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Word of the Day: geboorte (birth), part 1

This was a happy week full of words starting with ‘ge’: GEZELLIG, GEZIN, GELUK. Yes, in spite of the rain it was een GELUKKIGE week, especially for our colleague Marloes, her husband Thijs and their son Stijn. This young GEZIN welcomed the little girl Maya in their lives.

The birth of a child changes the world and not just the world of HET GEZIN. The entire world is affected by the new person who has ‘joined in with all that is alive and will breathe with all that has a breath’. How lucky we are! WAT EEN GELUK! Congratulations Marloes, Thijs and Stijn!

GEBOORTE, birth is a joyous beginning. The noun was derived from the verb BAREN which goes back to medieval ‘beran’, originally meaning ‘to bear’ or ‘to produce’. Sometime in history the sense of ‘carrying’ must have evolved into ‘bringing a child into the world’. Old English had the word ‘gebyrd’. However, it was replaced by ‘birth’ in the 13th century. ‘Birth’ comes from Old Norse ‘byrðr’.

Modern English ‘bear’ still has the double meaning of ‘carry’ and ‘give birth to, bring forth’. In Modern Dutch BAREN can only mean ‘give birth to a child’. DRAGEN now means ‘to carry’.

No, this is not completely true. In Dutch there is another verb BAREN that does not go back to ‘carry’. Nowadays it only occurs in idiomatic phrases like: OPZIEN BAREN (cause a stir) and DAT BAART ME ZORGEN (that is a source of concern to me). This verb BAREN goes back to the medieval word BAAR or BAR meaning ‘naked’ which can still be found in the word OPENBAAR (public) and BARREVOETS (barefoot). So BAREN in this sense means ‘to lay bare’ or ‘to uncover’.

However, let’s go back to GEBOORTE, which could be said to be a miracle, a wonder, an OPENBARING, a revelation. For nine months a woman carries a child and then there is the moment of letting go: DE GEBOORTE. The little crying creature thrown into the world is called a BABY in Dutch. So hello Baby to this world, hello Maya have a good life.

Photo of Maya made by Thijs and Marloes