Avast aloof aardvark!

aardvarkWhat do the words in the title of this post have in common?

The answer is that they are all English words that come either directly or indirectly from Dutch.

Avast, a nautical term meaning “hold!” or “stop!” is probably a contraction to the Dutch phrase houd vast (hold fast).

Aloof comes from the Dutch loef (the lee or weather side of a ship) via the Middle English loof (weather gauge / windward direction). It was originally a nautical instruction to keep a ship heading into wind.

Aardvark comes from Dutch via the Afrikaans aard (earth) and varken (pig). It means literally “earth pig”.

Other English words of Dutch origin include:

  • Bazooka, from the Dutch bazuin (trumpet)
  • Bumpkin, from the Dutch bommekijn (little tree or barrel), or from the boomken (shrub, little tree)
  • Blink, from the Middle Dutch blinken (to glitter)
  • Booze, from the Middle Dutch busen (to drink to excess)
  • Brandy, from the Dutch brandewijn (burnt wine)
  • Cookie, from the Dutch koekje or koekie (biscuit/cookie)
  • Deck, from the Dutch dek (covering)
  • Easel, from the Dutch ezel (donkey)
  • Iceberg, from the Dutch ijsberg (ice mountain)
  • Maelstrom, from the Dutch maalstroom (grinding/stirring current)
  • Poppycock, from the Dutch pappekak (soft dung)
  • Santa Claus, from the Dutch Sinterklass (Saint Nicholas)
  • Slim, from the Dutch slim (bad, sly clever), which meant “bad / crooked” in Middle Dutch
  • Trek, from Dutch, via Afrikaans, trekken (to march / to travel)

A significant number of the Dutch words in English have a connection with sailing, boats or trade.