Etymology database online

26 November 2010

A lot of people are interested in the origin of the words making up the Dutch language, but up to now there has been no central site on the Internet with reliable information.

On Saturday 27 November 2010, however, the Meertens Institute launched its etymology database.

The first release of the website comprises just under 50,000 entries. It is based on twenty dictionaries giving etymological information about Dutch words and expressions. If you look up the word peer, for example, you can choose between peer (pear), peer (father) and peer (a member of the British House of Lords). If you select the first of these, you are shown what the various etymological sources have to say about peer in the sense of "pear", ranging from the most recent source to the earliest.

The etymology database is a source of information for lovers of language, journalists, writers, and anyone else interested. It is also a research tool for etymologists and other linguists. It makes it possible to find all the information about a word (or part of a word) or an expression at a glance. It also shows how the meaning, pronunciation, etc. has developed. The intention is for the etymology database to become a forum for everyone interested in the history of Dutch words.

The etymology database is being developed by Dutch and Flemish etymologists and volunteers from a variety of backgrounds. It has been created with support from the Meertens Institute, the Prince Bernhard Cultural Fund, the Our Language Foundation [Genootschap Onze Taal] and the Kiliaan Foundation for Etymology [Kiliaanstichting]. Amsterdam University Press and the Institute for Dutch Lexicology, the scholarly publisher Brill, and Van Dale Lexicography have given their consent for inclusion of the etymological dictionaries for which they hold the copyright. The initiator of the etymology database was Nicoline van der Sijs.