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Word of the day: koning (king)

Did you see last Saturday’s celebration on Scheveningen beach? Did you see it on television? Did you read about it? Were you there on the landing site where the first Dutch king-to-be printed his first royal steps printed in the sand? Were you among the many Orangist Hollanders and Scheveningers who welcomed the new head of state?

Two hundred years ago, November 30th 1813, Willem-Frederik Prince of Orange-Nassau set foot on the Dutch shore and on 16 March 1815 he took the title of king Willem I in Amsterdam. And so our monarchy started.

According to Nicoline van der Sijs KONING (king) is an ancient word first recorded in Dutch in the tenth century. The word is much older though. In Old English the word was ‘cyning’. From there it evolved into modern English ‘king’. In Old Dutch it was ‘kuning’. And the Germans still speak of ‘König’. So where does this word come from?

Apparently KONING is related to the early Germanic word ‘kunja’ which means ‘family’ or ‘line’ (as in ‘descent’ or ‘lineage’). In English you can still recognize this word in ‘kin’ (as in ‘kinship’) and in modern Dutch in ‘kunne’. The suffix ‘ing’ means ‘belonging to’. So King Alfred probably meant something like: ‘belonging to the family of Alfred’.

By the way, the Dutch word ‘kind’ (child) was also derived from the word ‘kin’. ‘Kind’ must have originally meant something like ‘descending from the family of Alfred’. In English it is still used in words like ‘mankind’ and ‘kindred’. And the English adjective ‘kind’ in the sense of ‘friendly’ originally referred to the feeling of relatives for each other.

Back to the word KONING. Koning Willem Alexander (the present king) belongs to the house of Oranje-Nassau and is the seventh king of the Netherlands. He is the fourth KONING because from 1890 until this year we had four queens (KONINGINNEN). The next monarch in line is Amalia (born in 2003) and in time she will be the fifth KONINGIN.

The word ‘queen’, by the way, is not related to KONING or ‘king’. Originally it merely meant ‘wife’. The King’s wife came to be known as the Queen. In Dutch ‘-in’ in ‘koningin’ means ‘female king’.

The father of the fatherland Willem I may have three statues in The Hague, there is only one statue of KONING Willem I. It is gigantic. You can find it near the Vredespaleis on Plein 1813.

Deze Word of the Day komt uit 2013 en is geschreven door Ruud Hisgen (Direct Dutch Institute)