Well, Frank, I’m glad you asked, because there are plenty – though not all are equally praiseworthy. Apartheid, for example, may very well be the most famous word of the Dutch language. It comes from apart, separate, and the suffix –heid, comparable to the English –hood or –ness.
The second most famous, then, could just as well be polder, “an area of low land reclaimed from a body of water,” according to my Penguin dictionary, “esp in the Netherlands.” To keep those areas water-free, dijken had to be erected, or dykes.
Good old Wikipedia has a “List of English words of Dutch origin” and mentions an American language professor who estimated that 1% of all English words are of Dutch origin.
How about drugs? The word is said to come from the Dutch droog, dry, since early medicines mostly consisted of dried herbs. It is a word that has charmed the languages of the world, including French, drogues, and Spanish, drogas.
Ever been called a geek? Not to despair. It doesn’t mean that you’re a nerd but just a bit gek, strange. Or a Yankee? Don’t even bother. It’s from a composition of two of the most common names in Dutch, Jan and Kees, Jan-Kees. Or how about decoy? One of my favourites. Supposedly, it comes from de kooi, the cage, something to lure somebody in to.
Some even claim that the two most powerful and proliferate words in the English language are Dutch. OK is said to come from Old Kinderhook, otherwise known as the eighth US president Martin Van Buren, the first who didn’t have English as his mother tongue – he spoke Dutch. Kinderhook, New York, is where he was born; kinderhoek means children’s corner.
The other word, which I’ll leave to you, dear reader, to decipher, comes from the Dutch word fokken, to breed.
The list goes on and on and is highly entertaining for the slightly gek. The people from the low countries planted seeds of their language everywhere they went – and they went places. There are even a couple of hundred Japanese words of Dutch origin still in use, from when the Dutch were the only Westerners allowed to trade with the Japanese. Madoroso, for example, comes from matroos, sailor. Or Doitsu means Duits, German.
Yet, it’s the Portuguese who inspired the internationally best-known Japanese word: arigato, thank you, comes from obrigado.
Questions? Yes, please: firstname.lastname@example.org