Onomastic Research

Flag_of_the_NetherlandsStudies about toponyms


Toponymic rows in (former) geography teaching: What do they tell us about the perception of toponymic clusters on atlas maps?

Paper presented at the ICA Joint Commission Conference ‘Atlases in Time’, in Madrid (Spain), on 20-23 April 2022.


Until about 40 years ago school pupils in the Netherlands and other countries were taught toponymic rows as a means to memorize geographical features on maps, varying from cities to mountains and oceans. This study departs from the assumption that the naming order in such rows reflects the way the row creator depicted that particular part of the map.

Although education systems have changed, these toponymic rows can still be used to inventarize mental ordering principles: we may assume that these remained unchanged, and they are probably universal. This study tries to investigate which order patterns occur in such name rows, and which of them reflect the mental map. It will be suggested, a.o., that toponymic rows very often start with names of cities, especially capitals, or densely populated areas; and that tributaries of rivers are mentioned in downstream order. The research is mainly based on Steinz (1991), a mainly Dutch collection.


Looking for the middle of nowhere: nicknames denoting imaginary remote locations and alluding to really existing ones 

In: Loth, Chrismi-Rinda (red.). Recognition, regulation, revitalisation: place names and indigenous languages. 2020.

Nicknames for imaginary remote hamlets are widespread. One may think, for example, of Hintertüpfingen (German), Podunk Hollow (US English), Trifouillis-les-Oies (French), and Anderkantnêrens (Afrikaans). In the Netherlands, Boerenkoolstronkeradeel is best known (boerenkool = kale, stronk= stembase, deel = municipality). The leading Dutch dictionary defines Boerenkoolstronkeradeel as “a remote hamlet, alledgedly unreachable for ‘modern civilisation’”; the reference is the Randstad, the conglomeration in the western part of the country which is the national economical and cultural center. Two factors may therefore be supposed to have played a part in making some really existing locations inspirational: 1) their remoteness, 2) their agrarian character. This paper tries to identify regional linguistic characteristics in these nicknames, and tries to relate them to specific existing locations. For example, Boerenkoolstronkeradeel, with its ending –deel, evokes strong associations with the province of Friesland; this ending occurs in over 15 Frisian toponyms, like Tietjerksteradeel. The paper analyzes to what extent each of the two factors may have caused such really existing names to be inspirational. One of the conclusions will be that a third factor, too, must be considered: the linguistic distance between regional languages concerned and the standard language.



Concerns about the cultural heritage: Language choice in place-name signs in Friesland (Dutch, Dutch-Frisian, Frisian-Dutch, Frisian)

In: It Beaken 2018-2.


In Friesland (640,000 inhabitants), a province of the Netherlands, fifty-five percent of the population are native speakers of Frisian, recognized as the second official language in the Netherlands. The remaining 45 percent are native speakers of Dutch and two dialects. Generally speaking Frisian prevails in rural areas, whereas Dutch predominates in urban zones. Moreover, Frisian is “widely used especially in informal situations”.

Traditionally, place-names in Friesland were monolingual Dutch. In 1953, the Dutch government had prescibed that municipalities in Friesland have the right to decide on the names of towns and hamlets in Frisian, whether or not bilingual. In case of bilinguality, only the Dutch name would be considered as the official one.

Right now most place-name signs are bilingual, either Frisian being at the top (FN) or Dutch (NF). In this article Leeuwarden and other urbanized municipalities are compared with Brussels (Belgium): they exercise a Dutchifying influence in the adjoining rural vollages – just like Brussels is frenchfying its rural Flemish neighbors. The adjoining rural municipalities thus feel threatened in their language and culture. People perceive place-names as something of their own and this explains that such localities feel the need to frisify their place-name signs; e.g. Leeuwarderadeel is announced by an FN sign. Rural municipalities which do not border on urbanized ones do not feel this need and do not wish to grant their signs a more Frisian character, like in the case of Dongeradeel (NF, not FN). Yet another phenomenon can be seen in the Frisian cities themselves: they experience two die ervaren two oppositeneeds: de Dutch speaking part of the population does not wish any frisification, while the Frisian minority does – resulting in a ‘compromis’ in the shape of DF signs, like Leeuwarden-Ljouwert.



Restoring obsolete toponyms and embroidering on obsolete meanings, as an expression of the presumed ideal world: the case of Islamic State.
Paper presented at the 16th ICOS Conference ‘Locality and globality in the world of names’, in Debrecen (Hungary), on 27 August – 1 September 2017.

In: Anthropology vol. 5 (2017), issue 4.

To be consulted here


After the terrorist assaults in Paris, on November 13, 2015, Islamic State communicated that the perpetrators ‘had come from all over the world to Gaul’. Doing this, IS drew on a long forgotten medieval name for France; in current Arabic, France is called Fransa. Going back to obsolete toponyms is in itself not a recent phenomenon. For example, many Soviet locations have been renamed after the disintegration of the Soviet-Union; and the name of the Holy Roman Empire dates from C 14, long after the Roman empire had ended. It was intended to suggest that the supreme power had been inherited from the emperors of Rome. This paper inventarizes such restored names. like Andalusia ‘Spain’ and Gaul ‘France’. Attention will also be paid to the semantic development of the name Rome (used by IS in the sense ‘Western  powers’), and to the historical periods in which the now obsolete toponyms were in general use. The paper concludes that IS terminology reflects the cultural, religious and political preferences of Islamic State, and its desire to revive the boom times of Islam.


Prototypical peripheral toponym pairs expressing the concept ‘all over the country’ as a part of the mental map
Paper presented at the International Cartographic Conference 2017 on July 2 -7, 2017, in Washington DC.

In: KN – Journal of Cartography and Geographic Information 69 (2019); 229-250.



Expressing the concept ‘all over the country’ mentioning one or more name pairs is a well-known phenomenon. A Dutch example is ‘Van Delfzijl tot Maastricht’, Delfzijl being situated in the extreme north of the country, Maastricht in the south. Two name pairs occur in Heinrich Hoffmann von Fallersleben’s Lied der Deutschen (1841): “Von der Maas bis an die Memel, / Von der Etsch bis an den Belt – / Deutschland, Deutschland über alles.” Such expressions are not only used on the national level, but also on subnational and supranational levels (for example, provinces and continents). Obviously, they arise spontaneously, many of them being preceded (or followed) by phrases like “overal in Nederland” [all over the country]. This paper departs from the idea that, if a country (etc.) has oblong contours, toponym pairs may preferably be chosen which are most distant from each other: this would illustrate ‘ubiquity’ better than choosing shorter ones. A few  A few name pairs consist of toponyms with the initials A and Z, respectively (“Van Amsterdam tot Zutphen”), thus evoking the image a list, and therefore the concept of completeness (“Van Apeldoorn tot Zundert”), or use alliteration (“van Dokkum tot Domburg”) or rhyme (“van Zandvoort tot Montfoort”).  This paper focuses on the Netherlands. The research will try to shed light on the structure of the mental map by examining: (1) the existence of a basical conscience ‘naive’ individuals possess with regard to the cartographic contours of a country, province, etc.; (2) geographical features deemed essential on the mental map if the concept of ‘ubiquity’ is involved; (3) whether the mental map prefers cardinal compass directions to ordinal compass directions; (4) whether the mental map prefers a fixed pattern in the direction expressed by the name order within name pairs. For example: is there a clear tendency tot prefer East-West to West-East? (5) to what extent linguistic phenomena like alliteration play a role on the mental map.

In: KN – Journal of Cartography and Geoographic Information 2019 (in press)

Expressing remoteness in exaggerations: ‘He has an ego from here to Tokyo’.
Paper presented at the 33rd International Geographical Congress ‘Shaping our harmonious worlds’ in Beijing, August 21-25, 2016.


Metaphorical sayings which contain a toponym are a popular phenomenon in the Netherlands and some other countries. For example, in November 2015 a Greek politician complimented prime minister Tsipras on Facebook: ‘Tsipras, you’ve got balls from here to Singapore’. The toponyms concerned refer mostly to towns and cities, in the Netherlands as well as abroad. Only exceptionally, locations outside the planet are used, like ‘from here to Saturn’. The sayings express exaggeration, and are equivalents of (1) ‘huge/ large’ (He has a criminal record from here to Maastricht); (2) ‘extremely’ (I feel sentimental from here to Tokyo); (3) ‘intense, loud’ and the like (I heard shouting from here to Jerusalem); (4) ‘many’ (We heard stories from here to Malaga). The earliest attestation in the Dutch language dates from 1528 (‘a fart from here to Jerusalem’). Since then, over time tens of toponyms occurred once or repeatedly in these sayings. According to LexisNexis, a newspaper database, the name of Tokyo emerged in 1969 and has gradually become the most used toponym in this type of expressions. This paper will pay special attention to this name variant. The strong preference for Tokyo is probably for the most part due to the circumstance that out of all remote locations the Japanese capital was the most in the news. As early as in the 1980’s, ‘from here to Tokyo’ was more popular than ‘from here to Peking’ and ‘from here to Jerusalem’ (ranking second and third, respectively). An additional reason might be that an Asian location like Tokyo is considered as relatively exotic in comparison with, for example, Melbourne, although the latter is, from a Dutch perspective, considerably more remote.


From Limbabwe to Walifornië: Metaphorical toponyms in the Low Countries.
Paper presented at the 18th biennial conference on Netherlandic Studies ‘Imagining the Low Lands’ in Ann Arbor, June 2-4  2016.

In: GeoJournal (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10708-018-9910-3


Mixed toponyms, based on two pre-existing toponyms, date – as a name category – from before C 20. For example, Eurasia has been attested in C 19. Names like Eurasia refer to the combined area denoted by the name components. This paper examines a more recent kind of mixed toponyms, namely, nicknames which express a metaphor and are composed of (1) an element referring to a given geographical entity A (mostly a country, province or region) which is being compared with a geographical entity B; (2) an element referring to entity B. For example, Chicago is nicknamed Chiraq because the multiple shootings reminded of the war in Iraq, and the Ukrainian region Lugansk is called Luganda, alluding to the chaotic and violent situation in Uganda. This paper focuses on nicknames (Dutch as well as French ones) in the Netherlands and Belgium (Flanders, Wallonia and Brussels). Especially, the following questions will be examined. (1) Does the first name element always correspond with entity A, as in the Chiraq case, or can it also refer to B? The talk will suggest that  the last mentioned order is rather exceptional (example: Bulgique = Bulgaria + Belgium); (2) Which properties are referred to? (3) Pragmatic aspects: a) Who were the name givers? b) If outsiders gave the name, was it subsequently adopted by the mocked group?


Twin border locations with similar names. How do they reflect the administrative and linguistic past?
Paper presented at the IGU Regional Conference in Moscow, August 17-18, 2015.

In: Taal en Tongval 2019


The Netherlands (hereafter: NL) shares its national border with Belgium (hereafter: B) and Germany (D). Alongside the border are toponyms which are either identical (like Lemiers: NL, also D), or near-identical, like Clinge (NL)/ De Klinge (B) or Aamsveen (NL)/ Amtsvenn (D). The names concerned denote adjoining settlements and regions. Name pairs like Aamsveen/ Amtsvenn, differring in pronunciation, are comparable to name pairs like Görlitz/ Zgorzelec, on the German-Polish border. The Belgian border is not a linguistic border; Dutch is the standard language on both sides of it (apart from a small Belgian region where French is the standard language, the local dialect on both sides being High-German). The German border, however, divides two standard languages, while there used to be a continuum on the dialectal level until until about 1940. Since C 19, both  the Dutch and the German standard language have won ground at the expense of the dialect, due to the increased influence of the national administrations. This paper focuses on twin names which show small differences. For example, some differences are (partly) orthographic (Clinge (NL)/De Klinge (B)), others imply (partial) translations and folk etymological adaptations (Aamsveen (NL)/ Amtsvenn (D)) or relate to morphological differences: Baarle Hertog (B) versus Baarle Nassau (NL). The paper presents an impetus to a typology and tries to explain the differences by relating them (with respect to the German border) to increased influence of the German standard language and orthography (and, by consequence, spelling pronunciation), and, with regard to the Belgian border, to different spelling regulations.

How does the outside world respond to newly changed official names of cities or countries? Trying to measure the reception process.
Paper presented at the conference ‘Place-name changes’ of IGU in Rome, November 17-18, 2015.

In: Paul Woodman & Peter Jordan, Name & Place, vol. 5. Hamburg: Kovac Publishers, 2016.


From time to time, official names of countries and cities are officially changed. For example, Burma became Myanmar in 1989, South West Africa became Namibia in 1990.
The general public in the outside world responds in different ways to such changes. Sometimes, for example, the new name is quickly accepted, in other cases not, often for political reasons. This paper departs from the idea that there might be a relationship between the degree of acceptance on the one hand and the way the newly renamed locations are indicated in newspapers. The following indications might throw light on the acceptance (or non-acceptance) of a new name, in that it may go through several stages: 1) the new name is ignored, only the ancient name is mentioned; 2) the ancient name is used with an explaining gloss mentioning the new name, for example “Birma (now officially Myanmar”; 3) the new name is used with an explaining gloss mentioning the old name; 4) only the new name is mentioned. My hypothesis is, that the acceptation process might follow a fixed pattern. By means of LexisNexis, the paper will examine the response in Dutch newspapers to two name changes. One of these name changes: Burma (in Dutch also Birma) > Myanmar, is deemed more or less a failure in the Netherlands, according to the available sources, contrary to the other one: Zuid-West-Afrika (Southwest-West-Africa) > Namibië (Namibia). In case of non-acceptance, one would expect that the above mentioned process has been interrupted; e.g. the process would end in stage 1, 2 or 3 (but will not reach stage 4). The paper offers a quantitative approach of the acceptation process.


Toponyms in uninhabited areas: the case of the southern North Sea.
Paper presented at the conference ‘Changes, Challenges, Responsability’ of the IGU, August 18-22, 2014 in Cracow.

In: Geo Journal 2016, vol. 81, nr. 1.


Endonyms and exonyms are usually defined as geographic name variants, used by communities in loco and by outsider communities, respectively. Jordan (2012) has argued that coastal dwellers may be aware of an ‘artificial’ line between the sea area where their own name has endonym status, contrary to the area where others have different names for the same referents – the latter being exonyms in the view of the first mentioned community. Endonyms, the author states, reflect that the name giving community feels ‘at home’ in the territory concerned, or emotionally attached to it. The author has proposed to consider names in uninhabited areas as endonyms if they (1) have first been attributed by one of the adjoining language communities, or (2) have etymological roots in the language of such a community, or (3) have been attributed from the perspective of such a community. His proposal meets, however, with a difficulty: translations or adaptations in another language may be felt in due time as endonyms by the speakers of that language. In this paper a strictly synchronic approach will therefore be applied. The consequence is, that no distinction will be made between endonyms and exonyms. The paper, focusing on feature names in the southern North Sea, discerns: (1) Dutch names without English equivalent, (2) English names without Dutch equivalent; and 3) Dutch and English name pairs. It examines their geographic distribution and will try to draw some conclusions concerning the name giving processes involved.

Carnival place-nicknames alluding to the one of a neighboring town: Strienestad, Strienedurpke and the like.
Paper presented at the conference ‘Names and their environment’ of ICOS, August 15-29, 2014 in Glasgow.


For a long time, neighboring settlements have attributed insulting inhabitant nicknames to each other. From the end of C 19 onward, however, these names lost their aggressive nature. Many of them developed into honorary nicknames which formed the basis for self-attributed place nicknames, used during Dutch carnival. For example, Ganzemelkers (‘goose herds) resulted into the place nickname Ganzegat (‘geese hamlet’). Dutch carnival is a typically local feast: outsiders are not welcome. Carnival place nicknames, being in-group nicknames, can thus be supposed to reflect the spatial unit the inhabitants concerned identify themselves with most. Attention will be paid to a special category of in-group nicknames: those of neighboring towns which share name elements with each other and thus show a certain degree of similarity, obviously because the name of one of them alludes to or is inspired by the name of the neighbor. For example, the nickname Strienedurpke (‘tiny village on the Striene’) for a hamlet alludes to Strienestad (‘city on the Striene river’) for Steenbergen. How were such alluding names formed and which differences between the neighbors do they express?


Do borders and provincial boundaries prevent nicknames from crossing the line?

In: Oliviu Felecan and Daiana Felecan (eds.). Unconventional anthroponyms: formation patterns and discursive function. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2014.


Nicknames for inhabitants of towns are widespread in the Netherlands and elsewhere. They were once attributed by neighbor settlements. Often, they have an insulting character. Some refer to the profession of the majority of the inhabitants, others to the food they used to live on, their poverty, etc. In the Netherlands these nicknames have lost their pungency since the last half of C19. Currently, they are perceived as an amusing relic of a hostile past. During C 20 they have frequently developed into honorary nicknames. Many have been adopted by carnival associations. Unfortunately, it is often difficult to establish their age, due to their belonging to the oral language domain. Also, we seldom know which outsider communities attributed which nicknames to their neighbors. Written sources on the subject are scarce. An exception in the Low Countries is the poem Den langen Adieu [‘The long goodbye’] (1561), in which Eduard de DENE mentioned a large number of insulting nicknames for inhabitants of Flemish towns and cities.Sometimes the outsiders’ view passes over municipal boundaries. The nickname Aanbraaide Hozen (‘stockings with a once again  knitted-on foot’, as a symptom of poverty), for example, applies to the towns Hoogezand and Sappemeer (mun. Hoogezand-Sappemeer) as well as the adjoining town Muntendam (mun. Menterwolde).


Damsko and Agga: Multicultural toponymic nicknames in the Netherlands.
Paper presented at the conference “Trends in Toponymy 6” in Heidelberg (Germany), October 7-10-2013.

To be consulted here: Multicultural Toponyms in the Netherlands


In the Netherlands, like in some other West-European countries, a multicultural youth slang has emerged since the end of C 20. This slang is generally called Straattaal (‘Street Language’). Its elements have been mixed from Dutch, English, Sranan, Turkish, Moroccan Arabic, Berber, and Papiamento. Straattaal is used by young immigrants and immigrants’ children, and by autochton youths (APPEL & SCHOONEN 2005). The Street Language lexicon comprises, apart from common nouns, tens of toponymic nicknames – nicknames for towns, streets, buildings, etc. Most of these are macrotoponyms (a.o. for cities and towns): Damsko, for example, is Amsterdam, Agga is The Hague. Microtoponyms design, for example, streets and railway stations. Multicultural nicknames like these differ from traditional Dutch toponymic nicknames like de Amstelstad (‘The city on the River Amstel’, designing Amsterdam), among other things, in that they are rarely descriptive. One of the few exceptions is Mocrostad (‘Moroccans’ city’, a nickname for Kanalenwijk, an Utrecht city quarter). Instead, they allude to the official names. For example, many of them refer to orthographic features (like D-Town, for Dordrecht), have been translated into English (Eastwood, for Oosterhout), are would-be translations with rhyming elements (Chillburg, mfor the city of Tilburg; the verb chillen means ‘to relax’), or employ a pun by ‘interpreting’ the orthography of a Dutch name as though it were English (Hole-10, for Holten; in Dutch, 10 would be written tien). A collection of street language toponyms has been compiled  from an internet Street Language dictionary (http://www.straatwoordenboek.nl/ ), that was compiled for its part by Straattaal speakers. The paper aims to present a typology.


“French (or would-be French) Toponyms in the Netherlands”.

In: Amsterdamer Beiträge zur älteren Germanistik, Band 70. Amsterdam, New-York: Rodopi, 2013.


The French language has no official status in any part of the Netherlands. In spite of this, scores of toponyms in the Netherlands are in some way related to the French language. The article investigates, by means of many examples, first some linguistic aspects, like accentuation, phonemes and orthography. Secondly, attention is paid to cultural-historical backgrounds of some migration names.


Degrees of precision in toponyms containing compass points.
Paper presented at the IGU Kyoto Regional Conference, August 4-9.

In: Semestrale di Studi e Ricerche di Geografia vol. 25 (2013), issue 2.


Many toponyms all over the world contain a wind direction. Most of them carry a cardinal direction, like North Dakota and South Dakota. Relatively few names carry ordinal directions, like South East Cape and South West Cape (Australia), each referring to the cape’s location with regard to the central part of Tasmania. The paper focuses on place names in the Netherlands which consist either of a cardinal or an ordinal direction; the wind directions indicating the settlement’s location with regard to a neighbouring settlement considered central. For example, the name of the town Noordbeemster (‘North Beemster’;) expresses that it lies north of Middenbeemster (‘middle Beemster’, Beemster being the name of the surrounding area). It turns out that an overwhelming majority of all place names carries cardinal directions. Some of them are, however, rather imprecise. One town called Oosteinde (‘east end’) shows a northward deviation of no less than 73 degrees; a name Noordeinde (‘north end’) would have been more appropriate. In other cases, an ordinal direction might have brought relief: the town Zuideinde (‘south end’), for example, lies exactly south-east from the central town its name refers to, and would deserve the name Zuidoosteinde. Contrarily, names of dikes, polders, channels, capes and sandbanks with ordinal directions are less exceptional. Examples are Noordoostpolder (‘north eastern polder’) and Noordwestgronden (‘northwest shallows’), next to their counterparts with cardinal directions (Zuidpolder, Oostpolder, etc.; Noordergronden ‘north shallows’). The paper suggests an explanation for this difference in naming tradition between place names on the one hand, and names of other geographical features on the other.


Comparing self-attributed carnival place nicknames with nicknames terributed by neighboring towns: do they refer to the same spatial unit?
Paper presented at the International Conference on Onomastics “Name and Naming”, 2nd Edition, hosted by the North University Center te Baia Mare.

In: Oliviu Felecan (ed.). Name and Naming. Onomastics in Contemporary Public Space. Cluj-Napoca, 2013.


Insulting names for inhabitants of towns, attributed by neighboring settlements, are widespread in the Netherlands and other countries. Sometimes, a cluster of towns shares a certain inhabitants’ nickname. For example, the inhabitants of the Dutch town Aarle-Rixtel, share their nickname Ganzemelkers (‘goose herds’) traditionally with their neighboring town Beek en Donk. Since the last quarter of C 19, many insulting inhabitant names have developed into honorary nicknames which, in their turn, formed the basis for self-attributed place nicknames as they are traditionally used during the Dutch carnival season. For example, Ganzemelkers resulted into the carnival place nickname Ganzegat (‘geese hamlet’). A striking feature is, however, that Ganzegat refers exclusively to Aarle-Rixtel, Beek en Donk having its own self-attributed nickname: Ganzendonck (‘Geese hill’). Dutch carnival is a typically local feast; outsiders are, generally speaking, not welcome (WIJERS 1996). Carnival place nicknames, self-attributed as they are, can thus be supposed to reflect pre-eminently the spatial unit the inhabitants identify themselves with emotionally, as opposed to the names of the administrative (mostly bigger) entities (like municipalities) they live in. Contrarily, insulting inhabitant nicknames can be supposed to reflect the socio-spatial unit as the ‘neighbors’ perceive it. The Aarle-Rixtel example shows that outsiders perceive Aarle-Rixtel and Beek en Donk as two of a kind, whereas the two towns themselves see differences, each having developed its own place nickname. This example fits into a pattern: apparently, the outgroup homogeneity effect (QUATTRONE 1980) is at work here. People perceive out-group members as more similar to one another than in-group members. ‘They are alike, we are diverse!’


Den Haag or ‘s-Gravenhage (= The Hague)? Some pragmatic differences between place-name variants.
Paper presented at the congress “Challenges in synchronic toponymy”: structure, context and use” in Rennes, France (March 22-23 2012).

In: Jonas Löfström & Betina Schnabel=-Lecorre (eds.), Challenges in Synchronic Toponymy. Structure, context and use. Tübingen: Narr Francke Attempto Verlag, 2015.


In the Netherlands, scores of place names exist in two variants: 1) Variants that came into being after a local sound change had created a new variant besides to the existing one (for example: Gorinchem > Gorkum; Doetinchem  > Deutekom; Berinchem > Bennekom); 2) Free toponyms that obtained a specifier in order to avoid confusion with namesakes (example: Die Hage > ‘s-Gravenhage).  In some cases (for example, Doetinchem) the older variant preserved its status within the standard language domain, thus developing into an exonym while the new variant obtained the status of an endonym (the terms exo– and endonym being used, here, within the context of the Dutch-speaking regions); in other cases (Bennekom) the reverse happened: it was the new variant that developed into an exonym. In yet some other cases both variants obtained a position within the standard language domain, none of them clearly having the status of an endonym (Den Haag/’s-GravenhageGorinchem/ Gorkum). The paper examines this last category of name pairs. The question arises, whether only one variant is to be considered as the official name (i.e., the name that is officially used by the local authorities themselves), or both. If both variants have an official status, the question arises whether the two forms are used in the same register, or in different registers (for example, a formal and an informal one, or a neutral and an informal one). If only one official variant exists, one would expect that it is used in a neutral or formal register. The research shows that in some cases two official variants exist side by side. The paper proposes a historical explanation.


Diemen and Oud-Diemen (‘Old Diemen’): Place names as an expression of power relationships.
Paper presented at the congress “Urban symbolic landscapes: Power, Language, Memory”, in Helsinki (June 2011).

To be consulted here: Diemen and Oud-Diemen


Through the centuries, scores of settlements in the Netherlands – and elsewhere – developed extensions: new settlements in the immediate surroundings. Initially, the daughter settlement shared the name of the mother settlement, but in due course a need for separate names arose; mostly after the daughter settlement became its own church. Often, the ‘mother’ retained her unmarked name, the name of the ‘daughter’ getting a specifier meaning ‘new’. For example, the mother settlement of Beets (province of Friesland) developed a daughter that was called Nij Beets (‘new Beets’). Afterwards, however, the daughter in some cases took over the unmarked name, forcing the mother to take a name containing a specifier  meaning ‘old’. Thus, we see a daughter settlement called Diemen, with a mother named Oud-Diemen. The paper examines according to which established patterns the naming of such settlement pairs passed off. It has been suggested (Van Berkel & Samplonius 2006) that there may be a relationship between the size or socio-economic importance of the respective settlements on one hand, and the presence or absence of a marker on the other. Unmarkedness would, then, point to a preponderance of the settlement concerned (cf. Mexico versus Mexico City). An attempt will be made to reconstruct the naming-process in detail, on the basis of a data collection.


What effect do municipal mergers have on the carnival nicknames of the merging entities? Place-names as an expression of identity.
Paper presented at the 24th ICOS Congress in Barcelona, September 5-9.

Publication at www.gencat.cat


During the carnival season, many cities and villages in the Netherlands bear, next to their official name, a carnival nickname. For example, the city of Eindhoven (former seat of Philips, manufacturer of bulbs) is nicknamed Lampegat (gat = hamlet). The nicknames usually stem from a period of small scale administration. Recent ones were brought into being by local carnival associations. The paper departs from the idea that Dutch carnival is a typically local feast: outsiders are not welcome (Wijers 1996). Carnival nicknames can, thus, be supposed to reflect the spatial unit the inhabitants concerned identify themselves with the most. In the remote past, carnival nicknames used to correspond with settlement names; and if these obtained a municipal status, the nicknames corresponded with the municipal name. During the past decades, however, scores of Dutch municipalities merged. The paper investigates to what extent this scaling-up had consequences for local nicknames. Did they live on? Were they scaled up, too? And if so, how much time elapsed? The results of the investigation may give insight into the measure in which the inhabitants of the locations involved adapted their ‘identification reach’ to the new situation.


Place names indicating the number of dwellings: at which point did the counter stop, and why so? (Driehuizen, Vierhuis, etc.)
Paper presented at the “Trends in Toponymy” Conference, in Edinburgh (June 28 – July 1).

In: Onomastica Canadiana vol. 93 (2014), nr. 2; 9-24.


Tens of placenames in the Netherlands and Flanders consist of a numeral and an ending meaning ‘houses’, ‘huts’, ‘farms’ and the like: Driehuizen  (‘three houses’), Vierhuis (‘four houses’), Zevenhutten (‘seven huts’). The lowest numeral stands out to be two, in the placename Tweehuizen, and the series ends with twenty (Twintighuizen). One of the questions that one may ask, looking back, is, why the counter sometimes stopped so soon in Tweehuizen, and relatively late in the case of Twintighuizen. The paper will suggest that names of this type must have needed a certain lapse of time before they got stable, and became fixed. This does not explain, however, why some numerals occur much more often in placenames than other ones. For example, three and seven occur no less than 28, respectively 20 times, in contrast with two (once). It has been suggested that the popularity of three and seven should be associated with the magical status these numbers used to have. What strikes one most, is the absence of the numbers above 20, considering the fact that parcel names like Honderd Roeden (‘hundred rods’) or Duizend Morgen (‘thousand acres’) are very common. The paper will propose an explanation.


Deutsche oder anscheinend deutsche Toponyme in den Niederlanden: eine Typologie.
Paper presented at the 12th IVG congress in Warsaw, titled “Vielheit und Einheit der Germanistik weltweit” (July 30 – August 7).

In: Franciszek Grucza (herausg.). Vielheit und Einheit der Germanistik weltweit. Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, 2013; p. 265-274.


German has no official status in any part of the Netherlands.  Some place names, however, are clearly German. Firstly, some names in South Limburg can be considered as German because of their sound form and/or orthography, like Wahlwiller; the Dutch spelling would be Waalwiller. This study focuses exclusively on toponyms whose spelling can be seen as partially or completely German. The spelling Wahlwiller is a relic of the period when this area, apart from its Ripuarian dialect (which was much in line with German) had no less than two standard languages: Dutch as well as German. Secondly, the province of Gelderland has some German written names for places where German has never been spoken, like Wehl and Bahr. Their German orhography reminds of their having been governed by a German administration; Wehl, for example, belonged for a long period to the Prussian kingdom. In the 19th century the amount of German orthographies was considerably higher than nowadays. Many of them were replaced in the 19th and 20th centuries by Dutch ones, like Kahlheide (spelling in 1845; now Kaalheide). Others remained intact, like Bocholtz and Holz. This study will show that name conflicts between Dutch and German were extremely exceptional. A peaceful coexistence is also evident from mixtures like Grünstraat (spelling around 1800; in the 14th century Grünstrasse; now Groenstraat) and a few doublets, like Bahneheide together with Baneheide.


Tussen Oudorp en Oldorp: in hoeverre beantwoorden plaatsnamen aan isoglossen? [Between Oudorp and Oldorp: to what degree do placenames correspond with isoglosses?
Paper presented at the 17th Colloquium Neerlandicum of the Internationale Vereniging voor Neerlandistiek, in Utrecht (August).

In: Taal en Tongval vol. 68 (2016), nr. 1; p. 13-26.


A widely known isogloss in the Dutch-German linguistic region separates a western area with the phoneme [ʌu] (rendered as ou), followed by a dental consonant (like in oud ‘’old’ and hout ‘wood’) on the one hand, and an eastern area with [ɔ], followed by a dental consonant, on the other. The vocalization of /l/ started in the southwestern part of the Dutch language area and expanded to the east and north. The position of the isogloss has been established in C 20 on the basis of appellatives in the spoken language. The question is, to what extent toponyms, too, coincide with the isogloss. In many locations two toponym variants exist, namely a supraregional – and official – one like Oudeschans and a regional one like Òlschans. Based on data concerning the above mentioned isogloss, the article explores whether the supraregional or the dialectal toponyms, respectively, respond to the expectations the isogloss evokes.


Newly built fortified cities in New Urbanism style: what kind of names are the streets being given?
Paper presented at the International symposium “Urban place names”, organized by the Research Institute for the Languages of Finland, in Helsinki (August 16)
Publication at www.kotus.fi


New Urbanism is an architectural movement that is to be perceived all over the world. Thousands of new housing estates are set up in a compact way, and they breath a spirit of nostalgia. The seaside resort Alys Beach (USA), for instance, was designed after a mediterranian fisher village. A special trend is to be seen in the Netherlands, where three housing estates were recently copied from old fortified cities, in places where no fortified city has ever been. The inhabitants foster the illusion that they live in an old, small  town that is separated and seemingly protected from the outside world. In the three new housing estates, old villages and towns were architecturally copied. But what about de street names? The original Dutch cities have a rather characteristical street pattern, with typical names like Wal [rampart], Veste [moat], or Markt [market; central square], and one might expect that street names in the old cities would be copied-and-pasted into the new locations. This might even reinforce the illusion of oldness. In order to ascertain if this expectation is correct, a list of all streetnames in the new ‘fortified’ Dutch cities is compared with street names in the old ones. Although the observation material is (still) scarce, an attempt will be made to analyze the similarities and differences between streetnames in the new ‘cities’ and the old ones. The (tentative) conclusion is, that that there is a considerable discrepancy between the new names and the old ones. Most of the new names seem to have another function than the old ones: they intend to evoke a nostalgic atmosphere, wheras the old names had an orientational and descriptive function.


New names for municipalities merging from two or more villages or towns.
Presented at the 23rd International Congress of Onomastic Sciences, in Toronto (August 17-22).

Published on dvd, titled: Names in Multi-lingual, Multicultural and Multi-Ethnic Contact.
Also to be consulted at www.naamkunde.net


For some decades many villages in the Netherlands have been merging into new municipalities. These new entities need a new name. The central assumption in this contribution is that every participating village or town will try to get its name accepted as (part of) the new name. By means of several examples some factors will be demonstrated which can play a part in the process of establishing a new name, like differences in the size of the population of the participants, differences in age, or their place in alphabetical order. Attention will be paid to two types of new names that are chosen. The simplest solution is maintaining the name of one or more of the participants, but there is an important restriction: the new name should not be too long, and can do right only by few participants. An increasingly popular method is choosing a wholly new name, often referring to some shared geographic or historical feature, like a river, a castle or a hillcrest. This method has the advantage that none of the participants loses face.


Een dorp met drie namen: Nederhorst den Berg. [A village with three names: Nederhorst den Berg].

In: Werinon no. 65 (October 2007).
To be consulted here: Nederhorst den Berg


Most residential nuclei in the Netherlands carry just one name, but Nederhorst den Berg has no less than three ones. The official name has already been mentioned, but in the vernacular the town is also called Den Berg or Nederhorst. Why all these names? And since when?