Dutch words in Catalan, Portuguese and Spanish

This is a translation of part of the chapter on Romance languages in Marius F Valkhoff’s 1943 study of De expansie van het Nederlands. The text is annotated–probably excessively and untidily so–with [additional or contrasting information] and [???] where Valkhoff has clearly found something I haven’t.

Dictionaries & corpses

ISO 639-2 language codes

Catalan Cat
Dutch Dut
Dutch, Middle Dum
English Eng
English, Old Ang
French Fre
French, Old Fro
German Ger
German, Old High Goh
Gothic Got
Greek, Ancient Grc
Italian Ita
Latin Lat
Spanish Spa

This is a translation of part of the chapter on Romance languages in Marius F Valkhoff’s 1943 study of De expansie van het Nederlands. The text is annotated–probably excessively and untidily so–with [additional or contrasting information] and [???] where Valkhoff has clearly found something I haven’t.

Valkhoff notes

that much Dutch passed over before the current Spanish era, that is to say in the mediaeval, principally Southern Netherlandish expansion. Just as for terms that entered Italian, both direct and indirect routes are feasible, while Spanish or Provençal dialects also now and then operated as intermediaries, respectively for Portuguese and Catalan.

He begins by noting that many peninsular borrowings are maritime:

We find bakboord [port, Spa = babor] and stuurboord [starboard, Spa = estribor, DRAE says both ← Fre] in all three Hispanic languages… Various types of sailing ship are, for example, borrowed from us. The Spaniards use both bote [DRAE says Spa ← Ang bat] and the diminutive botequin (=bootkijn), as well as belandra (bijlander [Small ship with a single mast, spanker sail and various jibs; DRAE calls it balandra, and Spa ← Fre balandre]), esnón (snauw [brig]), filibote (vlieboot [flyboat; DRAE says Spa ← Fre flibot; my ramblings here)]), lugre (logger [DRAE says Spa ← Eng lugger without Dut intervention, AHD says lugger shares a root with lugs, ears!]), urca (hulk [cargo frigate]); the Portuguese flute (fluit, a cargo boat suited to all seas [flute]), the Catalans dogre (doggerboot [GDLC says Cat ← Fre dogre and describes sailing boats used in herring fishery in the North Sea; Eng: Dogger boat]). Further, all kinds of manoeuvres, for example amarrar (maren … [to moor; DRAE says Spa ← Fre amarrer ← Dutch anmarren, atar]), arrimar (aanruimen, of de lading stuwen), bojar [Spa] (bogen… [to circle; DRAE suggests Spa ← Cat vogir ← Lat volvÄ•re]), dragar [Spa] (dragen … [to dredge]), izar [Spa] (hischen, hijsen [to hoist; DRAE says Spa ← Fre hisser]), toar [Spa, also atoar] (togen [to tow; DRAE says Spa ← Fro toer]), all of which derive from older Netherlandish roots.

[Non-maritime borrowings]

However, borrowings are not in any respect solely maritime; one will encounter many trading terms, such as afretar [Spa, Cat], bevrachten [to freight, to befreight. DRAE and DCVB appear to get this wrong, suggesting it refers (only) to cleaning a ship’s hull and is of unclear origin; I don’t know of any usage in this sense, but CORDE has several C15th citations alla Valkhoff for afret*], military words, such as arcabuz [Spa], haakbus [harquebus], names of articles of clothing (falla [Spa], falie, a sleeveless women’s cloak [faille; I’ve never come across falla in this sense in Spa literature]) and of furniture (escaparete [Spa, normally escaparate], schaprade, bookcase [in C15th Spa I think this is generally a wardrobe]), appellations of fish, such as estocafis [Spa, normally estocafís; Cat, normally estocfix, estocafix] = stokvis [stockfish, GDLC suggests may have led to peninsular use, although the original is Dum], and of people, such as belitre = bedelaar [beggar; DRAE says Spa ← Fre ← Ger bettler, while GDLC suggests Cat belitre ← Grc blíturi (blitiri, writes Umberto Eco), a nonsense word applied by the Scholastics to worthless men], weavers’ terms: aspa, haspel [reel; DRAE says Spa ← Got haspa] and carpenters’ words: varlopa [Spa; ???], voorloper [Dut], a large plane.


This multifacetedness [sorry] is at its most charming in metonymies, placenames used to refer to the product of the region or town in question, simultaneously throwing light on economic relationships. Thus Hondschoote, a small town in the Westhoek [French Flanders] where cloth is still manufactured [maybe it was in the 1940s], is still used in Spanish and Catalan as anascote [Cat normally anascot, DRAE says Spa ← Fro] to refer to a rough woollen cloth. Bois-le-Duc or ‘s Hertogenbosch [nowadays usually Den Bosch] gave its name both to a type of knife (belduque) and to the tape used to tie up packages (French bolduc, Spanish balduque); Gand or Gent – to a rough cloth (gante) [DRAE confirms all these].

Batàvia was the name given in Portuguese to a fine linen, and it is also a type of tobacco there [???]. Brabant is the land of thieves (Old-Spanish breimante [???]), of a flaxen cloth (brabante, bramante [DRAE: linen made in Brabant]) and of thick hempen thread (bramante [DRAE: very thin hempen string]). Friesland provided or gave its name to the caballos de Frisa, Friese ruiters [Friesian horse, in the sense, admissible in both Spa and Eng, of cavalry], a type of oblique obstruction [used to stop cavalry charges; also Spaanse ruiters, Spanish horse, in Dut], de frisones [Spa], frisâos [Por] or frisós [Cat], our heavy Friesian horses, and wool for lining, frisa [CORDE but not DRAE]. Friesian cloth, telas de Frisa, which came principally from Flanders but which was originally transported by Friesian seafarers, was already widely known in the early Middle Ages. Gueldre or Gelderland provided a fashionable garment, the galdre, a type of short overcoat [CORDE has several galdre/galdrés of this type, but the dictionaries are silent. DRAE/DCVB, however, have respectively gualdrapa (origins uncertain)/gualdrapa (← gualdrappa (Ita), uncertain beyond that) = horse blanket, while CORDE’s g[u]aldrapas are clearly also worn by people].

The name Holland has served in many variants to refer to various of its weaves, principally fine linen and batiste. Thus the Portuguese hollanda means: 1. a linen weave, 2. Dutch gin, 3. a type of paper… [the first, yes, the rest?] Finally, one will find in the dictionary of the Spanish Academy a whole column of expressions incorporating Flandes (Vlaanderen [Flanders]), which demonstrate how popular this province of the Spanish Empire was, and in Catalonia we discover flanda, Flemish pine wood [GDLC: flandes = wood from northern European pine, specifically Norway spruce, Picea abies].

Here are some other favourite borrowings (I’d have delved into Catalan, but the Institute of Catalan Studies or the copyright holders have done their best to limit to a minimum the DCVB database’s searchability; Portugal is even worse off, and my Portuguese is crap anyway):

  • abra, small bay (DRAE: ← Fre havre, seaport ← Dum havene, port)
  • baluarte, bulwark (DRAE: ← Fro balouart ← Dum bolwerc)
  • canica, marble (the object), marbles (the game) (DRAE: ← dialect Fre canique ← Dut knikker)
  • dique, dyke (DRAE: ← Dut dijk)
  • duna, dune (DRAE: ← Dut duin ← Ger *dÅ«no-, hill)

Guerra, war is pretty close–DRAE says it’s ← Ger *werra, but reminds us of Dum warre. Flamenco is ← Dut flaming, Fleming, but I don’t know how it came to be applied to song and dance. Brandy is ← Eng ← Dut brandewijn, burnt wine, but everyone here calls it coñac, and the French be damned, as is regrettably usual.

(I do the odd bit of Spanish and Catalan translation, and have even ventured into Provençal. However, the Dutch and Flemish pay significantly better…)

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