How many words does Dutch have?

It’s not that easy to say. The Dutch dictionary, from Fat Van Dalecontains 275,000 sloppy keywords.

But there are many copies that the average Dutch person doesn’t use or even know about. You should probably search for ‘Anticline’ and ‘balata’. Such words may belong to the Dutch vocabulary, but not to that of all Dutch speakers. Then there are also many words that are not in the Van Dale. A dictionary contains basic words, but not all the forms and combinations you can make of them. ‘Science’ and ‘magazine’ are included, but ‘science magazine’ is not. Not to mention the “hit number of a science magazine”, although you can still argue that it’s a real Dutch word.

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Another problem concerns words with multiple meanings: is the bank you sit on the same word as the bank you put your money in? If you are looking for a specific number, you will immediately run into the question of what you actually count as “one word”. It is easier to compare dictionaries of different languages. Dutch is then a mid-engine, English wins the competition with more than 300,000 keywords in it Oxford English Dictionary. This is because England was once conquered by Vikings and Normans, who each added words to the English vocabulary. English is also currently gaining many new words because so many people around the world are using this language. It’s a good thing that words also disappear – otherwise this dictionary would be really impossible to lift.


You can find this question in WATCH 11/2022.

Also a question for the ‘KIJK Answers’ section? Send him a mail at [email protected]. And in our brand new special, we answer 178 special, surprising and fascinating questions! Order it here!

Text: Sterre Leufkens

Opening Image: NASA/SDO

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