As in most European countries, most given names that are
currently in use are derived from the names of saints. In the
12th and 13th century, the Germanic names that were used then
were slowly replaced by the names of popular saints. A few
Germanic names survived, like Dirk. In the north,
especially in Friesland, indigenous names remained popular, and
currently many Frisian names have their origin in the
Old testament biblical names have also been popular in The
Netherlands, but never to the same extent as saint names.
Children were usually named after grandparents, parents, aunts
and uncles. This habit meant that generation after generation
used the same names, and there was no room for new names. This
changed in the last few decades, and we currently see the
traditional names being replaced by a new set of names.
Traditional names usually have a long form and one or more
short forms. The long form is often the official name (used in
almost all documents), but in daily life the short form will have
Common male names
Adrianus, Adriaan. From the Latin name
Hadrianus, the name of a Roman emperor and of several
popes. Short forms include Adri, Adrie,
Janus. English equivalent: Adrian.
Antonius, Antonie (and several spelling
variants). Latin name, and the name of several Saints. Short
forms include Anton, Ton, Tony. English
Cornelis. From the Latin name Cornelius.
Biblical name (Acts 10), and the name of a Saint. Short forms
include Cees, Cor, Cnelis, Nelis.
Dirk. From the Old Germanic name Diederik. The
name of several counts of Holland. One of the few Germanic names
that survived without the help of a Saint.
Gerardus, Gerard, Gerrit. From the Old
Germanic name Gerhard. The name of several Saints. Short
forms include Gert, Geert (but the full forms
Gerrit and Gerard are also used as short
Hendrik. Old Germanic name. Name of a Saint, and of
several German emperors and French, English and Castilian kings.
The most common short form is Henk. English equivalent:
Jacobus, Jacob. From the Hebrew ja'aqob.
Biblical name, and the name of several Saints, and of kings of
Aragon (Jaime) and England. Short forms include
Jaap, Co, Kobus. English equivalent:
Johannes, Jan. By far the most common male first
names in The Netherlands. From the Hebrew Johanan.
Biblical name, the name of many Saints, the name of an English
king. The most common short form is Jan, other forms
include Hans, Johan. English equivalent:
John. A 1961 investigation shows that a staggering 11% of
the male population used the first name Jan (source: Meertens Institute).
Pieter, Petrus. From the Greek word petra, rock.
The name of the main apostle (given to him by Jesus in
Matt.16:18). The most common short form is Piet. English
Willem, Wilhelmus. From the Old Germanic name
Wilhelm. The name of several Saints, the name of most
Dutch stadtholders, the name of all Dutch kings, and the name of
several English kings. The most common short form is Wim.
English equivalent: William.
Common female names
Adriana. Female form of Adrianus. Short forms
include Adri, Rie.
Anna. From the Hebrew Hanna. Biblical name, and
the name of a Saint. Short forms include An, Annie,
Ansje. English equivalents: Anna, Ann.
Anna is one of the few traditional names that remained
popular in the late 20th and early 21st century.
Catharina. Probably Greek. The name of several Saints.
Short forms include Trijntje, Cato, To,
Kaatje, Tinie, and many others. English equivalent:
Cornelia. Female form of Cornelis. Short forms
include Cor, Corrie, Neeltje.
Elisabeth, Elizabeth. From the Hebrew
Elisjeba. Biblical name (Luke 1:5), the name of several
Saints, the name of two reigning queens of England. Short forms
include Lijsje, Lies, Bep.
Hendrika. Female form of Hendrik. Short forms
include Riek, Rika, Hendrikje.
Johanna. Female form of Johannes. Short forms
include Jo, Jannie, Jantje, Jopie.
English equivalent: Jane.
Margaretha, Grietje. From the Greek word
margarité, pearl. The name of several Saints. Short forms
include Griet, Greet, Margreet. English
Maria. From the Hebrew Mirjam. Biblical name,
the name of Jesus' mother, the name of several Saints, the name
of several reigning English and Scottish queens. Short forms
include Ria, Rie, Marie, Marietje.
English equivalent: Mary. The name Maria is also
popular as the second or third (but never first) given name for
boys in the Catholic parts of The Netherlands.
Wilhelmina, Willemina. Female form of
Willem. Name of a Dutch reigning queen. Short forms
include Mien, Mina, Willie.
Popular baby names
The list of popular names has changed drastically in the last
few decades. Traditional names are still used as second or third
name, but not often as first name. Common short forms of girls
names, like Bep, Mien, Marietje, To
or Griet, have completely disappeared. An interesting
exception is Anna, number three on the list of popular
girls names in 2005 (after Sanne and Emma) and number three on
the list of common traditional names (after Maria and
The government agency responsible for distributing child
benefit (SVB) publishes annual
lists of the most popular baby names. The
top 10 for 2005: Sanne, Emma, Anna, Iris, Anouk, Lisa, Eva,
Julia, Lotte, and Isa for girls, and Daan, Sem, Thomas, Tim,
Lucas, Lars, Thijs, Milan, Jesse, and Bram for boys.