‘Ik hou van jou’ was our #1 most popular Word of the Day in 2014. In this video Yolande Hisgen (Direct Dutch Institute) explains where ‘houden van’ comes from. Warning: you may never say ‘Ik hou van jou’ again after you watched this video….
LIEFDE dates back to the 13th century. It was derived from the 10th century word LIEF, dear, well-liked. The person you love is EEN LIEFJE, sweetheart or (more formally) GELIEFDE, loved one.
LIEVEN used to be a popular verb. ‘I love you’ in Dutch was ‘Ik lief je’ for a long time. Now we use the horribly gasping and wheezing phrase: IK HOU VAN JOU. So unromantic with al those painful ‘ow’ sounds! The preposition ‘van’ (belonging to) gives it possessive overtones! ‘Houden van’ clasps in its core the verb ‘houden’ (hold). IK HOU VAN JOU literally means ‘I keep a hold of you’.
The verb ‘houden’ (like English ‘hold’) stems from the Gothic verb ‘hoeden’ (tend a herd). In the Middle Ages when people could be held as slaves or serfs, HOUDEN VAN used to mean ‘have someone on loan’ (eg. a vassal). Later on it evolved to: ‘be concerned about someone’. In time HOUDEN VAN developed from ‘watching over someone’ to ‘expressing tender care’.
Yet, more and more people appear to prefer the English phrase to the Dutch one. Pity that we need a foreign language to express our most intimate feelings. There are other options but they are not as common as IK HOU VAN JOU. There is the archaic ‘beminnen’ (love dearly) and the sentimental ‘liefhebben’ (cherish, literally have dear). In Flanders they are used to saying: ‘ik zie u graag’ or ‘ik zie u gère’ (I gladly see you) and they also mean IK HOU VAN JOU (I love you).
Maybe we should reintroduce IK LIEF JOU! It sounds so much sweeter, softer and at the same time more logical. First you LIEF someone, then you are GELIEFD (beloved) and eventually you are in a state of LIEFDE.
Do you want to know more about ‘liefde’? Here’s the link to the original Word of the Day ‘Ik hou van jou‘, published on 14 February 2014. Interested in more Words of the Day?
Follow this link if you want to read our other Words of the Day!