Why do many Dutch people have such a strange last name?

Asker: Jasper, 13 years old


It is a myth that there are more weird Dutch surnames than elsewhere – for each of their ‘Zoetemelk’ you have an ‘Uytebroeck’ here in Flanders. It is also not true that those strange names were taken as a mockery of the (Austrian, later French and Dutch) civil registry: initially both Zoetemelk and Uytebroeck had no humorous meaning. Below is a link to a list of funny Dutch surnames, but you could also use it for Flanders, and sometimes they have had a serious meaning.

However, there are a number of typical features with Dutch surnames:

  • the spelling is often more modern: rarely a -ck or -cke at the end, but a regular -k or -kke; oe sounds are written like this and not as ‘ou’. Their civil registry therefore started more than 15 years later than in Flanders, and found acceptance there more difficult.
  • the infixes (de, van) are lowercase.
  • In the eastern Netherlands, the surname often referred to the farm, with -ing or inga added. So they are toponyms, referring to a place of residence.
  • In the Northern Netherlands -stra and -sma endings were common, which were mostly patronymics, referring to the lineage.
  • In the South of the Netherlands there were many -s or -sz, also patronymics that are common in Flanders, but almost exclusively with an -s, from Peeters or Pieters to Janssens.

Why do many Dutch people have such a strange last name?

Answered by

Dr. Karl Catteeuw

History of upbringing and education, Romanian, music

Catholic University of Leuven
Old Market 13 3000 Leuven


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