The words treated in this book have been collected from the pages of the Oxford English Dictionary and the Supplement to that work. I have not used the English Dialect Dictionary, as words in dialectal use only do not fall within the scope of my work.
I have been as inclusive as possible. Borrowings from Low Dutch that found a place in the English vocabulary for a short time only, and then became obsolete, have been included; words which were never really naturalized, and those recorded but once, have not been excluded. I have found a place for the numerous Low Dutch words which have been borrowed into English in South Africa, North America, the East and West Indies, and Guiana. I have included a few Dutch words, such as ridder and marten, which have passed into English indirectly through French, and conversely many French words, e.g. such verbs as domineer, cashier, and fineer, which have passed into English through Low Dutch. A class of words similar to this last is that of words of Portuguese and Spanish or of native Malay and South African origin borrowed into Dutch, thence passing into English in their Dutch form.
I have taken the explanations of the meanings of the words as given by the Oxford English Dictionary. The form of the word given is always the Main Form, as used by the Oxford English Dictionary to head its article, but when necessary I have added variant spellings. The date of the earliest record is placed in brackets after each word, and where the history of the sense-development is of importance, each sense is preceded by the date of its earliest record. After the date of earliest record I have sometimes added the name of the text or of the author in whose work the word is first found. This I have done only when a knowledge of the place of origin or of the author has a bearing on the Low Dutch influence. Thus, if a word occurs first in the Promptorium Parvulorum, I have always mentioned it, because that work was composed at Lynn in a region where Low Dutch influence was especially strong. Again, it is of importance that we should know if a word occurs first in the books of Caxton, who lived half his life in the Low Countries, or of Evelyn or Fynes Morison, who travelled there, or of Ben Jonson or Gascoigne, who fought there. When the
date of a text is really uncertain, I have usually added the name of the text after the presumed date or mere indication of century; at other times I have inserted the first authenticated date from which the word is found. The abbreviations, signs, and phonetic symbols which I have employed are chiefly those used by the Oxford English Dictionary; ad., adoption of, adaptation of, in the etymologies, has been especially useful because of the great saving of space effected by its employment.
I had hoped that a considerable number of words, especially from the earlier volumes, given in the Oxford English Dictionary as of unknown or obscure origin, could have been proved to be of Low Dutch origin. I have found but few words capable of such proof, and at times I have been almost discouraged at being forced so often to agree with the etymologies of the Oxford English Dictionary. Most of my etymologies, then, are practically identical with those proposed by the Oxford English Dictionary, but even when I have had nothing to add, I have always verified and investigated for myself.
I have used the term ‘Low Dutch’ to include all the continental Low German dialects, i.e. the various dialects of Flemish, Dutch, Frisian, and Low German. The close affinity between English and Low Dutch is often a great difficulty in determining the question of origin. If a word is recorded first in the Middle English period, and if there are suitable forms in one or all of the Middle Low Dutch dialects, which would account for it as a borrowing from Low Dutch, it is even then not safe to jump to conclusions; the word may have originated in an unrecorded Old English form and be therefore only the cognate of the Low Dutch forms. Very interesting in this respect is polder. On the other hand, even if a word is recorded in Old English, the native form may have died out, and then later in Middle English its Low Dutch cognate may have been borrowed; an example of this is walker.
I do not wish to give in this introduction even a brief survey of the historical and economic relations between England and the Low Dutch countries, as that has been done at length in the separate chapters. Nevertheless, certain points arise which are worthy of note. As is to be expected, the number of military and nautical terms borrowed is great. Even more numerous are the terms of commerce, which include interesting groups of words introduced through the timber and Baltic trades and an
astonishing number of names for imported cloths. The number of fishing terms adopted from Low Dutch is surprisingly large, and the fact is brought out that the Yarmouth Banks were to the Dutch in the Middle Ages what the Newfoundland Banks were to English fishermen in later centuries. In the whale fishery, too, the Dutch were at times supreme, and Low Dutch words were freely taken into the English vocabulary of the industry.
The crafts and industries introduced or improved by Low Dutch people are many, and the technical terms of these arts and crafts were borrowed in large numbers. There is often difficulty here, however, in ascribing a term to any particular craft or industry, when it may have been introduced through several channels. A rather contradictory result is obtained for woollen weaving. Economic historians, like Cunningham and Ashley, have insisted that the English weaving industry was practically established by Flemish immigrants. That there were such immigrants we know, but they could not have had such an important influence on the industry as the economists suggest, for the number of weaving terms which they introduced is comparatively slight. In the preparation and weaving of flax and hemp, on the other hand, where practically no Flemish contact can be shown, such influence must have existed, for the terms borrowed from Low Dutch are important. Dutch activities in the draining and reclaiming of land are responsible for some sixteen words. Though most of the German miners of whom we have record in England seem to bear South German names, some of those who are styled ‘Almaygnes’ must have come from the Flemish and Hartz mining districts, for they have left a number of Low Dutch mining terms in the English vocabulary. The modern brewing industry seems to have been established by Low Countrymen, who introduced the practice of brewing with hops.
Among the purely literary borrowings two contributions are especially noteworthy: that of the bilingual Caxton, though most of his introductions from Flemish did not make good their footing in the English vocabulary; and that of the early school of botanists known as the Herbalists, who freely adopted or adapted Low Dutch names of plants. During the 16th and 17th centuries English painting and engraving were dominated by artists of the Flemish and Dutch Schools, and some common
terms of painting and engraving were borrowed, e.g. sketch, etch, easel, and landscape.
The number of words taken into English from Afrikaans, the dialect of Dutch spoken in South Africa, is very great, and this is not to be wondered at, for there the two vigorous languages exist side by side. Most of these words are literary in English, and very few indeed have become popular, though many, such as kopje and laager, had a popular vogue during the years of the Boer war; the last war, however, has made commandeer a word known to every one. New York was originally a Dutch colony, and New England speech has been enriched by a number of words from the speech of the Dutch settlers. These are essentially popular words in American English, terms of cooking, housekeeping, farming, and the like, while there is a most interesting group of words from children's dialect, one of which, Santa Claus, has passed into general English speech.
Many words remain for which I can find no specific channel of entry. They may have come into English by any one of half a dozen different ways. These words I have set down in a final chapter in alphabetical order; no purpose would be served by any attempt to group them in chronological order, as I have done with the words in the other chapters.
My chief aim has been to indicate the possible channels of entry of Low Dutch words into English. There has been no space for the exhaustive treatment of each individual word to be found in Bense's Dictionary of the Low-Dutch Element in the English Vocabulary. Many words treated by Bense I have not been able to include. For some the evidence for Low Dutch origin is not sufficiently convincing to warrant it. Many again in English are only dialectal and so outside my plan.
This book is substantially my dissertation as presented and accepted for the degree of Bachelor of Letters at Oxford.
I have to express my especial indebtedness to Dr. C.T. Onions, who suggested the subject of this treatise, acted as my supervisor for the B.Litt. degree under the Board of the Faculty of English at Oxford, and has made a number of suggestions while the book was passing through the press. To my examiners also, Professor J.R.R. Tolkien and Mr. C.L. Wrenn, I am grateful for criticisms made during the viva voce examination for the degree. My thanks are due to Professor Cyril Brett for his constant interest and advice; to Professor Morgan Watkin for
help on points of French and Afrikaans philology; and to Mr. J. Hubert Morgan for help on economic and historical sources. But for all errors and imperfections in the book I must, of course, be held solely responsible.
Finally, I wish to record my gratitude to the Philological Society for consenting to include my work among their Publications and for having defrayed the cost of producing it.