Dutch proverbs

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Great people talk about ideas. Small people talk about other people.
Tobias S. Gibson
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A - B - D - E - G - H - I - J - K - L - M - N - O - R - S - T - V - W - Z - See also

A

  • Aan iemands lippen hangen
    • Literal Translation: Clinging onto someone's lips
    • Meaning: Being very attentive to someone's storytelling (often used ironically, e.g. "That is so not interesting...")
  • Aan lager wal raken
    • Literal Translation: To arrive on the downwind side of the lake
    • Meaning: To fall into poverty
  • Achter het net vissen
    • Literal Translation: "To fish behind the net"
    • Meaning: "to be too late for having success, doing things without result"
  • Al draagt een aap een gouden ring, het is en blijft een lelijk ding
    • Literal Translation: "Even if a monkey wears a gold ring, it is and remains an ugly creature"
    • Meaning: "One can not fix up something internally bad by a simple outer change"
    • English equivalent (non vulgar): 'You cannot make a silk purse from a sow's ear"
    • English equivalent: 'Putting lipstick on a pig'
    • Original from poem of Jacob Cats
  • Al doende leert men.
    • Literal translation: "Whilst doing one learns".
    • Meaning: You learn by practice.
    • English equivalent: "Practice makes perfect."
  • Al te goed is buurmans gek.
    • Literal Translation: "All too good is neighbor's fool."
    • Meaning: "If you are always helping everyone, someone will abuse it."
  • Als de kat van huis is, dansen de muizen (op tafel).
    • Literal Translation: "When the cat is away from home, the mice dance (on the table)"
    • Meaning: "Grabbing the opportunity when nobody watches".
    • English equivalent: "While the cat's away, the mice will play".
  • Als een kip zonder kop.
    • Literal Translation: "Like a chicken without a head"
    • Meaning: "To act like a fool"
  • Als het water zakt, dan kraakt het ijs.
    • Literal Translation: "When the water level decreases, the ice will crack."
    • Meaning: "A Logical Cause-and-Effect"
  • Als je moet, dan kun je veel.
    • Literal Translation: "If you must, you can [do] a lot."
    • Meaning: When forced to, you can do more than you think.
    • English equivalent: "Necessity is the mother of invention."
  • Als twee honden vechten om een been, loopt de derde er mee heen.
    • Literal Translation: "When two dogs fight over a bone, a third one carries it away."
    • Meaning: "Quibbling (or worse) between two parties, leads to opportunities for a third party."
  • Alsof een engeltje over je tong piest.
    • Literal Translation: "Like a little angel pissing on your tongue."
    • Meaning: "It tastes extremely good"
  • Appels met peren vergelijken
    • Literal Translation: "Comparing apples to pears"
    • Meaning: "Comparing things that are impossible to compare"
    • English equivalent: "Comparing apples to oranges."
  • Als een slak op een teerton.
    • Literal Translation: "Like a snail on a barrel of tar."
    • Meaning: Very slow indeed.
    • English equivalent: "Slower than molasses in January."

B

  • Beter één vogel in de hand dan tien in de lucht
    • Literal Translation: "Better one bird in the hand than ten in the sky"
    • Meaning: "One bird in the hand is better than two in the bush".
  • Beter een goede buur dan een verre vriend
    • Literal Translation: "Better a good neighbour than a distant friend"
    • Meaning: It is better to be friendly with a neighbour, than having a friend who is too far away to be there for you"
  • Beter laat dan nooit.
    • Literal translation: "Better late than never"
    • Meaning: It's better to arrive late than never.
  • Beter ten halve gekeerd dan ten volle gedwaald.
    • Literal translation: "It's better to turn around halfway, then to get lost completely"
    • Meaning: It's better to correct ones mistakes than to persevere stubbornly.
  • Bezint eer gij begint.
    • Literal translation: "Think before you begin"
    • Meaning: Think before you act.
    • Alliterative English equivalent: "Look before you leap".
  • Blaffende honden bijten niet
    • Literal Translation: "Barking dogs don't bite".
    • Meaning: If people have a big mouth doesn't mean they're a threat.
  • Boter bij de vis.
    • Literal Translation: "Butter with the fish"
    • Meaning: "Reacting without delay in an appropriate way", more specifically:"Payment at time of purchase"
  • Bij de pakken neerzitten. / De handdoek in de ring gooien.
    • Literal Translation: "Sitting down beside the boxes" / "Throwing the towel in the ring."
    • Meaning: "Giving up, being discouraged"
    • English equivalent: "Throwing in the towel"

D

  • Dat kan het daglicht niet verdragen.
    • Literal Translation: "That cannot bear the daylight."
    • Meaning: This is unethical/illegal.
    • English Equivalent: "This couldn't stand the light of day."
  • De duivel schijt altijd op de grootste hoop.
    • Literal Translation: "The devil always shits on the biggest pile."
    • Meaning: Rich people always get the most.
  • Dat slaat als een tang op een varken
    • Literal Translation: "It hits like a grip on a pig"
    • Meaning: "It makes no sense at all.
  • De appel valt niet ver van de boom
    • Literal Translation: "The apple doesn't fall far from the tree."
    • English: "A chip off the old block"
  • De beste stuurlui staan aan wal
    • Literal Translation: "The best helmsmen stand on shore"
    • Meaning: "The watchers always know better than the doers"
  • De wal zal het schip keren
    • Literal Translation: "The shore will turn the ship."
    • Meaning: It is inevitable to reconsider ones actions.
  • De druppel die de emmer doet overlopen
    • Literal translation: "The drop that floods the bucket"
    • Meaning: "The last (tiny) thing that makes you snap"
    • English equivalent: "The straw that broke the camel's back"
  • De een z'n dood is de ander z'n brood".
    • Literal translation: "One person's death is another's bread".
    • Meaning: "The disadvantage of someone is the advantage of another".
  • De hond de jas voorhouden.
    • Literal Translation: "To hold your jacket in front of the dog."
    • Meaning: "Giving someone false hope to something unreachable."
  • De hond in de pot vinden
    • Literal Translation: "To find the dog in the jar"
    • Meaning: "Being too late for your treat"
    • English: "Go without one's dinner." or "Dining with Duke Humphrey."
  • De huik naar de wind hangen
    • Literal Translation: To hang the sail-covers to the wind
    • Meaning: To adapt ones behavior to circumstances
  • De kost gaat voor de baat uit
    • Literal Translation: Cost goes before the profit
    • Meaning: You have to invest time, effort or money before you can expect anything
  • De laatste loodjes wegen het zwaarst
    • Literal Translation: The last pieces of lead are heaviest
    • Meaning: The last few things are the most difficult ones
  • De ochtendstond heeft goud in de mond
    • Literal translation: The sunrise hour has gold in its mouth
    • Meaning: When getting out of bed early, you have more time to do things
      • Scottish version: Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.
  • De pen is machtiger dan het zwaard.
    • Literal translation: "The pen is mightier than the sword".
    • Meaning: Words are more powerful than violent acts.
  • De puntjes op de i zetten
    • Literal Translation: "Putting the dots on the i's"
    • Meaning: "Finishing off the last details"
    • English equivalent: "Dot your i's and cross your t's"
  • De spijker op de kop slaan
    • Literal Translation: "To hit the nail on the head"
    • Meaning: "To get something exactly right"
  • De vinger aan de pols houden
    • Literal Translation: "Keeping the finger on the wrist"
    • Meaning: "Staying in control of a project or thing"
    • English equivalent: "Keep your finger on the pulse"
  • De weg naar de hel is geplaveid met goede voornemens
    • Literal translation: "The road to hell is paved with good intentions".
    • Meaning: Good intentions could turn out to be evil in the end, or good intentions could be impossible to implement and could only lead to suffering.
  • De wens is de vader van de gedachte.
    • Literal Translation: "Desire is the father of thought."
    • Meaning: "What you think is inspired by desire."
    • English equivalent: "That's wishful thinking."
  • Denk aleer gij doende zijt en doende denk dan nog".
    • Literal Translation: "Think before acting and whilst acting still think".
    • Meaning: "Be wise with everything you do"
  • Die het eerst komt, die het eerst maalt
    • Literal Translation: "He who comes first, he who grinds first"
    • Meaning: "He who comes first has the first pick"
    • English equivalent: "First come, first served"

E

  • Een appeltje voor de dorst
    • Literal Translation: "A little apple for the thirst."
    • Meaning: "Something you save for a time when you really need it."
    • English equivalent: "Save (something) for a rainy day."
  • Een beschuitje met iemand willen eten
    • Literal Translation: "Wanting to eat a little biscuit with someone"
    • Meaning: "Feeling attracted to someone / Having sexual feelings for someone"
  • Een brutaal mens heeft de halve wereld
    • Literal Translation: "A cheeky person owns half the world"
    • Meaning: "A cheeky person has more opportunities"
  • Een ezel stoot zich (in 't algemeen) geen twee maal aan dezelfde steen.
    • Literal Translation: "(Generally) A donkey does not bump into the same stone twice."
    • Meaning: "One who makes the same mistake twice is a fool."
  • Een goed begin is het halve werk.
    • Literal Translation: "A good start is half the job done."
    • Meaning: "If you start something off well, you're already half on your way."
  • Een goede raad is goud waard / "goede raad is duur"
    • Literal translation: "Good advice is worth gold" / good advice is expensive
    • Meaning: not to find; not knowing what to do
    • Source: Dutch dictionary
  • Een goed verstaander heeft maar een half woord nodig
    • Literal translation: "An understanding person needs only half a word".
    • Meaning: "Someone that listens carefully, won't have to ask for it twice".
  • Een half ei is beter dan een lege dop.
    • Literal translation: "Half an egg is better than an empty shell".
    • Meaning: "Be glad with what you get".
  • Een kat in de zak kopen
    • Literal Translation: "Buying a cat in a bag"
    • Meaning: "Buying something that is not as useful as you thought it was"
    • English equivalent: "Buying a pig in a poke"
  • Een lange neus maken
    • Literal Translation: "Making a long nose"
    • Meaning: "Going your own way without being disturbed by other's objections"
  • Een oogje in het zeil houden
    • Literal Translation: "Keeping an eye on the sail"
    • Meaning: "Continuously checking the state of a project or thing"
    • English: "To keep an eye on something"
  • Een open deur intrappen.
    • Literal Translation: "Kicking in an open door"
    • Meaning: "Stating the obvious".
  • Een steekje laten vallen
    • Literal Translation: "Dropping a stitch"
    • Meaning: "Making a mistake"
  • Een vlag op een modderschuit
    • Literal Translation: "A flag on a mud barge"
    • Meaning: "Excessive decoration of a common thing or trying to make the ugly beautiful"
  • Eén zwaluw maakt nog geen zomer
    • Literal Translation: "One swallow doesn't make summer"
    • Meaning: "One needs more than one indication to draw a conclusion"
  • Eieren voor je geld kiezen
    • Literal Translation: "Choosing eggs for your money"
    • Meaning: "Taking the easiest and safest way out"
  • Er met de pet naar gooien
    • Literal Translation: "Throwing the hat at it"
    • Meaning: "Not doing your best"
  • Er met de pet niet bijkunnen
    • Literal Translation: "Not being able to reach it with your hat"
    • Meaning: "Not understanding something"
  • Er geen doekjes om winden
    • Literal Translation: "Not wrapping it in cloth"
    • Meaning: "Saying it exactly like it is, using no euphemisms"
  • Er zit bij hem een steekje los
    • Literal Translation: "There is a stitch loose with him"
    • Meaning: "He is a brick short of a full load".
    • English equivalent: "He has got a screw loose"

G

  • Gedeelde smart is halve smart
    • Literal Translation: "Shared grief is half grief"
    • Meaning: "Having someone who shares your feelings can make them bearable"
    • English equivalent: "A problem shared is a problem halved"
  • Gedane zaken nemen geen keer
    • Literal Translation: A done deal cannot be reversed.
    • Meaning: "You can't undo your actions "
  • Geen geld, geen Zwitsers.
    • Literal Translation: "No money, no Swiss."
    • Meaning: "Don't expect something for nothing." (Refers to the frequent use by the Dutch army of Swiss mercenaries.).
  • Geen hoge pet ophebben van iemand.
    • Literal Translation: "Not wearing a high cap of someone."
    • Meaning: "Not liking someones character or attitude."
  • Geen slapende honden wakker maken".
    • Literal translation: "Do not wake sleeping dogs".
    • Meaning: "Do not inform anyone that does not know yet of a somewhat negative item".
    • English equivalent: "Let sleeping dogs lie."
  • Geen nieuws is goed nieuws.
    • Literal translation: "No news is good news."
    • Meaning: Bad news has wings, so if nothing bad has been heard, nothing bad has happened.
  • Goed begonnen is half gewonnen.
    • Literal Translation: "Well started is half won."
    • Meaning: "If you start something off well, you're already half way."
  • Gooi het maar in mijn pet, dan zoek ik het morgen wel uit.
    • Literal Translation: "Just toss it in my hat and I'll sort it out tomorrow."
    • Meaning: "That is too much for me to understand so quickly."

H

  • Haastige spoed is zelden goed
    • Literal translation: "Hasty speed is rarely good"
    • Meaning: "Doing something fast does not mean it is done well"
    • English version: Haste makes waste.
  • Het aan zijn water voelen
    • Literal Translation: "Feeling it from his water."
    • Meaning: "Getting knowledge from intuition."
  • Het bloed kruipt waar het niet gaan kan.
    • Literal Translation: "The blood creeps where it can't go."
    • Meaning: "Wanting to do something which is very unsuspected."
  • Het lid op de neus krijgen
    • Literal Translation: "To get the lid on the nose"
    • Meaning: "When being too greedy one should expect to be punished"
  • Het doel heiligt de middelen.
    • Literal translation: "The purpose sanctifies the means."
    • Meaning: "Anything goes if you really want to get something done."
    • Meaning: "If you want something, everything is allowed."
    • English equivalent: "The end justifies the means."
  • Het leven gaat niet altijd over rozen.
    • Literal Translation: "Life is not always about roses."
    • Meaning: "Life is not always easy."
    • English equivalent: "Life isn't always a bed of roses."
  • Het onderste uit de pot willen
    • Literal Translation: "To want the last from the pot"
    • Meaning: "To want the ultimate profitability from something"
  • Het op de klompen kunnen aanvoelen
    • Literal Translation: "Being able to feel it on wooden shoes."
    • Meaning: "It's obvious."
  • Het paard achter de wagen spannen"
    • Literal translation: "To put the horse behind the cart."
    • Meaning: "Trying to solve a problem in the wrong way (a counter productive solution)."
  • Het regent pijpestelen
    • Literal translation: "It's raining pipestems"
    • Meaning: "Heavy rain"
    • English: "It's raining cats and dogs"
  • Het ijzer smeden als het heet is."
    • Literal translation: "Casting the iron whilst it is hot."
    • Meaning: "Seize your opportunity."
    • English equivalent: "Make hay while the sun shines; strike while the iron is hot."
  • Het zwarte schaap van de familie.
    • Literal Translation/English equivalent: "The black sheep in the family."
    • Meaning: "Someone notorious for being "bad" or a misfit (out of a group of people)"
  • Het zijn niet alleen koks die lange messen dragen."
    • Literal translations: "It's not only cooks that wear long knives."
    • Meaning: "Don't jump to conclusions on the basis of appearances."
    • English equivalent: "Don't judge a book by its cover."
  • Hij heeft de klok wel horen luiden maar weet niet waar de klepel hangt.
    • Literal Translation: "He did hear the sound of the bell, but doesn't know where the clapper hangs."
    • Meaning: "He thinks he knows the subject, but the essence eludes him."
  • Hij voelt zich als een kat in een vreemd pakhuis.
    • Literal Translation: "He feels like a cat in an strange warehouse."
    • Meaning: "He feels out of place, not at home."
  • Hoge bomen vangen veel wind"
    • Literal Translation: "High trees catch lots of wind."
    • Meaning: "The more important the person the more criticism they get."
    • English equivalent: "Heavy is the head that wears the crown."
  • Holle vaten klinken het hardst
    • Literal Translation "Hollow barrels sound loudest"
    • Meaning: "The louder a person shouts, the less he knows"


  • Hoop doet leven
    • Literal Translation: "Hopes sustains life."
    • English equivalent: "Hope springs eternal."

I

  • Iemand blij maken met een dode mus
    • Literal Translation: "Make somebody happy with a dead sparrow."
    • Meaning: "Promissing someone something great, that finally seems worthless"
  • Iemands rechterhand zijn
    • Literal Translation: "Being someones right hand."
    • Meaning: "Being indiposable to someone."
    • English equivalent: "Be someone's right hand man"
  • Iets op je lever hebben.
    • Literal Translation: "Having something on your liver."
    • Meaning: "Having done something wrong which could get you into trouble."
  • In het land der blinden is éénoog koning."
    • Literal translation: "In the land of the blind, one-eye is king."
    • Meaning: "Where none can do something, the one who has even a little knowledge has the power"
    • English equivalent: "In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king"
    • English alternative: "(being) a big fish in a small pond"
  • Ieder voordeel heb z'n nadeel.
    • Literal translation: "every advantage has his disadvantage."
    • Meaning: "everything that has an advantage in one way also has a disavantage in an other way."
    • Actually a quote from Johan Cruijff, but it has become proverbial.

J

  • "Je moet verder kijken dan je neus lang is."
    • Literal Translation: "You need to watch further then the length of your nose."
    • Meaning: "You need to take a look at the problem carefully, you need to search the cause of the problem. And not at the effects of it."
  • "Jong geleerd is oud gedaan."
    • Literal Translation: "Learned when young is done when old."
    • Meaning: "Something learned at an early age will be easy when one is old(er)."

K

  • Krakende wagens duren het langst.
    • Literal Translation: "Creaking carts last longest".
    • Meaning: Old people suffering from little diseases often live the longest.
  • Kleine potjes hebben grote oren.
    • Literal Translation: "Small pots have big ears/handles."
    • Meaning: "Adults must be careful about what they say within the hearing of children.
    • English equivalent: "Little pitchers have big ears"
  • Kleren maken de man."
    • Literal Translation: "Clothes make the man."
    • Meaning: "Good clothing adds to a man's stature."
    • English equivalent: "Clothes maketh the man."
  • Knollen/Appelen voor citroenen verkopen.
    • Literal Translation: "sell beets/apples as lemons."
    • Meaning: "Presenting something as something else which is more valuable."

L

  • Lood om oud ijzer.
    • Literal Translation: "Lead for old iron"
    • Meaning: It's all the same to me.
    • English equivalent: "Six of one or half a dozen of the other."

M

  • Maak je borst maar nat.
    • Literal Translation: "Make your chest wet."
    • Meaning: "You better prepare yourself."
  • Makkelijker gezegd dan gedaan.
    • Literal Translation: "Easier said than done."
    • Meaning: "It is easier to speak of something than actually do it."
  • Met andermans veren pronken.
    • Literal Translation: "Showing off with another's feathers."
    • Meaning: "Presenting someone else's accomplishments as one's own."
    • English: Borrowed plumage
  • Met de deur in huis vallen.
    • Literal Translation: "Falling with the door into the house."
    • Meaning: "Getting directly to the point."
  • Met de Franse slag.
    • Literal Translation: "With a French sweep."
    • Meaning: "Working fast but delivering a product of low quality."
  • Met de handen in het haar zitten.
    • Literal Translation: "Sitting with the hands in the hair."
    • Meaning: "Not knowing a way out of a problem."
  • Met de hoed in de hand komt men door het ganse land.
    • Literal Translation: "With the hat in the hand one gets through all the land."
    • Meaning: "A little politeness gets you very far."
    • English equivalent: "Honey attracts more flies than vinegar."
  • Met de mond vol tanden staan.
    • Literal Translation: "Standing with the mouth full of teeth."
    • Meaning: "Dumbfounded."
  • Met de pet rondgaan.
    • Literal Translation: "Going around with the hat."
    • Meaning: "Collecting money."
  • Met een kanon op een mug schieten.
    • Literal Translation: "To shoot a mosquito with a cannon."
    • Meaning: "Using a tool that is too large for the purpose, overkill."
    • English equivalent: "Taking a sledgehammer to crack a nut"
  • Mosterd na de maaltijd.
    • Literal Translation: "Mustard after the meal."
    • Meaning: "Coming up with a solution too late."
  • Mierenneuken.
    • Literal Translation: "Fucking ants."
    • Meaning: "Being obsessed with details."
    • English equivalent: "Splitting hairs."
    • Aditional note: This proverb may be considered rude (but is not inherently so).

N

  • Na regen komt zonneschijn
    • Literal Translation: "After rain comes sunshine"
    • Meaning: "Good things follow bad things"
    • English equivalent: "Every cloud has a silver lining"
  • Natte vingerwerk/Met de natte vinger
    • Literal Translation: "Wet fingerwork/With the wet finger" (cfr. Germ. "Fingerspitzengefühl")
    • Meaning: "Guesswork/performed on intuition"
  • Nieuwe bezems vegen schoon
    • Literal Translation: "New brooms sweep clean"
    • Meaning: "Someone new at a job will change the way things are done (even if only to be noticed)."
  • Niet geschoten is altijd mis
    • Literal Translation: "Not [having] shot is always missed"
    • Meaning: "If you don't try, you will miss opportunities"
    • English equivalent: "Nothing ventured, nothing gained."
  • Niet over één nacht ijs gaan
    • Literal Translation: "Not crossing the ice after one night of frost."
    • Meaning: "Making a decision after careful deliberation."

O

  • Onder de pet houden
    • Literal Translation: "To keep under the hat."
    • Meaning: "To cover up something that cannot see the light of day."
  • Om de haverklap
    • Literal Translation: "Every flail on the oats."
    • Meaning: "Very often."
  • Oost west, thuis best.
    • Literal Translation: "East West, home best."
    • Meaning: No matter where you travel, it's always great to come home.
    • English Equivalent: "Home sweet home."
  • Op alle slakken zout leggen.
    • Literal Translation: "Putting salt on every snail."
    • Meaning: "Looking for all of the smallest errors to comment on."
  • Op de neus kijken.
    • Literal Translation: "Looking down at one's nose."
    • Meaning: "Being disappointed."
  • Op elk potje past een dekseltje.
    • Literal Translation: "Every little pot has a fitting lid."
    • Meaning: "There's a solution for every situation. [or] There's a fitting partner for any person."
  • Op zwart zaad zitten.
    • Literal Translation: "Sitting on black seed."
    • Meaning: "Having no money at all."
  • Over lijken gaan.
    • Literal Translation: "Going over corpses."
    • Meaning: "Going for your own target however crude the method."

P

  • Potje breken, potje betalen.
    • Literal Translation: "Break a pot, pay for a pot."
    • Meaning: You have to pay for the damage you caused.
    • English Equivalents: "Paying the piper for playing the tune." "You break it, you buy it."

R

  • Roeien met de riemen die je hebt.
    • Literal Translation: "Rowing with the oars you have got."
    • Meaning: "Making do with the means available to you."

S

  • Spreken is zilver, zwijgen is goud.
    • Literal Translation: "Speaking is silver, being silent is gold."
    • Meaning: It's better to keep your silence, then to speak (for example in diplomacy or politics).
    • English Equivalent: "Silence is golden."
  • Spijkers op laag water zoeken.
    • Literal translation: "Looking for nails at low tide."
    • Meaning: Being pedantic about small details.
    • English Equivalent: "Nitpicking."
  • Stel niet uit tot morgen, wat gij heden kunt bezorgen.
    • Literal Translation: "Don't postpone until tomorrow, what you can take care of now."
    • Meaning: Don't procrastinate.
  • Stevig in het zadel zitten.
    • Literal translation: "Sitting securely in the saddle."
    • Meaning: "Having a solid high position; not easy to overthrow."
  • Storm in een glas water.
    • Literal Translation: "storm in a glass of water."
    • English equivalent: "Tempest in a tea pot"

T

  • Twee linkerhanden hebben.
    • Literal Translation: "Having two left hands."
    • Meaning: Being clumsy.
    • English Equivalent: "Being all thumbs."
  • Twee vliegen in één in klap slaan.
    • Literal Translation: "Hitting two flies with one swat."
    • Meaning: Achieving two goals in a single effort.
    • English Equivalent: "Killing two birds with one stone."
  • Tijd is geld.
    • Literal translation: "Time is money."
    • Meaning: Don't waste time, spend it productively.

U

  • Uit het oog, uit het hart.
    • Literal Translation: "Out of the eye, out of the heart."
    • English equivalent: "Out of sight, out of mind."
  • Uitstel is afstel.
    • Literal translation: "Postponement is cancellation."
    • Meaning: "Postponing something could be the final end of what you were doing."

V

  • Van de hoed en de rand weten
    • Literal Translation: "Knowing of the hat and the brim."
    • Meaning: "Having good thorough knowledge."
  • Van een mug een olifant maken.
    • Literal Translation: "To make an elephant out of a mosquito."
    • English equivalent: "Making a mountain out of a molehill."
  • Vele handen maken licht werk.
    • Literal Translation: "Many hands make light work."
    • Meaning: "A task is easier if you work together."
  • Van hetzelfde laken een pak
    • Literal translation: " a suit made from the same cloth"
    • Meaning: "exactly the same holds for ...". Typically used when telling off somebody, after you told off one individual already.
  • Voor de wind gaan
    • Literal translation: "To sail in the downwind"
    • Meaning: "Being successfull in life, getting rich."
  • Voor de kat zijn viool/knoop/kut.
    • Literal Translation: "For the cat's violin/button/cunt."
    • Meaning: "For no purpose, useless."
  • Voor een appel en een ei
    • Literal Translation: "For an apple and an egg."
    • Meaning: "Buying something really cheap, paying very little money."
  • Voorzichtigheid is de moeder van de porseleinkast.
    • Literal translation: "Prudence is the mother of the china cabinet."
    • Meaning: Don't rush into things, you should always be very cautious. Used more specifically to mean "be very cautious not to step on the toes of people that might have some (be it perceived) power over you"
    • English equivalents: Look before you leap; Safety first.
  • Voorkomen is beter dan genezen.
    • Literal translation: "To prevent is better than to cure."
    • Meaning: "It is better to prevent/avoid something that can cause problems before it is too late." Clear example: "It's better to see your doctor reguarly, than having to go to the hospital with a serious disease (that could have been prevented by seeing your doctor in an earlier stage)".
    • English equivalent: A stitch in time saves nine.

W

  • Waar een wil is is een weg.
    • Literal Translation: "Where there's a will, there is a way."
    • Meaning: "There is a way to achieve anything, if one really tries."
  • Water naar zee dragen.
    • Literal Translation: "Carrying water to the sea."
    • Meaning: "Futile activity."
    • English proverb: "Carrying coals to Newcastle."
  • Waar het hart vol van is daar loopt de mond van over.
    • Literal Translation: "What the heart is full of, the mouth overflows with."
    • Meaning: "If someone is enthusiastic about an idea he will be always talking about it."
  • Wat baten kaars en bril, als den uil niet zienen wil.
    • Literal Translation: "What good serve candle and glasses, if the owl does not want to see."
    • Meaning: "No need to try to convince or help someone to do something if he doesn't want to do it.
    • English equivalent: "You can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make it drink"
  • Wat de boer niet kent dat eet hij niet.
    • Literal Translation: "What the farmer doesn't know, he doesn't eat."
    • Meaning: "A stick-in-the-mud will try nothing new."
  • Weet wat je zegt, maar zeg niet alles wat je weet.
    • Literal Translation: "Know what you say, but don't say all that you know."
    • Meaning: "Be sure of your facts before speaking, but some things are best left unsaid."
  • Weten waar Abraham de mosterd haalt.
    • Literal Translation: "Knowing where Abraham gets the mustard."
    • Meaning: "Being well-informed."
  • Wie de bal kaatst, moet hem verwachten.
    • Literal Translation: "He who throws the ball, must expect it [back]."
    • Meaning: "Expect the repercussions of your actions."
    • English equivalent: "What goes around, comes around."
  • Wie de schoen past, trekke hem aan.
    • Literal Translation: "He whom the shoe fits should put it on."
    • Meaning: An appeal to take responsibility for ones actions.
    • English equivalent: "If the shoe fits, wear it."
  • Wie goed doet, goed ontmoet.
    • Literal Translation: "He who does good, will meet good."
    • Meaning: "Who does good things to others, will receive good things in return."
  • Wie het laatst lacht, lacht het best.
    • Literal Translation: "He who laughs last, laughs best."
    • Meaning: Don't laugh your enemy in the face when you are temporarily winning, because he can be more determined to defeat you.
    • Meaning: The last man standing in a lethal conflict has a real good reason to party.
    • English equivalent: He who laughs last, laughs loudest
  • Wie zijn neus schendt, schendt zijn aangezicht."
    • Literal translation: "He who hurts his nose, hurts his face."
    • Meaning: Accusing a close relative will usually damage your own reputation as well.
    • English equivalent: "To cut off one's nose to spite one's face."
  • Wie wind zaait, zal storm oogsten.
    • Literal translation: "He who seeds wind, shall harvest storm."
    • Meaning: "Who causes trouble, will be a victim of the trouble."
    • English equivalent: A more specific form of "You reap what you sow."
  • Wie zwijgt stemt toe.
    • Literal translation: "He who is quiet, agrees"
    • Meaning: "Taking someone's silence as a sign that they agree."

Z

  • Zachte heelmeesters maken stinkende wonden.
    • Literal translation: "Gentle healers make stinking wounds."
    • Meaning: "It is better to treat a problem thoroughly even if the treatment is painful, otherwise it may get worse."


  • Ze niet allemaal op een rijtje hebben.
    • Literal translation: "Not having all of them in a row."
    • Meaning: "Being a dime short of a dozen."
  • Zich met hand en tand verzetten.
    • Literal translation: "To resist with hand and tooth."
    • Meaning: "To resist with every possible means, not giving in in any way."
    • English equivalent: "Digging one's heels in."
  • Zich ergens met een Jantje van Leiden afmaken
    • Literal translation: "To get off with a Jan van Leiden"
    • Meaning: "To make lame excuses, to deliver sloppy and hasty work.

Jan van Leiden was a 16th century cult leader, infamous for his inane ramblings.

  • Zij zijn twee handen op één buik.
    • Literal translation: "They are two hands on one belly.";
    • Meaning: "They don't let you have a say in a decision, because they are always cooperating with eachother to exclude you."
  • Zijn hand er niet voor omdraaien.
    • Literal translation: "Not turning his hand around for it."
    • Meaning: "It is an easy job for him."
  • Zoals de waard is, vertrouwt hij zijn gasten.
    • Literal translation: "Like the innkeeper is, so he trusts his guests."
    • Meaning: "A person who is untrustworthy is unlikely to trust others."
  • Zoals het klokje thuis tikt, tikt het nergens.
    • Literal translation: "Like the clock ticks at home, so it ticks nowhere [else].
    • Meaning: "You can travel the world, but the best place is home."
    • English equivalent: "There's no place like home."
  • Zo dom als het achterend van een varken.
    • Literal translation: "As stupid as a pig's behind."
    • Meaning: "Very stupid."
  • Zo lang er leven is, is er hoop.
    • Literal translation: "As long as there's life, there is hope."
    • Meaning: "Never despair."
    • English equivalent: "Where there's life, there's hope."