Laan van Nieuw Oost-Indië 275, The Hague, The Netherlands +31(0)70 365 46 77

Word of the Day: Doerak, rascal

As Louis pointed out in his commentary on PIEREWAAIEN this is the second word in the Dutch language borrowed from Russian. But, dear Louis, according to the esteemed etymologist Ms Nicoline van der Sijs there is a third word, viz. MAMMOET. In a later posting I’ll deal with this name for the extinct woolly elephant.


Back to DOERAK now. It is not Malay as so many Dutch people think. It comes from Russian ‘durak’ which means ‘domkop’, ‘dwaas’, ‘nitwit’. ‘fool’. The word ‘dur’ means ‘foolishness’. DURAK was exported to the Netherlands by cossacks who helped the Dutch to chase away Napoleon’s army from the Netherlands in 1813.

This autumn we will start to celebrate two centuries of monarchy. In November 1813 Willem of Orange set foot on Dutch soil in Scheveningen for the first time. He became the first Dutch king. Willem-Alexander will be the fourth Dutch king in April when Queen Beatrix abdicates and when her son ascends the throne.

After two hundred years of usage the negative term of abuse DOERAK mellowed down to a positive term of endearment. A naughty child, a little rascal, could be called DOERAK, usually by proud grandfathers or grandmothers: ‘Het is een echte doerak!’

Photo by my niece Anouk of her son Dyon Valentino. Anouk’s proud mother Carla wrote: ‘Wat is het toch een stoere boy!’ And so he is!

So according to this item, the word DOERAK celebrates its 200th birthday this year! Why not organise a DOERAKFESTIVAL at the end of this year together with the celebration of two centuries monarchy and one century Peace Palace? The DOERAKFESTIVAL could be a celebration of words and phrases that came from all over the planet and have found a warm welcome in the Dutch language.