with poor hygiene. The idea was simple: if you became sick, you must have brought it on yourself for whatever reason, and therefore you and you alone were to blame for your sickness. There did not seem to be much pity for lepers or victims of pestilence. In most cases, they were shunned by their family, and in the worst cases ousted by the entire village.

The key lies in the context

Although Dutch swear words are static by nature and do not leave much room for interpretation, the meaning of swear words used as daily Dutch slang between friends can vary greatly. Dutch insults sprinkled with random diseases can be most common amongst friends. Often they are used to mock your best mate, have a laugh with friends and enjoy hilarious reactions. The Dutch thought is that if you are not able to receive a playful insult, how can you be good friends? It sounds harsh, though it has its purpose.

How’s that for your first lesson in using Dutch swear words? If you think this is strange, we have a lot more! There are many factors taken into account when it comes to Dutch insults and swear words. Let’s take a closer look at how social media, popular TV series and movies have influenced both younger and more seasoned users of Dutch profanity. 

Social swear words used in Dutch ‘slang’ 

As Dutch slang, swear words and insults are not the first things you’ll learn in school, knowing swear words and Dutch insults can prove to be a real social advantage for foreigners trying to blend in. If you can squeeze in a little “kut” or “godverdomme” (translated freely to ‘vagina’ and ‘goddammit’), you will most likely turn some heads in a conversation. And when inserted in the right context with the right timing, most Dutch people will find it very amusing to hear a foreigner try to use Dutch swear words and copy Dutch slang.

Did you know Dutch people are known to make the most use of their creative insult abilities on social media? Yes, it’s true – in between scrolling through dailies on news sites, congratulating friends on their birthdays, and crushing the high score of their candy game, Dutch people are known for tweeting their creative insults all over Twitter and Facebook. Often-used Dutch swear words in social Dutch slang include lul (meaning cock), and klootzak (balls) is also a popular one amongst avid Dutch swear word learners. If you want to learn new Dutch swear words, then Dutch social media is the first place to go. 

As the increased popularity of social media defines the digital world for young people, foreigners looking to improve their Dutch slang can find a world of examples on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, etc. ‘Digi-taal’ is a popular Dutch slang-term to explain online ‘digital language’, which is most popular amongst young people ‘representing’ their neighbourhoods, favourite tv-shows, and choice of brand clothes. As street culture doesn’t manifest online by itself, the role of media, movies, and popular music has greatly influenced today’s street language and is becoming increasingly culture dominant, as seen on today’s social media. 

Did you know many Dutch slang words and phrases used today originated from Dutch series and movies like Van Kooten en De Bie, SpangaS, and also New Kids? The most popular of such phrases and slang words include verrekte lul (stretched dick), “Hey lullo, heb je nog geneukt?” (“Yo dick, did you get laid yet?”) and “Hedde goed geregeld jonguh!” (“You handled that nicely!”). Throughout the years, many Dutch slang phrases and insulting words are interwoven in daily vocabulary across the country. It makes for a creative way of expressing oneself.

Dutch insults and the benefits of knowing them

Everybody knows not to fool around with the long arm of justice. The police are your helpful Dutch friends and need to be respected accordingly. With that being said, Dutch police officers aren’t always known to be the most cooperative when it comes to reassessing parking tickets or allowing you to drink that cold beer on the outside steps of City Hall without issuing you a fine. You just know by the look on his face that the fine is yours – and your newly learned Dutch slang isn’t going to help you out. 

As you feel you’re getting wrongfully fined, you will get righteously angry. So, you will need a good Dutch swear word that matches your discomfort and also lets the police officer know what you think of his actions. Rest assured, there is one Dutch insult you can share, without having to pay an extra fine or get taken into custody. Yes, there is! It’s ‘ant-fucking’ (mierenneuken) – can you believe it?  Listen carefully my Dutch swear word learners, as I will explain the difference.

Using the word ‘ant-fucker’ (i.e. ‘nitpicker’) to a policeman because of his actions isn’t necessarily a violation of the law, for the context is taken into consideration. If you actually accuse a police officer of being an ant-fucker (for example: “Hey! Wat ben jij een mierenneuker!”), things would be very different, but the word can be used in the context of calling him out on making a big problem out of a little situation. In such a case, the swear word will often be overlooked as it is directed at the police officer’s actions and not at the police officer’s person (for example: “Hey! zit niet zo te mierenneuken”). Dutch law clearly states that it’s a violation of the law to insult a police officer while on duty. Calling him out on his actions while using the word ‘antfucker’ is not considered an insult when spoken in this context. 

I’m confident that after having read this article you will be more informed about typical Dutch swear words and insults, and their application in practice. Now you know the history of Dutch insults, swear words, and also the do’s and don’ts – so the next time you step into a Dutch bar or club, you will be well versed in the use of Dutch swear words and insults. Just keep in mind that when used, these insults and swear words need to be voiced according to context, at the right time, and, most importantly, at the right person.

Insults are part of foreign language and knowing them is important for communication. Here we described “How to Memorize Words in Another Language“, use them to learn the best insults.


Practice: Combinations of swear words and insults

Popular swear words used in today’s Dutch slang, like sukkel (‘moron’), idioot (‘idiot’), debiel (‘low IQ’), and imbeciel (‘imbecile’), are often combined with the worst kind of diseases for the purpose of emphasis. Below, I’ve displayed some examples of the most common combinations of  Dutch swear words and disease-riddled insults for you to practise with to enhance your pronunciation skills. If you have a Dutch friend around, you can work on your pronunciation skills while displaying authentic profanity in up-to-date Dutch slang language. Learning Dutch swear words is so much fun when shared together.

Feel free to combine, stack, and try them out as you see fit. I’m sure you’ll have fun when trying these combinations out on unexpected friends – and watching their reactions!  

  1. Kanker–hond

meaning: cancerous dog. The word ‘cancer’ is commonly used by the younger generation in today’s Dutch slang. The older generation of Dutch people in general are not likely to use diseases in their swearing.

  1. Krijg de pest!

meaning: Have some plague! Often voiced when a dispute or argument is over, and both  parties leave. In general this means the end of the conversation as the conflict remains unresolved. 

  1. Kolere-wijf / kolere-vent

meaning: man or woman that suffers from a disease. In some Dutch dialects it’s voiced as a playful expression between friends, to comment on a (seriously bad) joke someone made. In other regions this expression can only be interpreted as a full-blown insult – no matter what context you choose to use it in.

  1. Tyfus-doos

meaning: scabby vagina. This insult is not to be taken lightly. When uttered towards a woman in general, the conversation is considered over and she’s likely to shut down and never exchange a word with you again.

  1. Klote-zooi

meaning: Balls! What a mess! This would be a typical swear word used when things go south. Let’s say you just stubbed your toe and dropped hot coffee on the dog, and in return he bit you on your toe. This series of unlucky events can best be described as ‘klote-zooi’.

You thought that was all? Guess again! We have so many more creative Dutch insults for you to familiarise yourself with! Popular Dutch insults like Kloothommel, Kutzooi, Geitenneuker, Eikel, Sukkel, Aso, Doos, Kutwijf, Graftak, Koekwaus, Dwaas, Hondelul, Kaaskop, Huppelkut, Stumper, Mongool, Hond, and also Lijer are  just a cherry-pick of the collection available in the Taalhammer application. 

The best way to learn Dutch insults and swear words

Want to know more of these swear words and how to make perfect use of them, all while impressing your friends?

In order to become a profound swearer in Dutch (or any other language) you need to memorise the insults and swear words and automate their usage. Especially when the moment is emotional, there is no time to scan through your memory for the right thing to say – it needs to roll off of your tongue instantaneously and automatically! And in order for this to happen you need to repeat them over and over again, till they sort of become your second nature. 

This method of learning goes really well with the Taalhammer method! We described it in the article “The best way to learn a language is through sentences“.

This is why we have curated a special list of insults and swear words, and created sample sentences for you to study and practise. We have published a ready-to-learn topic collection and it is available right now.


Hey lullo, hedde nog geneukt?Hey dick, did you get laid? (Greeting between close friends)
Ben je wel helemaal lekker?Are you insane?!
Je dist je moer maar.Go and play a prank on your mother.
Ik verkoop je een hengst.I’m going to punch you hard.
Je lult maar een end weg.Keep on talking, I’m not listening.
Op je flikker krijgen.Getting hit hard
Ik krijg er helemaal tabak van!I’ve had enough of it!
Nog niet jarig zijn.It’s not yet his birthday (meaning, he’s in a lot of trouble…).
Het zal me aan me reet roesten.It won’t rust on my ass (I don’t care).
Blijf met je vuile jatte ervan af.Keep your dirty hands off that.
Wat kan mij dat verrotten?What do I care?
Ben je van de pot gerukt?Did you fall from the toilet? (Used to call someone out for his stupid behaviour.)
Ik sla je voor pampus!I’ll knock you out!
Je kan mijn zak opblazen.You can blow my bag. 
Ik peer hem nu gelijk.I’m getting out of here right now.
Wat ben jij een mieren neuker.You are an ant fucker. (Commonly used when someone is making a big deal out of nothing.)
Naar de tering gaan.Getting wasted, using too much alcohol or drugs.
Ben je leip geworden?Are you going crazy?
Ik ren me de pleuris.I’m running like hell.
Een tuintje op je buik.A little garden on your belly (meaning you’re dead and buried).

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