Dutch Sayings: Water And Sea

The Dutch are famous because of their relationship with the sea and water in general. We reclaimed land from the sea, used water to drive our economy, sailed the seven seas, and conquered nations far away. Nowadays, we are still fighting the flood every day by keeping our dikes up-to-date. A people that intertwined with the sea and water cannot but reveal that special bond in its language. Today I'll share with you some of the literally hundreds of Dutch sayings involving water.

Water bij de wijn doen (to add water to the wine): lowering demands to accomplish a compromise.

Een storm in een glas water (a storm in a glass of water): much to do about nothing, not as severe as it seemed at first.

Stille wateren hebben diepe gronden (still waters have deep grounds): he who does not talk much often has deep thoughts, there is more to this person than meets the eye.

Ze zijn als water en vuur (they are as water and fire): they cannot stand each other.

Het hoofd boven water houden (keeping one's head above the water): barely getting by, financially.

Een steek onder water (a punch below the water): insulting someone with a smile, using indirect speech.

Het water loopt altijd naar de zee (water always flows towards the sea): the rich always get richer.

Met hoog water lopen (walking with high water): wearing trousers that have legs that are too short.

Zo vlug als water (as quick as water): very quick, very keen.

Kijken alsof men water ziet branden (to look as if there was water on fire): looking very surprised.

Het kind met het badwater weggooien (to throw out the baby along with the bathing water): taking such ill measures to solve a problem that you end up ruining everything, including that what you wanted to solve.

De boot missen (to miss the boat): being too late to participate in something lucrative or favorable.

Dat is geen man over boord (no-one fell overboard): that is no problem.

In troebel water is het goed vissen (murky waters make good fishing): one can benefit from the problems of others.

Recht door zee (straight through the sea): being honest (or as some non-Dutch experience this : being blunt).

Onder zeil gaan (going underneath the sail): going to bed/sleep.

Water naar de zee dragen (to carry water to the sea) : a pointless business, measures that do not solve a thing.

Als de koeien op het ijs dansen en het warm water regent (when the cows dance on the ice and it rains warm water) : never.

Er zal nog heel wat water door de Rijn stromen, eer dat gebeurt (a lot of water will flow through the Rhine before that happens): it will take a long time for that to happen.

Het water loopt over de dijk (the water flows over the dike) : to cry.

Spijkers op laag water zoeken (searching for nails at low tide): nitpicking.

De zon niet in het water kunnen zien schijnen (not being able to see the sun shine in the water) : to be jealous.


Want to know more about Dutch sayings an proverbs? Read this book:
Dictionary of 1000 Dutch Proverbs (Hippocrene Bilingual Proverbs)