Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Dutch names consist of one or several given name(s) and a surname. The given name, as (usually) in English, is gender-specific.

Dutch name related terms
The given name is given to a child by the parents shortly after, or before, birth. It is common to give a child several given names, particularly among Catholics. Usually, one of them is meant to be for daily use. This is often underlined on official documents, as it is often the second or third christian or a totally different name not even related to the christian names.

Dutch given names
The Dutch naming legislation practically allows all given names unless they are too similar to an existing surname, or if the name is inappropriate. A limit of given names is unknown to the Dutch law, so in theory one could give a child an endless series of names. In the Netherlands however, five is usually the limit.
Also in Dutch tradition, marriage requires the female to drop her maiden name and take on the husband's name. The current Dutch law gives people more freedom: upon marriage, both partners keep their own surname, but are given the choice to use their partner's surname, or a combination of both. So if a person called Jansen marries someone called Smit, each partner has the choice to call his- or herself Jansen, Smit, Jansen-Smit or Smit-Jansen. The preferred option will be registered with the municipal registration, without giving up the right to use one's original name.
Parents can choose to give their children their father's name or their mother's, as long as the parents are married or are living together and the father has acknowledged the child. The surname of younger siblings has to be the same as the surname of the oldest child.

Dutch naming law
The history of Dutch given names can roughly be divided in four main periods:

The domination of Germanic names. (Migration Period and before until the high middle ages)
The High middle ages, when Germanic-based personal names were losing ground to non-native holy names. (High middle ages until the Early Modern era)
A period of stability, when a very strong naming habit emerged. (Early Modern era1945)
The post-World War II period, characterised by previously unknown personal names. (1945Present) History of Dutch given names
The Germanic names are the names with the longest history in the Dutch speaking area; they form the oldest layer of the given names known in Dutch. The Germanic names were characterised by a rich diversity, as there were many possible combinations. A Germanic name is composed of two parts. One part indicates the gender of the name, the other a charactaristic of the person. This way names like Adelbert or Albert are born, composed of "adel" (meaning "noble") and "bert" which is derived from "beracht" (meaning "bright" or "shining") hence the name means something in the order of "Bright/Shining through noble behaviour"; the English name "Albright", now only seen as a surname, is a cognate with the same origin). Combining these "parts" was used when the child was named after family or other relatives. For example the child would receive two parts from different family members, in this way a father named "Hildebrant" and a mother called "Gertrud" would call their son "Gerbrant" and their daughter "Hiltrud".

Germanic period
In the course of the Middle Ages names derived from Saints are getting more common than their Germanic counterparts. From the 12th century onwards it became a custom that the child received a christian name, even though some christian names like "Gertrude" and "Hubertus" were in fact of Germanic origin.
The direct influence of the church on the transition from Germanic to Christian names must not be overestimated. Before the council of Trent (15451563), the Roman Catholic church did not have any regulation of the practice of naming children.
There are thought to have been a number of reasons why the christian names gained the upper hand, such as the crusades, the larger ecclesiastical influence and the appearance of mendicant orders (such as the Franciscans and Dominicans) and most importantly, the veneration of saints and the appearance of patron saints. But apart from the religious influence it is believed that fashion was the main reason to give one's child a christian name. With the emergence of flourishing cities all over the Low Countries, the citizens, especially the wealthy ones, were what we would call trend-setters in contemporary times.
In these times some "typically" Dutch names like "Kees" (Cornelius), "Jan" (Johannes) and "Piet" (Petrus) emerge.

Mediæval names
When the conversion was made from Germanic to Christian names, most parents just picked a name they liked best or would be most helpful in the child's later life, for example if the child would come from a butcher's family and he himself would one day become a butcher, the child would probably be called after "Sint Joris" (the Dutch name for "Saint George"), the patron saint of the butchers.
The Dutch habit of naming newborns after another family member originates with an, at that time, widespread superstition that the name in some way contributed to some form of reincarnation of the person the child was named after, who was usually much older. This superstition disappears after some time, even though a certain Le Francq van Berkeij writes the following in 1776: "bij veelen, een oud, overgeloovig denkbeeld, dat iemand weldra sterft, wanneer hij, gelijk men zegt, vernoemd is." (many have a superstitious belief that a person will soon die when someone, as they say, has been named after him.)
As the centuries passed, this practice became so standard that the names of the children were practically known at the marriage of the future parents. The rules for naming were the following:

The first son was named after the father of the father / The first daughter was named after the mother of the mother.
The second child's name depended on the fact whether the first-born child was a boy or a girl. If the first-born child had been a boy, the second child would be named after its mother's family, and after its father's family if the first born had been a girl.
The third and fourth-born children would usually be named after the grandparents who did not yet have a grandchild named after them.
If the grandparents already had grandchildren named after them, the children would be named after their uncles and aunts, starting at the fathers family.
If a child would die, the next-born child would receive its name. Dutch name Stability
Traditionally there was little difference between the Christian name (doopnaam) and the name used in domestic spheres (roepnaam). If someone's Christian name was Johannes, domestically he was called Johan, Jan or Han.
After the war, the Dutch people became less religious; today the majority of the Dutch are non-practising Christians or atheists. Thus the Christian name and given name started to diverge, as personal names of foreign origin were adopted.
Nearly half of Dutch children today receive one name, over 30% is given two names, 17% have three names, 2.5% get four names and only very few children have five or more given names.
Today traditional official names are found, but often only as an addition to the modern name.

Dutch name Post-War period (1945+)
Many Dutch names start with a prefix like van ("of/from"), de/het/'t ("the"), der ("of the"), van de ("of the/from the"), and in het ("in the"). Examples are 't Hooft ("the head"), de Groot ("the big") , van Rijn ("from Rhine"); but be careful of such verb-derived names that end in -en that are often occupations, like van Bruggen ("bridge builder"). These prefixes are not spelled with a capital when used in combination with the first name, for example Piet de Groot. When written without first name, a capital is used, for example, Mr. Van Rijn. This capitalization practice is not uniformly followed outside the Netherlands; prefixes in most common Dutch names in Belgium are always capitalized, though occasionally 'Van de' occurs whereas another family may have the otherwise identical name spelled as 'Van De'.
When van is followed by the name of a place or area, this may (but does not always) indicate that a person belongs to the nobility (which does not have any special rights anymore today), such as Van Tuyll van Serooskerken. This usage exists also in Flemish names, though its nobility usually obtained the French prefix 'de'. In Dutch aristocratic names, the prefix is never capitalized. This results in people being very strict about whether the prefix in someone's should be capitalized or not, and in immigrants from the Netherlands always having an uncapitalized prefix.
In Dutch name directories, the prefixes are always ignored for sorting (e.g. Van Rijn is ordered under 'R'). A Dutch surname may often contain an article and/or a preposition, preceding the noun. Sometimes these have been merged with the name. Many Dutch surnames originated from different personal qualities, geographical locations, and occupations. However, Dutch names in English directories (e.g. reference lists of scientific papers) may be ordered on the full name including all prefixes (Van Rijn would be ordered under 'V'), partly because many Dutch emigrant families to English-speaking countries have capitalized their prefixes, like Martin Van Buren or Steve Van Dyck, and normal practise in English is to order on the first capitalized element. In Belgium, prepositions can be merged with the surname (such as Vandecasteele), or can be separate (Van De Casteele), and a few combinations occur (Vande Casteele), and all prefixes are always included for sorting. These variations indicate different families and not all names exist with several spellings. (More on this under Tussenvoegsels.)

Surnames were not required until 1811 when Napoleon had annexed the Netherlands. Since many Dutch people thought this convention would only be temporary, many deliberately chose confusing or comical names. For example:
Before 1811, those Dutch people who did have surnames often used their first name plus their profession, living area, or personal appearance. For example:
Names ending in the letter 'a', especially in suffixes like -ma, -stra or -inga, are usually of Frisian language origin.

Molenaar (meaning: "Miller")
Timmerman (meaning: "Carpenter")
De Groot (meaning: "The large one")
De Lange (meaning: "The tall one")
Korteweg (meaning: "living along the short road")
Van Rijn (meaning: "living along the Rhine") Patronymics
To the right are two lists of the most common Dutch surnames in the Netherlands and Belgium, where Dutch also is an official and the most spoken language. Note though that these are only the most numerous; while Meertens' Dutch surname database[2] lists 68667 different family names, the total Dutch speaking population in Europe is estimated to be about 23 million people. The most common Dutch names in Belgium are nearly all "father-based" names in which they are composed with the following formula name of father + "-son", the only exceptions being "Maes" (Meuse) and "De Smet" (the Smith). The most common Dutch names in the Netherlands are more diverse, with names ranging from "Visser" (Fisherman) to "Van Dijke" (living along the Dyke) and "De Jong" (the young one). It should be remembered however that these figures are based on the data of an entire country, and on a smaller scale other names tend to dominate certain regions.

Most common Dutch surnames
A tussenvoegsel, in Dutch linguistics, is a word that is positioned between someone's given name and surname, but is still a part of someone's last name.
In the Netherlands, the tussenvoegsels strictly speaking are not a part of someone's last name. For example, someone whose family name is "De Vries" isn't found at the letter "D" in the telephone directory but at "V". Tussenvoegsels are therefore also required to be listed separately in databases; another reason for this is that it makes finding someone's name relatively easy, as most Dutch prepositions start with the same letter. In the Netherlands, the tussenvoegsel is written with a capital letter if no name precedes it. So Jan de Vries (as Jan, is a given name meaning John), but: de heer De Vries (meaning mister De Vries) and de heer en mevrouw Jansen-De Vries, (Mister and madam Jansen-De Vries).
In Flanders tussenvoegsels of personal names always keep their original orthography: mevrouw van der Velde, mevrouw J. van der Velde and Jan Vanden Broucke.
Some Dutch tussenvoegsels (many of these words are inflected, and therefore often are not totally accurate) include:
And combinations:

aan (on)
bij (with)
de, den, der, d' (of/the)
het, 't (the)
in (in)
onder (below)
op (on)
over (over)
's (of/the)
't (the)
te, ten, ter (of)
tot (till)
uit, uijt (from)
van, vanden (of)
ver (far)
voor (for)
aan de, aan den, aan der, aan het, aan 't
bij de, bij den, bij het, bij 't
boven 'd
de die, de die le, de l', de la, de las, de le, de van der,
in de, in den, in der, in het, in 't
onder de, onder den, onder het, onder 't
over de, over den, over het, over 't
op de, op den, op der, op gen, op het, op 't, op ten
van de, van de l', van den, van der, vander, van gen, van het, van la, van 't, van ter, van van de
uit de, uit den, uit het, uit 't, uit te de , uit ten
uijt de, uijt den, uijt het, uijt 't, uijt te de , uijt ten
voor de, voor den, voor in 't See also

Dutch repertory of family names from the Meertens Instituut, data based on the frequently updated census of 1947
Dutch first names database again from the Meertens Instituut
Most frequent Dutch surnames from linguistic magazine Onze Taal