No. 12: Lekker

If you’ve lived, toured, visited, or really spent any amount of time in the lowlands and you haven’t heard this word…well, then I’d suggest you get your ears checked – and quick! This seemingly innocent word is ubiquitous in the Netherlands. Park yourself down in any Dutch café or restaurant and do a little good ol’ fashion eavesdropping (if you weren’t already) and you are sure to hear multitudes of the “L” word.

An innocent question…

Lekker in its original form refers to food and can be roughly translated as tasty or yummy. The Germans and Belgians still use lekker in this form, however, over time Dutch people have taken incredible liberties with the word and now essentially use it to describe, well, just about everything! A warm meal on a cold fall day can of course be lekker, but so can a feeling, an experience, a place and even a person! Word of warning: don’t go around calling your boss lekker as the original translation of yummy or tasty still does apply! (Of course, the tall Dutch boy down that hall in his red pants and curly gelled hair may indeed be lekker to some! ;)

As you see, lekker is a highly versatile little fellow and can be used in endless instances. You will see that the original translation does not always hold true:

- lekkere broodjes (tasty sandwiches) – an easy one
- lekker rustig (yummy calm, pleasant calm)
- lekker weer (tasty weather, great weather)
- niet lekker (not yummy, not nice, not well)
- slaap lekker (sleep tasty, sleep well, sleep tight)
- lekker ruim (tasty space, lots of space/room)
- … and the list can go on!

There are truly endless uses for the word!

Ask a Dutchie, in a work setting, how they are doing and you are sure to hear the reply of “lekker druk“! I do find this one a tad amusing, as the last time I checked the Dutch weren’t that lekker druk at all!  Of course, there are many things in the Netherlands that are “lekker belangrijk“: such as observing meal times (dinner is served at 18:00 precisely), scheduling appointments and generally acting normal. However, watch the tone of this one, as your opinion is most likely being dissed and dismissed as “lekker belangrijk” in a sarcastic/”what-EVER” type of way.

Just to make things a even more fun, the Dutch have decided to get a little tricky and pair one difficult-to-translate-word with yet another even-more-difficult-to-translate-word. The combination? The beautifully descriptive: lekker gezelligTrust me, it does come in handy but I’ll let you bicker amongst yourselves over the exact translation! ;)

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98 Responses to No. 12: Lekker

  1. Anita says:

    You made a mistake lekker ding xd
    Lekker brodjes should be lekkere broodjes xd

    • Rafael da Costa says:

      I never really thought of the word lekker being weird in use for other things then food. But it isn’t that weird right? If a girl looks good american people would say: She is hot, wel how ridiculus is that exually? I think that’s even more rediculus then to call a good looking girl lekker (tasty haha). I think that people just started saying it for fun at the beginning and then after a while more people start to use it. And so it becomes normal, just like the word hot in america (maybe inglend i don’t know). And then after a while u don’t even notice it anyjmore.

  2. Mike says:

    Nou lekker dan! ;)

  3. Lily says:

    You’re right once again, we do love this word!

  4. daancsmit78 says:

    Hilarious! Another great post!
    Being a Dutchman I can appreciate the difficulty of lekker gezellig…
    A small friendly comment: it’s lekkere broodjes

  5. anne says:

    lekker belangrijk is never used when it´s really important, it´s always used in the WHATEVER way. I still have to hear the first boss saying: ´we really need to put all our time in this client because this one is lekker belangrijk´ hahaha.

  6. Lisette says:

    Hoe vaker ik dat woord zeg, hoe raarder het klinkt. (The more I say ‘lekker’ out loud, the weirder it sounds!)

  7. Linda says:

    “lekker belangrijk” is always meant in the sarcastic way, i.e. ‘not important’. If you mean to say ‘very important’ lekker is improper, you should say ‘erg belangrijk’.

    • Lily says:

      I agree with this. I’ve never heard ‘lekker belangrijk’ being used in a way to mean something is actually very important.

  8. Gilsanquar says:

    I notice that “lekker ding” was left out; perhaps with good reason. A great article thanks

  9. arieos says:

    Lekker belangrijk is not very importantt its more like I dont give a shit

  10. Merlijn says:

    Already saw two applications of the word lekker in the comments that sprang to mind when I read this (yet again) very amusing article: “lekker ding” and “lekker dan”.

  11. Divemaster1962 says:

    Een lekker stukkie weer. ;)
    Leest lekker weg.

  12. Jan met de Pet says:

    When your boss is a “lekker wijf”, don’t ever say it when she (or other staffmembers) can hear it. :o) Just keep it among your friends and enjoy.

  13. andi says:

    I am not a dutch, but learning the language at the moment. Eventually, my bf is a dutch. One time i asked him what is the dutch word for #whatever but he didn’t tell me (probably he knows that I will use it a lot since I like to say it in english but not when we have our conversation in dutch, lol) so thanks!!! I have new surprise for him .. lol… (even not sure it would fit my context of whatever). BTW always love your posts. Cheers :)

  14. Steve says:

    Irritatingly ubiquitous.
    Like the way Americans use ‘like’ 10 times in every bloody sentence.

  15. Chantal says:

    Je weet ons wel lekker te maken… :)

  16. Chantal says:

    My American in laws always think I talk about liquor in stead of lekker, haha! :D

  17. kate says:

    Whenever you put up a new post, ‘ga ik er even lekker voor zitten’.

    ‘Lekker belangrijk’ is not a nice thing to say, because you indicate you are not interested in the topic the other person is talking about, but it is still a pretty proper way of indicating this. Slang for ‘lekker belangrijk’ is ‘boeien’ or ‘boeiend’. So when you talk to younger Dutch people, you might hear that phrase instead. I can only find this explanation for ‘boeien’ on in the, but that website is very hard to read: it’s written by people who use slang…

    • Marije says:

      The trancelation for ‘boeiend’ is ‘captivating’. You should be able to hear from the tone of voice if they are serious about it or mean this sarcasticly.

  18. onedaysoon says:

    Thanks again for your amusing post. I had loads of fun reading it, as usual .

  19. The one I love is ‘lekker puh’. I read it on television (Dutch subtitling) and got the definition from my buur vrouw. It’s essentially ‘duh’ or ‘told you so’.

  20. Pauline says:

    Lekker bezig!

  21. Appie says:

    Did I miss the ‘lekkerbekje’?

  22. Jim says:

    @steve, that s what americans do….to fill up teh sentences..The Dutch hardly use it. Only when it is appropiate..

  23. Love the word ‘lekker – I taught my Aussie husband the word early on and he liked it so much he gave me personalised number plates with ‘LEKKER’. Not just Dutchies but also people from South Africa and Zimbabwe have stopped/waved/commented when I drive around or am parked somewhere. And yeah, it comes from ‘lekker ding’ but that was too long… Love the blog by the way :)

  24. Gertjan says:

    I’ve had trouble explaining “lekker” to my American friends in the past :) “Lekker” can mean “comfortable”. So “lekker druk” means “comfortably busy”, which, if said in a happy / upbeat way, could mean the person is only slightly busy, but if it’s said in a sarcastic / tired / exasperated voice, it means too busy :)

  25. josie brendle says:

    lekker smoeltje

  26. La Rosa says:

    Daar zijn wij Nederlanders dan weer lekker mee…
    (translates as something like: it is something we Dutch are unhappy about).
    Lover your columns! They are so right.

  27. Queen K says:

    The worst use of the word “lekker” I´ve ever heard is “Ah, dat was lekker!” Sounds innocent, but to me, an “import-Dutchie” from Germany who associates “lekker” with “yummy”, this is NOT wat you are expected to hear when your husband leaves the toilet after having a nice sh….!!! LOL

  28. Safie says:

    Lekker belangrijk! XD

  29. Evert says:

    Lekkerbekje or Lekker Bekkie… :-) two totally different things but again can mean the same ascLekkerbekje also is spoken out as lekkerbekkie by many :-)

  30. Rudy says:

    Many years ago I knew a parrot in Amsterdam who could whistle the Laurel and Hardy theme music perfectly, who would hold up his claw and utter the challenge “Kom dan!” whenever he felt threatened, and who, when presented with a tasty treat, would exclaim loudly “Lekker heh!” Whenever I have told Dutch people about this parrot, later on they always remember the “Lekker heh” part of the story.

  31. Pingback: No. 12: Lekker « Gilsanquar's World

  32. Invader_Stu says:

    I also find it very strange when they do that little hand waving gesture when saying lekker.

  33. Maija says:

    Don’t forget to wave your hand around your ear when “lekkering” :D

  34. Jake says:

    Even porcupines know the word (0:45)

  35. freikugel says:

    “lekker gezellig”
    Oh wow it’s like someone just divided by zero

  36. Ever heard of ” ik vertel het je lekker toch niet…” Nothing lekker about that as it means you’re not going to find out. Lekker puh! By the way there’s even a restaurant called: Lekker Puh.

  37. Speedlion says:

    Say… shouldn’t “pleasant calm” be “pleasantly calm”?

    Aside from that, I love reading the things you write. Keep it up, man!

  38. Arenda RW says:

    #51 has to be jeans skirts with leggings underneath. I don’t see this anywhere else and it’s absolutely FUGLY, why oh why do they do this!

  39. Marije says:

    Love your site! (even lekker lachen) but i got a warning for al of you trying to use lekker in daily life: You should NEVER use ‘lekker belangrijk’ for things you realy find important! This one is always interpreted As you being sarcastic!

  40. abu zhavar says:

    I lived in Nederland for 6 years, haven’t been there for 3 years. I’ll be spending a month there in November, and was browsing for things “Nederlands” to get back in “tune” with new developments when I found this blog. This blog instantly reminds me of those things one tends to forget about places they’ve been to: people’s behaviour. Suddenly I feel transported back in Nederland, scrawling for my strippenkaart, about to catch the very punctual bus, in order to catch the punctual NS intercity trein, back to my wide windowed flat which I furnished with thick curtains, while hoping that my fiet has not been confiscated for being chained on a lamp post near the train station. Good job sir, for a very entertaining blog.. would love to read some more…

  41. Just love your columns…..I’m Dutch but living in Italy so your columns take me back home for a moment…And you’re so right we really use the word Lekker for ANYthing…never realized it, but this post and comments really point it out. Ach, het is zo lekker Hollands ;)

  42. Henry Schoonhoven says:

    I also enjoy the distinction between these:

    ‘niet lekker’ and ‘niet helemaal lekker’
    ‘lekkers maken’ and ‘lekker smaken’
    ‘laat lekker’ and ‘lekker laat’

    Must be hard for non-dutchies.

  43. Pingback: Funny list of things Dutch people love « holinholland

  44. AkinIndo says:

    There is a word in Indonesian like this. It’s ‘enak’ – it technically means ‘yummy’ but can be used to basically mean something enjoyable. scenery, emotions, a house, how a car drives, etc. =) I wonder if the development of those words is connected!

  45. Twiggert says:

    Proof that lekker in Belgium is not only used for food:

  46. Lierin says:

    Seriously! I’m Belgian and I only use the word “lekker” for yummy or hot… (and we barely say “lekker” with the meaning hot!) but yeah, maybe it’s something from the netherlands … DON’T MIX IT UP! With nicely greetings, some random Belgian :)

    • Nienke says:

      Well I got the feeling the dutch use it more, since my belgian in-laws used to tease me with word; i.e. they’d say “Lekkere bank, he?” and when I’d agree they’d laugh at me. Lekker dan! Nicely greetings to you too :)

  47. Lamerle says:

    Great article! Concur with the fact that observing meal times is actually important to a lot of Dutch people ie not at all “lekker belangrijk”. So if you miss out on that you might be told “Lekker ben jij” or simply “Lekker” or “Lekker zeg” in a sarcastic tone of voice – meaning “Duh” or “way to go (NOT)”

  48. Erik says:

    Very nice article… read it a couple weeks ago and had to think about it again when I saw this new music video.

    Keep up the great work!

  49. Suzan says:

    Another one: Ik voel me niet zo lekker. (I’m feeling a bit sick.)

    • Dan says:

      As an American living in Amsterdam for almost 4 years I love this site and share it with all my friends.

      Funniest lekker moment was when I got my first flat tire and thought people were telling me I had a “lekker band”. It didn’t make sense but with all the idiomatic use of lekker I just rolled with it until I was soon corrected….

      • Draske says:

        Probably they told you “lekke band” (so without the “r”), which means “Flat tire” :)

  50. Lourens Jacobs says:

    I’m a Dutch-descended “Afrikaner” in South Africa (you know, the ones responsible for apartheid :p) and in Afrikaans (basically an advanced dialect of Dutch) we use “lekker” to describe anything as “nice”, we don’t use it idiomatically though… Viewing previous comment, in Afrikaans the Dutch “lekker band” would be just a “pap band” (:D literally ‘floppy tire’) lekker is part of South African culture that way. Comparable to ‘nice’ in English, except more powerful.

  51. Lourens Jacobs says:

    Also, my two cents for “gezellig” (‘gesellig’ in Afrikaans) is “pleasant”. Except, yet again, more powerful. (Carries more emotion)

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  53. john says:

    The closest thing to lekker what I have heart is Lovely. It is the closest you can get.

  54. bert523 says:

    The craziest of them all is: lekker vies (yes we are funny people)

  55. robYn says:

    Wow. Just wow. I am so glad I found this site. My grandmother has early stage dementia and she thought her husband was her father. Every time he would eat a meal, she would say “lekker” and he (being German) and the rest of us had no idea what she was talking about. She is now firmly lost in the past and the next time I see her I will bring her something good to eat and tell her it is lekker. Maybe she will perk up at that. Cool.

  56. Hahaha cool blog… I never realized how much we use it until my foreign friends here started joking about it! :D
    Here’s something typical Dutch they did not find so lekker:

  57. Wily Luyten says:

    Ik voel me niet erg lekker vandaag, dus ik zeg het lekker niet, of ik het lekker vindt.

  58. ans sonies says:

    Wonderful site! i was born in Holland and moved to the USA when I as 17 years 1961.
    This brings me right back home. Lekkerbekkie en oh zo lekker gezellig!!

  59. I once overheard a conversation between two women in which, I swear, the only words used were echt, lekker and mooi. My generally used translation of gezellig is “warm and fuzzy” and lekker “bland term of positivity or approval”! Love the site, it was highlighted to me by a friend who has heard my rant about cold taps in downstairs toilet a few too many times.

  60. Gwendolola says:

    Mijn Oma had het vroeger altijd over: Lang, Dun en Lekker…… (And she did not refer to porn) but tried to make me feel good about being so skinny as a kid.

  61. Een Amerikanse in Nederland says:

    Beware the man in the bar that says: “Je bent een lekker ding!!!!” Unless, of course, he is himself a lekker ding.

  62. Brekel says:

    Lekker gezellig! = It’s nice and cosy!

  63. Dagmar says:

    I’d say (as a Dutch native) that the best translation for the word lekker, suitable for pretty much every application (when the word is used as an adjective), is pleasant. Applicable to the taste, the weather, an action etc. Lekker means pleasant except for the sarcastic uses, such as “lekker dan” and “lekker belangrijk”.
    My advice on the word gezellig: if you’re having a good time, it’s gezellig. I couldn’t possibly think of a reliable translation that would suit multiple situations.
    good work on the blog, I very much enjoy it!!

  64. Pingback: eat, pray, love. | sharan kaurner

  65. The difference between the Flemish and the Dutch when asked “Would you like a cup of coffee” In stead of saying yes or no a lot of Dutch people say ….. “Lekker!”

  66. J. Smith says:

    As an American I’ve chosen to live/love in Amsterdam for the last five years. I truly adore the Dutch. However, when I would walk my big Bernese Mountain Dog (Berner Sennenhond) through the streets, indeed a “cool” dog, I still could never get used to hearing “lekker hond man”. Did they want to eat him?

    As I grew up with a family that involved quite a few uneducated people that refused to eat American Chinese food because they insisted that one would certainly be eating dog… (Not my opinion BTW) To have once been walking my dog through our little A’dam China Town, and see an Asian man walk out of a restaurant and say “lekker hondje”, I had to laugh.

    • sophia says:

      I’m dutch and never heared the words lekker hondje. Cracked me up. Cause it is a questionable way to use lekker…if it’s used in the meaning of: lekker ding.. (Dutch humor is sometimes a bit rude.)

      • J. Smith says:

        Thanks! I still laugh to this day about the situation. An even funnier thing is that I just got this message and, right now, I’m going to the same restaurant where the man walked out. No, the dog isn’t coming. ;-)

      • J. Smith says:

        A NSFW comment, which I should have posted with my other reply because it matches what Sophia said. One time I was walking my dog through the Red Light and a large man standing outside a sex shop grabbed my arm. I thought “WTF, what is going on”. I think I also said something to that extent because he whispered into my ear… “BTW we also have dog dildos”. I told him “I don’t think my dog needs a dildo… Look, he’s a boy and considering his size I don’t think any female dog would need any help”. Then I realised what he meant and I continued my walk trying not to imagine what went through this gentlemen’s mind of why I have my dog.

  67. sophia says:

    Liked the article. I was reading it lekker on the sofa. With a lekker cup of coffee. Did notice one way to use lekker was missing: lekker puh!

  68. jmcoa says:

    California: Awesome dog! Awesome weather! Awesome room! Have an awesome night!

    Britain: Lovely dog. Lovely weather. Lovely room. Have a lovely rest.

    Boston: Wicked dog. Wicked weather. Wicked room. Have a wicked night. (Wicked can mean great, good, nice in these contexts but can also mean, evil. Depends on how, when, where, it is used.)

  69. albert000 says:

    Weer LEKKER veel reacties. ;)

  70. Kiki says:

    J. Smith, people probably said ‘leuke hond’, ‘leuk’ meaning anything from fun to cool (and enjoyable, but not in this sense). Great blog Colleen, and hilarious! I’m actually an ex-Dutchwoman who fled to Canada :-) First thing I noticed here was the ubiquity of lekker eten and the fact that you can order whatever you want during any moment of a given day. No such thing as “Nee mevrouw, u kunt niet van het lunchmenu bestellen, dat was een kwartier geleden. We hebben nu de borrrelkaart.”
    A happy new Canuck

    • swhite44 says:

      That’s one of the worst things about Holland, the rigid restaurant hours. Impossible to eat in a restaurant after 2PM unless you wait until 6. It’s as if they still live under the iron fist of the Nazis, they’re so inflexible about adhering to their unbending rules.

  71. Jeff says:

    Het woord lekker is ook lekker.

  72. Lekker lag,lekker kos en lekker mal!
    Suid-Arikaanse mense dink lekker behoort aan ons!

  73. chris says:

    Well lekker is used in South Africa. You will even find the word lekker in the South African English Oxford dictionary. You can ask anyone in SA what does lekker mean even English speakers know the word and uses it …so yes Lekker is not just a Dutch thing. It is huge in South Africa.

  74. says:

    never ever heard anyone say lekker gezellig

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  76. Edith says:

    What about “lekker dier”!! I suppose you don’t translate as: tasty animal!!
    Een lekker dier is a very lovely person. You use the word in a cosy setting. Don’t call your boss een lekker dier!!! Or your mother in law…….we’ll maybe if you have a very good relationship! I call my mother in law een lekker dier when she says something funny.
    Love you site, I was looking voor the translation of…..lekker zeg!! You want to say that you don’t like what they said (about you ) or about a situation. I think I use…whatever!

  77. Stella says:

    Once I read a receipt for baking bread, which was full of lekker: lekker kneden, lekker laten rijzen and some more lekkers which I can’t remember anymore. These lekkers mean well done relaxedly.

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