Dutch boy names: Past to present

All of us recognize a wide variety of typical boy names in the culture we grew up in. We can even distinguish between generation-specific names and timeless names. However, when it comes to other cultures, we usually have more trouble with that. If you didn’t grow up in the Netherlands, then you simply don’t have that mental framework for Dutch names. But that’s about to change!

This article focuses completely on Dutch boy names, but I wrote one on Dutch girl names as well: Dutch girl names: Past to present

Dutch boy names before World War II

The oldest people in society were born before World War II. I found reliable birth records that show the most common boy names in the Netherlands going back as far as 1880. So, let’s look at the top 10 Dutch boy names from 1880 to 1945. This includes the war years.

As you can see, during these six and a half decades, Dutch people displayed remarkably little creativity when it came to naming their sons. Almost every name that was in the top 10 in 1945 was already there in 1880.

The most popular name throughout this entire period, Johannes, is a biblical name. It’s the Dutch equivalent of the English name John. And while this was the most common name on paper, in practice, barely anyone named Johannes was actually called that in daily life. Abbreviated versions of the name were used, like Johan, Jonas, Joost, Hans, Han, and the most popular one of all: Jan.

In fact, Jan was such a popular abbreviation that many Dutch people started officially naming their sons Jan. That’s how it ended up as the most popular Dutch name in practice, making Jan the true Dutch equivalent of John.

All of the names on this list are actually more familiar to an English speaker than they might seem at first glance. Cornelis is a cognate of Cornelius. Hendrik is a cognate of Henry. Willem and Wilhelmus are both cognates of William. Petrus is the source of Peter. Antonius is the source of Anthony. Gerrit is a cognate of Gerard. And Jacobus is a variant of Jacob, Jack, and James.

In the Netherlands, however, these names got abbreviations that are now viewed as typical old Dutch names. Cornelis became Kees. Hendrik became Henk. Wilhelmus became Willem, which often became Wim. Petrus became Piet. Antonius became Ton. Gerrit became Ger. And Jacobus became Jaap. To name the most typical abbreviations.

The timeline also shows the lines of four names that appeared in the top 10 but weren’t on it anymore in 1945. Those names are Pieter (from Petrus), Gerardus (often abbreviated to Gerrit), Jacob (from Jacobus), and Adrianus (often abbreviated to Ad).

Dutch boy names for baby boomers (1946-1964)

Being right next to Germany, the Netherlands was occupied by the Nazis during World War II. So, when the war ended, the Netherlands was one of the countries that saw a baby boom. These were the most popular Dutch boy names for the baby boomer generation:

The top 4 didn’t change at all. So, this wasn’t a period of great innovation with regards to boy names. Petrus got more popular, and one of the names derived from Petrus, Peter, made it into the top 10 as well. Meanwhile, Willem got less popular, but still remained in the top 10.

Two noteworthy names on this list are Ronald and Robert, which happen to be exactly the same in English. And just like in English, they are sometimes abbreviated, Ronald to Ron and Robert to Rob. No one in the Netherlands would abbreviate Robert to Bob. The names aren’t that long, though, so they’re not abbreviated by default.

The last name on the list, Franciscus, was popular among Catholics because of Saint Francis of Assisi, who is called Franciscus in Dutch. People with this name are generally called Frank or Frans in daily life.

The only other two names that made it into the top 10 during this period but disappeared again before 1964 were Gerardus and Pieter, which we have already discussed.

Dutch boy names for Generation X (1965-1980)

Credit where credit is due, when the Dutch baby boomers became parents themselves, they got more creative with baby boy names than anyone had been in generations. Johannes was still the most common name among Generation X, but it was followed by two names that weren’t even in the top 10 before: Jeroen and Dennis.

Jeroen is the Dutch equivalent of Jerome, known in Catholic circles as Saint Jerome. And as you know, Dennis is a name in the English-speaking world as well. The Dutch and the English Dennis are both derived from the name of the Greek god Dionysus, who was known for many things, including winemaking and insanity.

Another name that entered the top 10 was Martijn. Ultimately, this name can be traced back to the Roman god Mars, but it became popular in the Netherlands because of yet another saint, Martin of Tours. That saint is actually called “Sint Maarten” in the Netherlands, but for some reason Martijn outperformed Maarten as a given name. Fun fact: There’s a lantern feast linked to this saint that is still celebrated by a third of Dutch children every year.

The name Mark can also be traced back to the Roman god Mars, but it became a popular name in the Netherlands and many other countries because of the Gospel of Mark. Other forms of this name, like Marcel and Marco also exist in the Netherlands. Both of those names made it into the top 10 during this period as well, they just peaked before Mark.

And the name Patrick is interesting because it’s the first name that made it into the top 10 that Dutch people actually view as a name from the English-speaking world. Unlike the other names that just happen to be the same in Dutch as in English, Patrick clearly existed in English-speaking countries long before the Dutch adopted it. In the Netherlands, this name was more popular among low-income families than high-income families.

Three other names that peaked during this period but were no longer in the top 10 in 1980 are Edwin, Richard, and Sander. Edwin has Anglo-Saxon origins, Richard has Old Frankish origins, and Sander is a variant of the originally Greek name Alexander.

Dutch boy names for millennials (1981-1996)

These timelines are starting to look more like abstract art. Don’t worry about following every line. Just realize that a more chaotic-looking timeline means more Dutch parents were actively breaking with tradition.

As you can see, it finally happened! Johannes is no longer number one. While it remained the most popular boy name until 1989, Dutch millennials born in the ‘90s are more likely to be named Jeroen, Kevin, Thomas, or Tim.

Just like Patrick, Kevin is viewed as an English name by the Dutch. Similarly, it was more popular among low-income families than high-income families and Dutch Kevins have had to deal with negative stereotypes because of that. The same goes for Mike.

Tim, Thomas, Rick, and Robin are all names that are common in English-speaking countries as well, but, like many of the names we’ve discussed so far, they ended up in the Netherlands via different routes. So, they don’t carry the same connotations.

It’s also worth pointing out that there are more short names on this list than on the previous ones. All the previous lists had only one or two one-syllable names, while this list has five. The habit of giving baby boys long official names only to use abbreviated versions in daily life was replaced by the new habit of simply giving them short official names.

A name that might not sound familiar to you is Lars. Lars is essentially a Germanic version of the Roman name Laurentius. It’s related to the English names Lawrence and Larry. The female version of the name is Laura.

Niels is also uncommon in English-speaking countries. It’s common in Scandinavia, though, although it’s often spelled as Nils over there. The name is essentially an abbreviation of the name Nicholas. Which, coincidentally, is also true for Nick. That name made it into the top 10 during this period as well.

There are many other names that made it into the top 10 in one or more millennial birth years. They’re a mixture of names we’ve seen before and names we haven’t: Bart, Danny, Dennis, Hendrik, Jan, Jeffrey, Maarten, Mark, Martijn, Michael, Patrick, Peter, Robert, Roy, Sander, Stefan, Tom, Willem, Wouter.

Dutch boy names for Generation Z (1997-2012)

The Generation Z timeline looks even more chaotic than the one for millennials. Tim has moved from number one all the way down to number ten, and every other name has been replaced. Thomas occupied first place when the first half of this generation was born, but the younger Dutch zoomers are more likely to be named Daan or Sem.

Daan is simply an abbreviated version of Daniel. You can compare it to the English names Dan and Danny. And Sem is a biblical name that took the Netherlands by storm. It wasn’t even in the top 30 in 2002, but in 2004 it was number one.

Bram is an abbreviation of the biblical name Abraham. It ended up second place in 2012, but didn’t even appear in the top 10 most other years, so you won’t actually find that many members of Gen Z with this name in the Netherlands.

Lucas is a name with Greek and Roman origins. The name Luuk is an abbreviated version of this name. Both of these names are essentially equivalents of the English name Luke.

Surprisingly, the name Milan was not inspired by the Italian city with the same name. It’s actually a Slavic boy name. The longest-running Dutch soap opera, “Goede tijden, slechte tijden” (Good times, bad times), probably contributed to this name suddenly becoming popular in the Netherlands by introducing a character named Milan in 2002.

The next names take us right back to the Bible, though. The Dutch equivalent of the name Matthew is Matthijs. So, while this name is often abbreviated to Matt in English, its Dutch abbreviation is Thijs. And this has become a standalone name. The name Levi is also biblical, but that one happens to be spelled the same in English.

And lastly, we got the name Jayden. This name appears to have originated in the US, where it also became popular during this period.

Other names that made it into the Gen Z top 10 in one or more years were: Jesse, Kevin, Lars, Max, Mike, Nick, Niels, Rick, Robin, Ruben, Stijn, Sven, and Tom. Some of these are names we’ve discussed, others will be familiar to you as well. However, the name Stijn probably won’t be, so I want to explain that one.

The names Constantine and Augustine are spelled as Constantijn and Augustijn in Dutch. They’re uncommon names, especially Augustijn, but they used to be more common. And they were both abbreviated as Stijn, which has stood the test of time as a standalone name.

Top 50 boy names in the Netherlands right now

As a society, we haven’t come up with a collective name for the generation born after Generation Z yet, and we also haven’t decided on a cutoff year. But I’m sure you’d like to know which names are given to Dutch boys in the present. So, here’s a list of the top 50 boy names that are popular in the Netherlands right now:

Noah, Sem, Liam, Lucas, Daan, Finn, Levi, Luuk, Mees, James, Milan, Sam, Noud, Benjamin, Luca, Bram, Mason, Max, Thomas, Adam, Hugo, Jesse, Boaz, Olivier, Teun, Julian, Lars, Thijs, Gijs, Siem, Guus, Mats, Zayn, Otis, Jens, Jack, Floris, Ties, Vince, Joep, David, Jan, Stijn, Sven, Dex, Jurre, Morris, Ruben, Owen, Jayden