Low Germanic loanwords in Modern English

(Written 2000; Updated: 11 August 2012)




The aim of this small article is to document some of the more common and more interesting loans English has received from other Low Germanic languages during the course of its history. By Low Germanic languages we mean Middle Low German and Modern Low Saxon (including "Low German" in Germany and "Low Saxon" in the Netherlands), Middle Dutch, Modern Dutch and Afrikaans, Middle and Modern Frisian. Old Low Franconian (Old Dutch) appears to have had no traceable contact with English. Afrikaans, an offshoot of Dutch, has made some considerable contributions to English over the last 250 years and a good many of these are reviewed below. The chapter in Serjeantson's book "Low German and High German" (see sources) has formed the basis of the words selected in the lists.

Words of Low Germanic origin are often very close in form and idiom to those of native Anglo-Saxon origin and this has caused problems for scholars. Broadly speaking, the further back you go, the closer the resemblances become. It therefore sometimes becomes difficult to decide if a word found in Middle English, for example, is a Low Germanic loan or simply a native word that has not been recorded before. Middle English verbs, in particular, often very closely resemble their Low Germanic cousins from the Continent.

Connections between the English and their Low Germanic brethren always remained vigorous after the Anglo-Saxon invasions of the fifth century. Anglo-Saxon missionaries were active in preaching in Frisia and northern Germany and it is known for certain that our forefathers were acquainted with some Old Saxon literature, as Old Saxon influence on the Old English Genesis clearly shows.

Following the Norman invasion, ties remained strong with the Low Countries, now mainly for commercial, rather than cultural reasons. Many Dutch and Flemish artisans and craftsman settled across England during the Middle Ages. These workmen were famed for their skills across Europe. Since these immigrants settled widely across the land, a situation paralleling the regional or local loaning trends of the Scandinavian constituent of the English vocabulary is not found, i.e. Low Germanic loans appear in almost every part of England. They are far fewer in number however than the loans from the Norsemen.

External trade also played a vital part in the passage of Dutch and Low German loans into English. English merchants travelled widely in the Low Countries and some settled there. English wool was a highly prized commodity that attracted much trade from Flemish weavers. It was also one of the factors leading to strong commercial ties between English merchants and the Hanseatic Trading League, who brought a Middle Low German influence to bear. This commercial and political federation was already doing a great deal to alter the lexical basis of the mainland Scandinavian languages, although its influence on English was much slighter. In later Tudor times, English soldiers must have picked up some military and other words while serving in the wars in Low Countries during that period.

After the Reformation, the Low Germanic influence is overwhelmingly from Early Modern Dutch, owing to the Netherlands' growing influence in overseas trade, shipping and their expanding commercial and political power. Many Dutch loans enter into English, and most of the European languages during the ensuing two hundred years and most are associated with Dutch excellence in shipbuilding and exploration but some also reflect their skill in art and painting. Dutch art was highly esteemed in the 1600s and 1700s and a number of words enter into English as a result of this admiration. A strange fact is the apparent lack of any influx or acceleration of borrowing from Dutch after the ascension of William III to the English throne, despite his being of Dutch origin. Further, the prolonged struggle between England and the Netherlands over their various overseas colonies dotted around the world seems not to have introduced many words into English as loans.

What was formerly called Cape Dutch, but now Afrikaans, has had by far the most significant role to play as a donor of Low Germanic words since the late 1700s. Many of these are purely local and little known outside English speakers in South Africa, but some are known across the English-speaking world. Parts of the Cape were in Dutch hands in the 1600s and later English settlers content to use the Dutch derived words for the new objects and concepts rather than formulate their own. A good number of originally Dutch words have slipped into English via Afrikaans, owing in part to the fact that until the early part of the 20th century Afrikaans was considered substandard and Dutch served as a language of officialdom, church and social prestige in Southern Africa.

The following trends, according to Serjeantson, emerge from a diachronic review of the loans into English from Low Germanic. Lexical influence on English from the Low Countries does not begin in earnest until the late medieval period, and nearly all loans in the 1400s pertain to nautical and commercial matters. During the next century, a number of military words appear owing to the foreign wars, as well as more nautical terms and a few words from art. Even when considering only words still used today, the 1500s saw the greatest number of Dutch loans entering English. The 1600s yield up fewer loans, mostly in seafaring, war and art. The 1700s are remarkable for a dearth of Dutch loans (roughly corresponding to the decline in Dutch commercial and naval power) and for the first period of loaning from Afrikaans. Most of these are traced to various contemporary travel writings rather than to Anglo-Dutch Cape politics. An interesting element has been the Dutch influence on American English owing to the former Dutch colonies in New England and elsewhere which were later annexed by the English. However, Dutch influence did not stop there, and persons of Dutch descent have contributed a number of loans into US English which later spread to other varieties of English.

Here are few broad categories of Low Germanic loaning influence on English:

Naval*: bulwark, buoy, cruise, deck, dock, freebooter, freight, hoist, hold, keelhaul, reef, rove, rover, schooner, skipper, sloop, smuggle, swabber, walrus, yacht, yawl;

Commercial: brandy, firkin, gin, groat, guilder, hawker, hops, huckster, mart, naat, remskoen, rijksdaaler, tackle, togt, wagon;

Political and civil life: baasskap, bond, boor, burgher, burgomaster, klonkie, margrave, polder, rooinek, swart gevaar, uproar, verkrampte, verligte, volk, voortrekker;

Military: beleager, furlough, onslaught, oudstryder, roster;

Art: easel, etch, maulstick, sketch, stipple, stripe;

Local conditions and animals: aardvark, aardwolf, gemsbok, grysbok, hanepoot, klompie, kloof, kop, koppie, kraal, lammervanger, outspan, platteland, poort, rand, rooikat, springbok, springhaas, spruit, steenbok, veldt, vlakte, vlei, wildebeest etc.


*note that only a selection of the more commonly known nautical loans are reviewed in this article. For a much more thorough review of the entire Low Germanic element in English, see A Dictionary of the Low-Dutch Element in the English Vocabulary by J.F. Bense (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1939) and Niederländisches Lehngut im Mittelenglischen by J.M. Toll (Halle, 1926).



Word colours:

blue = (Early) Modern Dutch, Low Saxon or Afrikaans; green = Old Low Franconian (OLF), Old English (OE); maroon = Middle English (ME); purple = Middle Dutch (MDu) or Middle Low German (MLG) or Middle Frisian; red = Modern English.


Other abbreviations: LS = Modern Low Saxon ("Low German" in Germany); OHG = Old High German; SA English = South African English; E = Early.


1: Middle and Modern Dutch


i) via Middle English:


boor (1430) "peasant; uncouth person" and in the 1500s coming to mean "Dutch or German peasant" from MDu boer "farmer, peasant" (cf. Du boer "farmer; country dweller, boor"); booze (c.1300: bouse "drink deeply") from MDu bûsen "drink heavily, drink to excess" cf. Dutch buizen; the noun first appears in 1732, formed from the verb (Barnhart); bulwark (1418: bulwerke) "rampart, defensive wall" from MDu bolwerc (bolle "tree trunk + werc "work"); the word was also loaned into the Scandinavian languages but from Middle Low German; buoy (1296: boye) from MDu boje, boeie "buoy" (cf. Du boei); deck (1466: deke "covering for a section of a boat") loan from MDu dek "roof, covering" (now Du dek), from the verb decken "cover"; the sense of "platform of a ship" is found in 1513 (Barnhart); firkin (1391: ferdkyn) "small wooden cask; a unit equal to 9 gallons (UK)" from MDu vierdekijn (lit.) "fourth part"; freight (1228: fraght "cargo", 1442: freight) from MDu (or MLG?) vracht, vrecht "freight, cargo" (cf. Du vracht, LS Fracht); groat (1362: grotes) "a denomination of coin which was recognized from the 13th c. in various countries of Europe" from MDu. groot "great, thick"; groove (1400: grofe "cave, pit") from MDu groeve "ditch, furrow"; the modern sense appears in 1659 and the word is the same as English grave from OE græf (cf. Du groeve "quarry; grave"); guilder (1467: gilder) "Dutch florin" from Middle Flemish gulden (lit. "golden"; cf. Du gulden "Guilder, florin"); hobble (c.1300: hobelen) "walk with a lame awkward movement" from MDu hobbelen "stammer; toss, rock; halt" (cf. Du hobbelen "bump, rock, jolt)"; hold (of a ship) (1333: holl, 1591: hold) partly from a native word and partly from MDu hol "hold of a ship"; hops (1440: hoppe) from MDu hoppe (now Du hop); huckster (c.1200: hucster "peddlar") "person who sells small articles on the street, peddlar" from MDu hoekster "peddlar"; loiter (1425: loitren) from MDu loteren "to be erratic, shake, be loose" (cf. Du leuteren "shake, totter; drivel"); luck (1481: lucke) from MDu luc (< gheluc "happiness, good fortune" (Barnhart)); cf. Dutch geluk, Middle High German gelücke, German Glück "happiness, good fortune"; mart (1436) from MDu marct "market", ultimately from Latin mercatus (cf. Du markt "market"); poll (c.1290: polle "head hair") from MDu polle "head, top"; the modern meaning of taking a collection of votes appeared first in 1625 (Barnhart); rover (1393: rovere "pirate") now meaning "wanderer; inconstant person" from MDu rovere "pirate, robber" (cf. Du rover "robber"); skipper (1390: skipper) "captain of a naval vessel" from MDu schipper "master of a ship, captain" (cf. Du schipper "captain, master mariner"); sled (1325: sledde) from MDu sledde "sled" (cf. Du slee "sled, sledge"); snatch (c.1200: snecchen "take a sudden bite") from MDu snacken "snatch; chatter" (cf. Du snakken "gasp, pant", LS snacken 'to chat', 'to talk', 'to speak', Norwegian, Danish snakke "talk, chatter" < MLG snakken "talk"); the modern meaning is known from about 1338 (Barnhart); spool (c.1325: spool) "a cylinder on which material is wound", from MDu spoele "spool" (Du spoel "reel, coil, spool"); wagon (pre-1475: waggin) originally meaning a four-wheeled vehicle for the bearing of loads, from MDu wagen, waghen "wagon, cart", cognate with OE wægn, wæn (> archaic/poetic wain), OFris wein. Modern wagon is clearly not from the OE source since medial -g- exists in contrast to other words of this type from OE such as hægel, nægel which have lost it (> hail, nail) and is the result of later borrowing, probably through trade links with the Low Countries (Barnhart); wainscot 1352/3: an imported oak of high quality, since 1548: a wood panel or piece of panelling affixed to the walls of a room (its present meaning) < MDu waghenscote: superior quality oak wood, but originally "oak boards suitable for wagon construction" (waghen "wagon" + scote "partition, crossbar");


ii) later loans:


beleaguer (1589) "trouble persistently, harass; lay siege" from EModDu (or perhaps Low German) belegeren "besiege" (lit. "camp around"; cf. Du belegeren "besiege"); boss (1649: base) loan into US English from EModDu baas "master"; brandy (1622: brandewine) from EModDu brandewijn "distilled (lit. "burnt") wine" (Du brandewijn "brandy"); burgher (1568) "citizen, member of the trading class of a medieval city" from MDu burgher "citizen, townsman" (cf. Du burger "citizen, civilian"); burgomaster (1590) "chief magistrate of a Dutch or German town, mayor" from EModDu burgemeester (burg "city, town" + meester "master"; cf. Du burgemeester "mayor, provost"); cookie (1703) loan into US English from Dutch koekje "little cake" (koek "cake" + -je diminutive forming suffix); cruise (1651) loan from EModDu kruisen "to cross, sail crossing forth and back"; cruller (1800s) "deep-fried doughnut" loan into US English from Dutch kruller, from krullen "curl"; dock (1513, meaning here "hollow made by a run aground ship") from MDu docke; the current use as a synonym for wharf appears in 1707 in US English (cf. Du dok "dock(yard)"); dope (1807) with original meaning of "sauce, gravy", loan into US English from Dutch doop "thick dipping sauce"; related to English dip; dorp (1500s) originally "a small town or village in the Netherlands" from EModDu dorp "village", but now generally means "village in South Africa" from Afrikaans via Du dorp "village"; drill (1611) "an instrument for boring" from EModDu dril, drille "hole; drill"; the verb drill "bore" first appears in 1649 (Barnhart); dune (1790) from MDu duun via French dune (cf. Du duin "dune"); identical with English down "hill" from Old English dûn "hill"; easel (1634) loan from EModDu ezel "ass, donkey" from MDu esel "ass, donkey"; etch (1634: etch) from EModDu etsen "etch" (cf. Du etsen) a loan of German ätzen "etch", from OHG azzôn "feed, bait" (cf. German essen, Dutch eten "eat"); the noun etching first appears in the same year; the association with eating stems from the use of acid in the process of engraving to eat away at the metal surface (Barnhart); euphroe, uphroe (1800s) "crowfoot dead-eye, wooden block with holes through which the lines of a crowfoot are rove" from Dutch juffrouw "Miss; maiden", from MDu joncfrouwe (jonc "young" + frouwe "woman"); freebooter (1570: frebetter) "pirate" from EModDu vrijbuiter "pirate, bandit" (now: "freebooter"; second element related to English booty "spoils, gains"); frolic (1583) "to caper about, behave playfully" (< earlier adjective (1538) "merry, joyful) from EModDu vrolijk "cheerful", cf. MDu vrôlîke "cheerful, merry, gay", vroli(c)ken "have fun" (vrô "happy, glad" + lîke "like"), Modern Dutch opvrolijken "to cheer up"; furlough (1625: vorloffe, fore-loofe) "leave of absence from military duty" from Du verlof "permission, leave" (modelled on German Verlaub); gin (1714; from earlier geneva) from EModDu jenever "juniper"; hoist (1509: hoise, 1548: hoihst) from MDu hyssen "to hoist"; hustle (1684, meaning "shake to and fro"), now meaning "to hurry", from EModDu husselen, hutselen "to shake" (cf. Du hutselen "shake, shuffle"); iceberg (1774) from Dutch ijsberg (or alternatively from Danish isbjerg, German Eisberg); isinglass (1528: isomglas) "gelatine made from the bladders of freshwater fish" from EModDu huysenblase "sturgeon's bladder"; keelhaul (1626) "drag a person by a rope through the water under a ship's keel" from EModDu kielhalen "keelhaul" (cf. Du kielhalen "keelhaul"); kermis (1570-99) in the Low Countries, a carnival or annual fair (originally a church mass at which a fair was held) from EModDu kermis, kermisse "fair" (< kerk "church" + misse "mass"); landloper, land-louper (1500s) "vagabond, vagrant" from MDu landlooper from loopen "ramble" (> Du lopen "go, walk"; cf. Du landloper "tramp, vagrant"); landscape (1598: landskip) from MDu lantscap (land "land, province" + scap "-ship"; cf. Du landschap "landscape"); maelstrom first recorded as the proper name (1701) of a whirlpool off the Lototen Islands, with the generalised meaning of a large and violent whirlpool becoming current about 1841; from Danish Malstrøm, loaned from Dutch maelstrom (modern spelling: maalstroom "whirlpool, vortex"); mangle (1774) "a rolling-press for smoothing linen, a wringer" from Dutch mangel "mangle"; margrave (1551: marcgrave) "a German nobleman ranking above a count" from MDu marcgrâve (marc "border, boundary" + grâve "count", cf. OHG marcgrâvo); matje, matjes (1870-99) a young herring, especially one salted or pickled, from Du maatje "young herring" (contracted from maatjesharing, a corruption of earlier maagdekesharing "virgin herring", a herring without spawn); maulstick, mahlstick (1658) from EModDu maalstok (< malen "paint" + stok "stick"); the first element has been misunderstood in English; muff (1599) from EModDu mof "muff" (< moffel); onslaught (1625: anslaight) from EModDu aanslag "attack, assault", from MDu aenslach (aen "on" + slach "strike, blow" < slagen "strike, beat"); the second element of the English word has been confused with slaught, an obsolete noun meaning slaughter (Barnhart) - cf. West Saxon slieht "slaughter, murder, death"; outlander (1605) "foreigner" inspired by EModDu uitlander "foreigner, stranger" (now Du buitenlander) but cf. Afrikaans uitlander "alien, foreigner, stranger", German Ausländer "foreigner"; polder (1600s) "a stretch of land reclaimed from the sea or a lake" from MDu polre "polder" (Du polder); rant (1598) "speak wildly" from obsolete MDu randen, ranten "talk foolishly, rave"; reef (1584: riffe, riff) "a shoal or bank" from EModDu ref, rif "reef" (cf. Du rif); rijsttafel (1870-99) a South East Asian meal of several assorted dishes accompanied by rice (< Du rijst "rice" + tafel "table"; similar in idiom to Swedish smörgåsbord); rix-dollar, rijksdaaler (1598) "any of several former silver coins of the Netherlands" from EModDu rijksdaler (rijk "state, realm" + daler "dollar"); roemer (1870-99) a variety of decorated German or Dutch wineglass, from Du roemer, a large decorated wineglass (the word is seldom heard nowadays); roster (1727) "a list or table detailing the order for duty" from Dutch rooster "list, table; grating, grid(iron)"; rove (1536: rove "practice piracy") from MDu rooven "rob" (cf. Du roven "rob, steal"; the modern sense of "to wander over or through" appears later; Santa Claus (1773: Saint A. Claus) loan into US English from dialectal Dutch Sante Klaas "Saint Nicholas"; schooner (1716: skooner) "a sailing vessel with at least two masts" probably from Dutch schooner; sketch (1668) from Dutch schets "sketch, drawing", from an Italian loanword schizzo "sketch"; slim (1657: "thin, slight", 1674: "sly, crafty") from EModDu slim "bad; sly, clever" (cf. German schlimm "bad", Norwegian slem "bad, naughty"); sloop (1629) "a sailing vessel with a single mast" from EModDu sloep (cf. Du sloep "cutter, smack, sloop"); smack "make a sudden noise with the lips" (1557) from MLG, MDu smacken "strike" or LS, Du smakken "fling, dash; smack the lips", the sense of "strike with the hand" appears in 1840 (Barnhart); snap (1530: snappe "take a sudden bite") from MDu snappen "snap, snatch" (cf. Du snappen "snap at; get, nab"); snip (1558: snip "to snap") from MDu snippen "to cut into pieces" (cf. Du snipperen "shred, cut up"); the modern sense of "cut" first appears in 1593 (Barnhart); snoek (1769-99) a long, slim food fish of the southern oceans (< Du snoek "pike"); snoop (1832) loan into US English from Dutch snoepen "to steal food, to eat secretly, nibble on food; eat sweets" (cf. Du snoepje "sweet, candy"); the word initially had this meaning in English, with the present meaning of "to go about sneakingly, to pry" first being recorded in 1908 (Barnhart); splice (pre-1625: join together by weaving, from earlier splisyng (1524)) from MDu splissinge a verbal noun formed from splissen "splice" (cf. Du splitsen "splice, divide up"), the general sense of "fasten together" appears in 1626 (Barnhart); split (1590: split "break up") from MDu splitten "separate, split" (cf. Du splijten "split"); spook (1801) a loan into US English from Dutch spook, from MDu spooc "ghost, spectre"; stelling (1830-69) in Guyana and the Carribean, a wooden pier or jetty (< Du stellen "place, set", cf. stelling "position, posture; scaffolding, rack"); stipple (1669) "draw or paint using dots or flecks" from EmodDu stippelen "to speckle, dot"; stoop (1755) a small porch or veranda (< Du stoep "doorstep(s); pavement", cf. SA English stoep); stripe (1626, but probably much older) probably MDu. strîpe, but perhaps from MLG; swabber (1592) "deck cleaner; uncouth fellow" from EmodDu *zwabber, having as its base the EModDu verb zwabben "to swab, mop"; tattoo "signal calling soldiers or sailors to their night quarters" (1688: tatoo, from earlier 1644: tap-too) from EModDu taptoe (< tap "tap on a cask" + toe "shut" - referring to police practice of closing ale taps in Dutch taverns); the verb appears in 1780 (Barnhart); uproar (1526) from EModDu oproer (cf. Du oproer "revolt; tumult") or perhaps MLG uprôr "rebellion, insurrection, revolt"; roar has been mistakenly associated in English with the verb roar, wheras it in fact derives from roeren "to move" (cf. Danish/Norwegian røre "move, touch", German rühren "stir, move, touch"); vendue (1670-99) a public sale or auction (EModDu vendu(e) "auction" < Old French vendue "sale" < vendre "sell"); vrouw (1600-29) a woman or wife, especially of Dutch origin - now chiefly used in SA English (< EModDu frouw "woman; wife" from MDu frouwe; cf. German Frau); waffle (1774: wafel) a loan into US English from Dutch wafel "waffle", from MDu wâfel; walrus (1655) from Dutch walrus, walros "whale-horse", probably from Swedish valross loaned into Dutch, cf. Old Norse rosmhvalr, hrosshvalr "walrus" (literally "horse-whale"); witloof (1870-99) a type of chicory grown for blanching (< Du wit "white" + loof "leaves", cf. Du witlof "chicory"); woonerf (1970-96) a road in a residential area on which speed restrictions are placed and traffic speed controlled (< Du woonerf < woon "residential" + erf "property, yard, ground"); yawl (1670: yall, yale) "a two masted sailing vessel" from Dutch jol "yawl" (of obscure origin).


2: Middle and Modern Low German


i) via Middle English:

bounce (c.1225: bunsen "beat, thump") from MLG bumsen "thump"; the modern sense of the word is known from about 1519; dote (c.1200: doten "rave, be foolish") from MLG doten "be childish"; the modern meaning of "be extremely fond of" first appeared in 1477 (Barnhart); snort (1410: snorten "snore") from MLG snorten "drone, hum"; the modern sense first known from 1530 (cf. LS snorken "snore"); splint (c.1300: splente "a strip of metal or wood") from MLG splinte, splente "a thin piece of iron" (cf. LS Splint "splinter, chip, wedge"); the modern meaning is first recorded in around 1400; tackle (c.1250: takel "equipment, gear") from MLG takel "rigging of a ship" (cf. LS Takel "sail and rigging of a ship"), a loan from the Scandinavian languages.


ii) later loans:

hawker (1510) "an itinerant peddler of goods" from MLG hôker "hawker" (cf. LS Höker "merchant, dealer; grocer"); knapsack (1603) from Early Modern LS Knappsack (derived from the verb knappen "eat" + noun Sack "sack, bag", cf. Du knapzak); smuggle (pre-1687: smuckle, 1687: smuggle) from the LS verb smuggeln, smukkeln "transport goods illegally"; yacht (1557: yeaghe) from MLG jacht (a short form for jachtschip "a ship for intercepting"; cf. LS jachtern "hunt").

3: Frisian

boy (1154: boi "servant", c.1300: boye "male child") probably from Middle East Frisian boi "young gentleman", "page".

4: Afrikaans

Only those Afrikaans words in SA English of genuinely Low Germanic origin are included (there are many that Afrikaans has borrowed from indigenous African languages, as well as further afield). However, in a few cases, a Afrikaans word loaned into SA English not originally stemming from Dutch has been included, if such a word shows characteristic Afrikaans structural adaption or assimilation of the loanword, e.g. kraal < Portuguese curral, naartje < Tamil nârattai (with the characteristic Dutch/Afrikaans -je diminutive suffix, apparently a misreading of the source word).

A word about the comparisons between Afrikaans and Dutch is needed at this point. The following factors are significant: i) Dutch itself had no stable orthography when Afrikaans (than called "Cape Dutch") was first beginning to be spoken; ii) there are considerable differences in time (Dutch forms quoted are Modern Dutch (Algemeen Beschaafd Nederlands), whereas Afrikaans spelling has frozen some spellings not seen in Dutch for centuries); iii) distance is an important factor (Afrikaans developed largely isolated from spoken Dutch at any rate) and was seen as culturally inferior by Dutch speakers; iv) finally there is the problem of the source of Afrikaans itself. This last factor is significant because Afrikaans does not stem from the same regional variety of Dutch that modern standard Dutch does. Taking these factors into account, we can see that it is somewhat misleading to directly compare Afrikaans forms with Dutch ones and expect in every case a direct and invariable lineal descent in form and meaning from Dutch lexemes to Afrikaans ones, because no such exact concordances can exist. However, although modern standard Dutch is not really the source or "parent" of Afrikaans, modern standard Dutch forms are quoted as being the source of the Afrikaans words for the sake of convenience as well as information, modern standard Dutch being the closest relation to Afrikaans.


By the 1900s, almost all loans from Low Germanic into English are from Afrikaans:

aardvark (1833) from now obsolete aardvark (< Du aard "earth" + vark "pig"); the Modern Afrikaans spelling is erdvark; aardwolf (1833) an African nocturnal mammal, from Afrikaans aardwolf (< Du aarde "earth" + wolf "wolf"); apartheid (1947) originally referring to the state of racial segregation in South Africa, but now more generally used; from Afrikaans apartheid "separateness" (< Du apart "apart" + -heid "-hood"); baasskap (1930-69) domination, especially of coloured people by whites (< Afrikaans baasskap "dominance, domination, mastery" < Du baasschap); berg (1800-29) a mountain or mountain range (Afrikaans berg "mountain" < Du berg "mountain"); biltong (1815) "dried cured strips of meat" from Afrikaans biltong (< Du bil "buttock" + tong "tongue"); boerewors (1930-69) a variety of coarse sausage (Afrikaans boerwors "home-made sausage" < boer "farmer" + wors "sausage" (< Du boer "farmer" + worst "sausage", cf. German Wurst, LS Wo(r)s(t))); bond (1870-99) in South Africa a league or association (Afrikaans bond "league, union, federation" < Du bond "confederation, union", from binden "bind, tie"; cf. German Bund); Boer (1824: Boor, 1834: Boer) a South African of Dutch descent, from Du boer "farmer", from MDu boer "farmer"; Boor is recorded in English as early as 1581 to mean "Dutch or German peasant" but this form was probably a development of Middle English boveer "peasant, countryman" from an Old French word, although influence from MDu boer is probably also present (Barnhart); braaivleis (1930-69) meat grilled over an open fire (< Afrikaans braaivleis (braai "grill, roast" + vleis "meat", cf. Du braden "roast" + vlees "meat")); commandeer (1881) from Afrikaans kommandeer, a loan from French commander "to command, to lead"; doek (1770-99) a cloth, especially a head-scarf (< Afrikaans doek "cloth, fabric, (head)-scarf" < Du doek "cloth, fabric"); dop (1870-99) in South Africa a term for brandy, or more recently a tot of liquor (Afrikaans dop "drink, tot, measure; brandy" < Du doop (originally) "sauce"); duyker, duiker, duikerbok (1777) i) a small African antelope; ii) one of several varieties of cormorants; from Afrikaans duiker (< Du duiker "diver"); eland (1786) a large African antelope, from Afrikaans eland (< Du eland "elk", a loan from German); gemsbok (1777) a large African antelope, from Afrikaans gemsbok (< German Gemsbock; Gemse "chamois" + Bock "goat"); grysbok (1786) a small African antelope, from Afrikaans grysbok (< Du grijs "grey" + boc "goat"); hamel (1830-69) an SA English word meaning "wether" (Afrikaans hamel "wether" < Du hamel "wether"); hanepoot a South African variety of muscat grape from Afrikaans hanepoot (Afrikaans hane "cock" + poot "paw", cf. Du haan "cock" + poot "paw, fist"); hartebeest (1786) a large African antelope, from obsolete Afrikaans hartebeest (lit.) "deerbeast" (< Du hartebeest from harte "deer, hart" + beest "beast, animal"); the Modern Afrikaans spelling is hartbees; inspan (1850) "to harness animals to a vehicle; give assistance" from Afrikaans inspan < Du inspannen "harness" ultimately MDu inspannen "harness (a horse to a cart)"; jong (1600-29) a coloured male servant, literally "young man", now generally used as a colloquial form of address to a young person (< Afrikaans jong "boy, lad, fellow; servant", cf. Du jongen "boy, lad"); jukskei (1800-1829) a wooden peg on an ox-yoke, later, a game resembling quoits from Afrikaans juk "yoke, beam" + skein "pin, peg"; kappie (1830-69) in SA English, a sun-bonnet (< Du kapje "cap" diminuitve of kap "cap, hood, bonnet"); kêrel (1870-99) a colloquial term in South African English meaning "fellow", "chap", "bloke" or "boyfriend" (< Afrikaans < Du kerel "guy, chap, bloke" < OHG karal "man", cf. German Karl); klipspringer (1785) a small agile African antelope, from Afrikaans klipspringer (< Du klip "rock" + springer "jumper, hopper"); klompie, klompje (1830-69) a collective term for a group of animals, shrubs or trees (< Afrikaans klompie "small heap, batch, bunch, knot, squad, clump" < Du klompje diminutive of klomp "clump, clod, bunch"); klonkie (1930-69) a young coloured boy (Afrikaans klonkie "coloured boy" - a contraction of klein "small" + jong "youth, lad" + dimunitive suffix -kie); kloof (1730-69) a deep valley, ravine or gorge - chiefly in SA English (Afrikaans kloof "chasm, ravine, gorge, valley" < Du kloof "cleft, gap, crevice"); knobkerrie, knobkerry (1849) a stick with a knob at the end used as a weapon by native South African tribes, from Afrikaans knopkierie (knop "knob" + kierie "stick", a Hottentot word); koeksister (1900-29) a plaited doughnut dipped in syrup, a cruller (Afrikaans koe(k)sister, derived from koek "cook" + sis "sizzle, fizz" < Du koek "cook" + sissen "sizzle, hiss"); kop (1830-69) a prominent hill or peak, frequently found as a compounding element in place-names (Afrikaans kop "head, crown, peak, mountain, summit" < Du kop "head"); koppie, kopje (1881) a small isolated hill, from Afrikaans koppie (< Du kopje "little head"; kop "head" + -je diminutive forming suffix); kraal (1730-69) an enclosed village of huts in southern Africa or an enclosure for cattle in the same (an Afrikaans adaption of Portuguese curral from Nama); kragdadig (1930-69) forceful, vigourous or unyielding (Afrikaans kragdadig "energetic, vigorous, powerful, strong" < Du krachtdadig "energetic, vigourous"); krans, krantz (1798) a sheer rock face or precipice, from Afrikaans krans "cliff, rockface, precipice"; laager (1850: lager) a camp or encampment, often protected by encircled waggons, from obsolete Afrikaans lager (< German Lager "camp; bed"); the spelling laager appeared in English in 1881, while the Modern Afrikaans word is laer; lammervanger (1830-69) in SA English, a term denoting "eagle" (Afrikaans lammervanger "golden eagle, bearded vulture, lammergeyer" < Du lam "lamb" + vanger "catcher" (< vangen "catch, seize")); lekker (1900-29) pleasant, nice, sweet; good, excellent (< Afrikaans lekker "nice, delicious, sweet, fine, comfortable" < Du lekker "nice, good, pleasant, tasty"; cf. LS lecker); mealie, mielie (1853) an ear of maize, from Afrikaans milie, ultimately a word of Latin origin; meerkat (1801) a South African mongoose, from Afrikaans meerkat (Afrikaans meer "sea" (> "overseas", "exotic") + kat "cat"); meisie (1870-99) a colloquial term denoting "girl" or "young woman" (cf. jong) in South African English (Afrikaans meisie "girl, maid, damsel; girlfriend" < Du meisje "girl, young woman; girlfriend"); melktert (1930-69) a custard tart (Afrikaans melktert < melk "milk" + tert "tart"); naartje (1770-99) a soft, loose-skinned South African mandarine, a tangerine (from Tamil nârattai "citrus"); naat (1930-69) an irregularity in the structure of a diamond (Afrikaans naat "seam, joint" < Du naad "seam, joint"); oom (1800-29) denotes either "uncle" (its literal meaning) or "man of power or prestige" (Afrikaans oom "uncle; (older) man" < Du oom "uncle"; cf. OE eam "uncle"!); oubaas (1830-69) refers to the male head of a family or an elderly man (Afrikaans oubaas "boss, master; old gentleman", from ou "old (man)" + baas "master, overseer" (< Du oud "old" + baas "boss, chief; guy")); oudstryder (1930-69) an ex-soldier or war-veteran, especially of the South African War (1899-1902) on the side of the Boers (< Afrikaans oudstryder "ex-soldier, veteran" from oud "old" + stryder "warrior, combatant", cf. Du oud-strijder "war-veteran"); oupa (1900-29) a word denoting "grandfather" or term used to address an elderly man (Afrikaans oupa "grandfather, grandpa" from ou "old" + pa "father"; cf. LS Opa, oupa > German Opa "grandfather"); outjie (1930-69) a child (< Afrikaans outjie "little fellow, boy" from ou "old" + diminutive suffix -tjie); outspan (1822) a farmyard area laid off for travellers to rest and refresh their animals, from Afrikaans uitspan (uit "out" + span "stretch, span"; cf. Du uitspannen "unharness, unyoke, extend"); platteland (1930-69) the rural inner regions of South Africa (Afrikaans platteland "country districts, rural parts" < Du platteland "countryside" from plat "flat" + land "land, province"); poort (1769-99) in South Africa, a narrow mountain pass, especially one cut by a waterway (Afrikaans poort "gate, gateway, entrance; pass" < Du poort "gate, port, alleyway"); predikant (1849) a minister in the Dutch Reformed Church (especially in South Africa), from Afrikaans predikant < Du predikant "pastor, vicar, rector" < Old French; rand (1830-69) originally a rocky ridge or an area of sloping ground, since 1961 in English denoting the base unit of currency in South Africa (Afrikaans rand "brim, edge, rim" < Du rand "edge, rim, border"); ratel (1777) a musteline mammal of Africa and southern Asia, the honey-badger from Afrikaans ratel; remskoen (1800-29) a brake made from a wooden or metal shoe used to halt a wheel; also figuratively used to mean "hindrance" (Afrikaans remskoen "brake-shoe, lock; unprogressive person" < Du remschoen "brake shoe" < rem "brake" + schoen "shoe"); riem, riempie (1800-29) in SA English, a long strip or thong of dressed softened leather (Afrikaans riem "thong, strap, belt" < Du riem "belt, strap" from MDu rieme); rooikat a South African lynx (Afrikaans rooikat < rooi "red" + kat "cat"); rooinek (1870-99) a British or English-speaking South African (Afrikaans rooi "red" + nek "neck" < Du rood "red" + nek "neck"); schlenter (1830-69) originally a trick, now a counterfeit diamond (< Afrikaans slenter "trick, dodge, roguery" probably from Du slentery "knavery, trick"); skepsel (1830-69) a creature, also a villain or a rascal; often used negatively against indigenous blacks in colloquial speech (< Afrikaans skepsel "creature, being, wretch" < Du schepsel "creature"); skoff (1770-99) a stage of a journey, a period of travel between outspans, a period of work (from Afrikaans skof "lap, stage, stretch, march, shift" < Du schoft "quarter of the day; one of the day’s four meals"); sloot, sluit "a ditch for irrigation or drainage" (Afrikaans sloot "furrow, trench, ditch" < Du sloot "ditch"); spoor (1823) the trail of a wild animal, from Afrikaans spoor "track, trail, trace, footprint" (< Du spoor "track, trail, trace" < MDu spor, spoor "track, trace"); the verb spor "to track using a trail" appears in 1850, from Afrikaans spoor from MDu sporen, formed from spoor; springbok (1775) an antelope of the semi desert regions of southern Africa, from Afrikaans springbok (spring "leap" + bok "antelope" (< MDu boc "goat")); springhaas a South and East African nocturnal rodent resembling a small kangaroo (Afrikaans springhaas < Du spring "leap" and haas "hare"); spruit (1830-69) in SA English, a small watercourse which is dry except in the rainy season (Afrikaans spruit "tributary, sidestream, brook, watercourse, feeder" < Du spruit "sprout, offshoot"); steenbok (1775) a small African antelope, from Afrikaans steenbok (lit.) "stone antelope" (MDu steenboc from steen "stone" + boc "goat"; cf. Du steenbok "wild goat"); stoep (1822) a veranda, from Afrikaans stoep "porch, veranda" < Du stoep "front-door step, kerb (cf. American English stoop); swart gevaar (1930-69) "the black peril" - referring to the perceived threat to the western lifestyle posed by the indigenous blacks of South Africa (swart "black" + gevaar "danger", cf. Du zwart + gevaar); taal (1898) "language" (usually implies Afrikaans itself) from Afrikaans taal < Du taal "language"; takhaar (1870-99) in SA English, an unkempt person or a rustic (Afrikaans takhaar "backwoodsman, hillbilly" < Du tak "branch" + haar "hair"); tameletje (1830-69) a piece of hard toffee containing nuts, taffy, stickjaw candy, also fig. a pain in the neck (probably from tabletje "small cake"); togt (1830-69) originally a trade venture, now denoting casual labour hired for a specific job (Afrikaans togt "expedition, journey, voyage" < Du tocht "journey"); tot siens (1930-69) the Afrikaans (cf. Du tot ziens "goodbye!" ) equivalent of au revoir, auf Wiedersehen, gjensyn etc. "until we meet again, until next time, see you!"; trek (1849) "to migrate" from Afrikaans trek "journey, travel; pull" < Du trekken "travel, migrate, march; haul" (ultimately MDu trecken "draw, pull"; cf. LS trecken, German ziehen, Danish drage); the noun trek (1849) from Afrikaans trek "haul, pull; journey, trek" < Du trek "haul, pull; migration"; veldskoen (1800-29) a strong but soft suede or leather shoe for walking (< Afrikaans velskoen "raw-hide shoe", originally < Du fel "hide" + schoen "shoe" with later SA English confusion with veld "field"); veldt, veld (1785: veld) "open country in South Africa" from Afrikaans veld "field, pasture, country" < Du veld "field, open country" < MDu velt, veld "field"; the spelling veldt first appears in English in 1863; verkrampte (1930-69) socially conservative in political terms; a conservative person (< Afrikaans verkrampte "reactionary, ultra-conservative" < Du verkrampt "tense, narrow, cramped, contorted"); verligte (1930-69) progressive; a person who has political views which are such (< Afrikaans verligte "enlightened person, liberal" < Du verlicht "enlightened"); vlakte (1770-99) a plain or flat open country in South Africa (< Afrikaans vlakte "plain, heath" < Du vlakte "plain"); vlei (1770-99) in South Africa, a shallow pool of water or land swamped in the rainy season (Afrikaans vlei "marsh, swamp, quagmire" < Du vallei "valley"); voetganger (1800-29) a pedestrian; an infantryman (Afrikaans voetganger < Du voetganger "pedestrian" from voet "foot" + ganger "goer, walker"; cf. LS Footgänger, Danish fodgænger, German Fußgänger "pedestrian"); voetsek (1830-69) an interjective requesting the offending body leave "be off with you!" or "go away!"; also a verb meaning "chase away" or "leave" (< Afrikaans, earlier voertsek (now voert) a contraction of Du voort zeg ik lit. "away say I"); volk (1870-99) denotes the Afrikaans people but also frequently used derogatively about the coloured employees of a white master (Afrikaans volk "people, nation; labourers" < Du volk "people, folk"); voorkamer (date?) a front room or drawing-room, especially of a farmhouse (Afrikaans voorkamer < Du voorkamer "living-room" (voor "before" + kamer "room")); voorloper (1830-69) the leader of a span of oxen, often a young coloured boy (< Afrikaans voorloper "leader, forerunner; herald, harbinger" < Du voorloper "precursor, forerunner" from voor "before" + lopen "walk, go, run"); voortrekker (1870-99) a Boer pioneer, one of the original Afrikaaner settlers of the Transvaal and Orange Free State in the 1830s (< Afrikaans voortrekker "pioneer; Voortrekker" < Du voortrekker "pioneer" from voor "before" + trekken "trek"); wildebeest (1838) from Afrikaans wildebees (current spelling) "wild beast" < Du wild "wild" + beest "beast, ox"; the English word actually derives from the plural wildebeest; witblits (1930-69) in South Africa, an illegally home-brewed brandy (< Afrikaans witblits "home-made brandy, moonshine, white smoke" from wit "white" + blits "lightning" (cf. Du bliksem, German Blitz "lightning"));




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Many thanks to Reinhard Hahn - a speaker, writer and passionate supporter of Low Saxon - for his friendly and expert advice concerning the structure and content of this article.


© Edward Smith 2012


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