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The Netherlandsmarker is known under various terms both in English and other languages. These are used to describe the different overlapping geographical, linguistic and political areas of the Netherlands. This is often a source of confusion for people from other parts of the world. In English the country is called 'the Netherlands' (or frequently 'Holland'), while the people and the language are called 'Dutch'. Note that in Dutch the official (and predominant) terms for these are 'Nederland' for the country, 'Nederlanders' for the people and 'Nederlands' for the language, although they are occasionally (colloquially) called 'Holland', 'Hollanders' and 'Hollands' respectively.

The Netherlands

"Netherlands" literally means "Low countries" or "Lowlands". Although the name of the country is singular in its native language (Nederland, or "Low country"), the English language uses a plural form (but usually with a singular verb). This plural convention is actually archaic, referring to the period 1581 to 1795 when the Dutch Republic was a loose confederation of seven provinces. The Dutch name for the Dutch Republic was Republiek der Zeven Verenigde Nederlanden (Republic of the Seven United Low Countries) or Nederlanden ("Low countries") for short. After Belgium's splitting off (1830) from the then recently formed United Kingdom of the Netherlands, the singular term Nederland became the usual name for the Dutch nation. English usage has simply not followed the Dutch shift to the singular.

A common error is capitalising the word the. The name "the Netherlands" is no different from many others, e.g. "the United States" or "the Federal Republic of Germany", and therefore the "t" should not be capitalised except at the beginning of a sentence. In addition, the Netherlands is sometimes mistakenly put under "T" in alphabetical lists.

The origin of the name

Dutch neder and English nether both mean 'down(ward), below'. These words are obsolete and are nowadays mostly substituted with 'lower'. This neder or nether could simply denote the geographical characteristics of the land, both flat and down river, as if it were a simple descriptive name. Any etymological explanation, however, should account for the historic context and motivation of the term. It has to be noted, that the specification nether/ lower- normally is opposed to upper-, in order to discern "upper" and "lower" in certain geographical designations, like Upper and Lower Austriamarker or Upper and Lower Silesia. Thus, the name Netherlands has nothing to do with the fact that the present-day Netherlands is a low-lying area, but was a way by which former rulers (Burgundian, Spanish, Austrian) referred to this downward part of their territories. This will be clarified in the next section.

Etymology of the Dutch toponym Nederlanden

Between 1348 and 1566 the Netherlands formed part of the duchy of Burgundy (as the Burgundian Netherlands) and later the Habsburg Empire (as the Seventeen Provinces). The Southern Provinces were first known as the Spanish Netherlands and later as the Austrian Netherlands. The Netherlands, then, were perceived as "neder" to the 16th Century Habsburg rulers, who possessed territories both in the Low Countries and in Austria. Their 15th century Burgundian predecessors appear to already have coined the name in French, for comparable reasons. And so the name Nyderlande or noz pays d'embas was born.

Thus, the etymology of the Dutch word "Nederlanden" is pretty clear. It derives from the practice of the Burgundian overlords of the area to distinguish between their patrimonial lands, South of Champagne and Lorrainemarker, as les pays de par delà (or "the lands over there") and their more recent northern acquisitions (roughly the current Benelux countries) as les pays de par deça (or "the lands over here"). This usage was predicated on the fact that the Duke spent most of his time in the Benelux ("here"), instead of in Burgundy ("there"). After the death of Charles the Bold in 1477, and the subsequent transfer of the Benelux part to Habsburg "ownership" (while the Burgundy part reverted to France at the same time) "les pays de par deça" became "les pays d'embas" in which the archaic French term d'embas, the opposite of dessus, may be translated as "lower" or "nether."

In those days, French was the language of government in the area as a whole, but as the people and administrators in the Dutch speaking areas did not use French in daily life (if they were conversant at all), translations of technical terms like "pays d'embas" had to be provided which found their way into Dutch. The Dutch translations of these French expressions were pretty straightforward: les pays de par deça became "landen van herwaarts over" and later les pays d'embas became "Nederlanden", in both cases literal translations from the French.

The English usage of the Netherlands

However, this does not explain where the English word "Netherlands" originates. It seems clear that the alternative designation "Low Countries" is a translation of the French "Pays-Bas" (which itself apparently derives from "les pays d'embas"). But is "the Netherlands" equally related to the Dutch "de Nederlanden?" It seems likely, especially as the English construct "nether-lands" sounds like the Dutch "neder-landen" even though it feels awkward as a translation ("low countries" would be a better translation). More likely, "Netherlands" may have entered the English language as a bastardization of a Dutch word (like "jacht" became "yacht"). But it is dangerous to jump to conclusions in these matters. Thus far, something like the "first use" of the term "Netherlands" in the English language has not been attested yet. One would expect that such first use would go back to Tudor times, but the designation then might have been "Flanders," or "Low Countries," whereas the northern Netherlands were usually designated as "United Provinces" (instead of "United Netherlands"), or simply "Holland" .

Kingdom of the Netherlands

From 1815-1830 the United Kingdom of the Netherlands existed, but then Belgium became independent. The Northern Provinces continued using the name "the Netherlands". Outside the Kingdom of the Netherlands, "Netherlands" may be used as the conventional short form to describe the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The latter encompasses the Netherlandsmarker, a constituent country within the Kingdom, the Netherlands Antillesmarker and Arubamarker. In Dutch common practice, however, the Kingdom of the Netherlands is shortened to "Kingdom" and not to "Netherlands", as that may confuse the Kingdom with the constituent country. The Charter for the Kingdom of the Netherlands also shortens the Kingdom of the Netherlands to Kingdom rather than "Netherlands".

Historically Surinamemarker and Indonesiamarker were also part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.


The English adjective "Netherlandish" means "from the Netherlands". However, in practice, this adjective is normally used when referring to paintings produced in the 15th and early 16th century anywhere in the Low Countries, which are referred to as Early Netherlandish painting (in Dutch Vlaamse primitieven, Flemish primitives—also common in English before the mid 20th century).From around the 16th century onwards, art or artists from the southern Catholic provinces are usually referred to as "Flemish" and from the northern Protestant provinces as Dutch, but art historians sometimes refer to Netherlandish art for art produced in both areas between 1400 and 1830.


In many languages, including English, "Holland" (Hollande, Holanda etc.) is often used as a common synonym for the Netherlands as a whole. Even the Dutch do this sometimes. Strictly speaking, it refers only to the central-western part of the country, which consists of two of the country's twelve provinces: North Holland and South Hollandmarker.Such use of a part to designate its whole, which also occurs elsewhere, is called pars pro toto, from Latin. Examples include Russiamarker for the (former) Soviet Unionmarker, and Englandmarker for the United Kingdommarker (see also Terminology of the British Isles).

Historically, Holland was the most powerful province of the Netherlands: the counts of Holland were also counts of Hainautmarker, Friesland and Zeelandmarker between the 1200s and 1400s.During the period of the Dutch Republicthe stadtholderof Holland was the most powerful politician in the Netherlands, who often also was stadtholder in other provinces; the cities in Holland were important trading cities, for instance of the six cities that made up the Dutch East India Company, five were in Holland. The two provinces making up Holland still remain demographically dominant - they house 37% of the Dutch population. The full name of the republican province was Holland and West Friesland, so it can be argued that "Holland" does not even indicate the whole area of the two provinces. After the demise of the Dutch Republic under Napoleon, the country became the Kingdom of Holland(1806-1810).

The name "Holland" for the Netherlands is also used colloquially by the Dutch themselves, especially in relation to football, where the national team is sometimes cheered on with "Holland!" The term is also used for promotion, because the name "Holland" is the best known worldwide.

In the most 'remote' provinces, i.e. those that lie furthest from Holland, notably Friesland, Groningenmarker and Limburgmarker, the word Hollander is frequently used in a pejorative sense, to refer to the perceived superiority or supposed arrogance of people from the Randstadmarker.As a natural reaction, people from these provinces do not always appreciate being called Hollander. This attitude is to be explained in socio-cultural or socio-historic terms. In Flandersas well, the word Hollanderis used in this pejorative sense.


"Dutch" is the term used to describe the inhabitants of the Netherlands, their language, and as an adjective meaning "coming from or belonging to the Netherlands". Dutch is not only spoken in the Netherlands, but also in Belgium by the Flemish Community (in the Flemish Regionmarker and the Brussels-Capital Regionmarker), parts of northern France (around Dunkirkmarker), Suriname, Arubamarker and the Netherlands Antillesmarker.Its southern dialects are sometimes called Flemish. Afrikaans, spoken in South Africa and the southern part of Namibiamarker is derived from the Dutch language.

The English word "Dutch" is a cognateto the Dutch word dietschand the German word Deutsch. All these words have the same etymological origin. Both these terms derive from what in Common West Germanicwas known as theodisca, which meant "(language) of the (common) people". During the early Middle Ages, the elite mostly used Latinand the common people used their local languages.

In the 1930s, Nazi Germanysought to "re-unite" the Dutch language area by referring to it as Dietsland.

In the United States, the term "Dutch" has in the past sometimes been used instead of Deutschto indicate a Germanorigin - e.g. Dutch Schultz, the Pennsylvania Dutch, and so forth.

Low Countries

The name "Low Countries" may be used to refer to the Netherlands, while it actually refers to the historical region de Nederlanden: those principalities located on and around the mostly low-lying land around the delta of the Rhinemarker, Scheldtmarker, and Meusemarker rivers.This area very roughly corresponds to the countries of the Netherlands, Belgiummarker and Luxembourgmarker.This region was called Greater Netherlandsby irredentistswho sought to unite it. This historical region also was referred to as "The Netherlands" in English. Between 1579 and 1794 the area comprising present Belgium, Luxembourg and parts of northern France was called the Southern Netherlands(or the "Spanish Netherlands" between 1579 and 1713, the "Austrian Netherlands" after 1713, after the main possession of their Habsburg lord).

This region was united three times, in the Seventeen Provincesas a personal unionduring the 16th century, in the United Kingdom of the Netherlandsbetween 1815 and 1830 under King William I, and as the Beneluxcustoms union founded in 1948.

In other languages

In most languages, the name for the country literally means Low Countriesor is derived from Nederlandor Holland. It is different in each language which form or forms are used. Sometimes the name for the country is one form and the adjectiveto refer to it is another. The use of Dutchas a reference to the Netherlands is an international exception though.Not exceptional is the use of one word to refer to the country and another to refer to the language. More about this difference in the article Names for the Dutch language.

Netherlands-related naming issues

Abel Tasman gave the name New Holland to the continent now known as Australiamarker, a name it retained for 150 years until the United Kingdommarker renamed it in 1824.There was also a colony called New Hollandin South America.

The Dutch colony centred on New Amsterdam (the modern New York Citymarker) was called New Netherland.


See also

This lorry is lettered as if from Beerta, Holland.
However, Beerta is in Groningen, not in Holland.
Low Countries
Afrikaans Nederland Holland
Albanian Nederlandë Holandë
Arabic هولندا (Hollanda)
Aragonese neerlandés (adj) Países Baxos Olanda
Asturian Holanda
Bengali নেদারল্যান্ড্‌স Nedarlênḍs ওলন্দাজ Olondaj
Breton Izelvroioù Holland
Bosnian Nizozemska Holandija
Bulgarian Нидерландия ниски земи Холандия
Catalan neerlandès (adj) Països Baixos Holanda
Chinese Kē-tē-kok (Min-nan Chinese/Taiwanese) 荷蘭 / 荷兰
Croatian Nizozemska :hr:Holandija
Czech Nizozemsko Holandsko
Danish Nederlandene Holland
Lage Landen
English Netherlands Low Countries Holland Dutch
Esperanto Nederlando Holando
Estonian Madalmaad
Finnish Alankomaat Hollanti
French néerlandais (adj) Pays-Bas Hollande Thiois
Galician neerlandés (adj) Países Baixos Holanda
Georgian ნიდერლანდი (Niderlandi) ჰოლანდია (Holandia)
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