Gezellig: Embracing the Dutch Language | Undutchables

Gezellig: Embracing the Dutch Language

Ask any Dutch person what the backbone of being Dutch is and they will answer with the word: Gezellig, This word is so frequently used in the Dutch vocabulary to express different subjects, that an international person wouldn’t be able to understand its true meaning. There isn’t an exact translation for this beloved word. Although it can be loosely translated to words such as comfortable, nice, social and cozy, it does not quite capture its full essence.

Internationals often find themselves in a bind when asked to pronounce “gezellig”. Hard as they might try, they can never quite pronounce this complex term correctly. So you can start hitting the books and checking your dictionaries because without a doubt you will be tested on this!

The idea of “gezellig” or “gezelligheid” goes beyond the word itself. It is best used to describe a certain feeling. It’s like that feeling you get when you meet a friend you haven’t seen in a long time. That is what “gezellig” is all about. But that’s not even the tip of the iceberg. As we have already established it can mean so much more, it could also mean that feeling you get when you are surrounded by loved ones or your favorite pets. Gezellig is tied to the company you are in but can also refer to the atmosphere that is created when together. It can go so far as to describe a place or a room. A “gezellige” living room can be a room with beautiful painting or photos, plants and a warm interior. It is inviting, it is gezellig.

"Gezellig" in English: cosy, close, gregarious, homy, intimate, social, convivial, companionable, snug and fun-loving

When or how is gezellig used?

  • Having lunch with a friend can be gezellig. [Zullen we gezellig gaan lunchen morgen? - Shall we go out for a nice lunch tomorrow?]
  • If you ask a Dutch person out on a date, whether romantic or friendly, chances are big that they respond with: “Gezellig!”.
  • However, as Sir. Isaac Newton ones said, “for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction”. And in this case the contra of “gezellig” is the word “ongezellig”. Following the previous example, a date can be gezellig, unless the other person turns out to be unpleasant, at which point the date becomes very ongezellig.
  • The word “Gezellig”can also be used to describe a person. A gezellige person constitutes someone that is a joy to be around, social and in most cases is “the life of the party”.


Luckily, the Dutch are quite the gezellig bunch. As the good Old Dutch saying goes, gezelligheid kent geen tijd and that basically means there is no wrong time for fun. So rest assured, the next gezellig thing is right around the corner.

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