van (Dutch)

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van is a preposition in the Dutch and Afrikaans languages, meaning "of" or "from". It is also a common prefix in Dutch language surnames (being known as a tussenvoegsel), as in Vincent van Gogh or Marco van Basten. It can appear by itself or in combination with another prefix, such as van de, van der and van den (current and archaic forms of the article de, meaning "the") and less commonly van het or van 't' (the neutral article het). Common is ver, a contraction of van der and written as a single word with the rest of the surname, as in Johannes Vermeer.

The German "von" is a cognate of Dutch "van", though unlike the German "von", the Dutch "van" is not an indication of nobility or royalty. These prepositions usually refer to a geographic place.

Other prepositions[edit]

The preposition "van" is the most widely used preposition in Dutch surnames, but many others are also used, although not always recognized as such if the whole surname is written as a single word. Just as "van" all these prepositions used to indicate geographical locations:

  • te — meaning "at" (or/of towards), (or ter and ten, being the old dative forms), e.g., ter Beek (of the stream)
  • thoe/thor — being the old forms of te as in Thorbecke (meaning at the brook)
  • aan — meaning "at" or "aside", e.g., aan de Stegge (meaning aside the road)
  • op — meaning "on" (also in combination op de, op den, op 't, op der), e.g., as in Op den Akker (on the field)
  • in — meaning "in" (in combination with the neutral particle: in 't), e.g., in 't Veld (in the field)
  • uit — or archaic uyt, meaning "out" or "from", e.g. Uytdehaage (from The Hague or from the hedge).
  • over — meaning "over" or "from the other side", as in Overeem (from the otherside of the river Eem)
  • onder — meaning "under" or "below" or "at the bottom": Onderdijk, Onderwater
  • achter — meaning "behind": Achterberg (behind de mountain)
  • bezuiden — meaning "south of": Bezuidenhout (south of the woods)
  • boven — meaning "above" or "up": Bovelander(up in the land)
  • buiten — meaning "outside" or "in the country": Buitenhuis ()
  • zonder — meaning "without": Zonderland (without land) or Zondervan (without van, e.g. without a surname beginning with van)

Apart from these prepositions the prefix "de" (not a preposition but an article, meaning "the") is also very common. They indicate a property, quality or origin, as in "de Lange" (the tall one), "de Korte" (the small one), "de Groot" (the big one), "de Zwart", "de Wit", "de Rode" (the one with black, white, red hair or skin), "de Rijke" (the rich one). The most widespread is "de Vries" (the Frisian).

For Dutch people of French (usually Huguenot) origin whose ancestors never modified their surnames to fit Dutch norms, the prefix "de" is a preposition similar in meaning to "van".

Conventions[edit]

Collation and capitalisation[edit]

Collation and capitalisation of names differs between countries:

  • In the Netherlands, and Suriname, names starting with "van" are filed under the initial letter of the following name proper, so van der Waals is filed under "W", as:   Waals, van der, Johannes or Waals, Johannes van der. The "v" is written in lower case, except when the surname is used as standalone (when the first name or initials are omitted), in which case it is capitalised, as in "de schilder Van Gogh" ("the painter Van Gogh"). Derivative terms like van der Waals radius (Dutch: vanderwaalsstraal) the "v" is not capitalised, unless it is the first word of the sentence.
  • The Dutch filing usage does not apply for Afrikaans names in South Africa. For instance, in South Africa the surname Van der Merwe would be listed under the "v" section as is done in Belgium (see below) and not under "m", however South Africa follows the same capitalisation convention as the Netherlands (thus, one would refer in English or in Afrikaans to a Jan van der Merwe when the first name is included, but simply to "Van der Merwe" when the first name is omitted).
  • In Belgium, any surnames beginning with "Van" or "van" are filed under "V". So for example Eric Van Rompuy is listed under the "V" section, not under the "R".[1] The lowercase spelling in a name from the Netherlands is respected but not necessarily differentiated in alphabetical ordering and its Dutch style capitalization for certain usages is generally unknown and thus not followed. The painter's full name however, having become commonplace, is usually spelled Vincent Van Gogh in Belgium. In Flemish surnames the "V" is always capitalized though a following interjected "de", "den" ('the') or "der" ('of the', 'from the') usually stays lowercase. Names as Van der Poorten, Vander Poorten and Vanderpoorten include a double genitive, in which case Van made it a patronym - literally "Of from the Gates", originally a son or daughter of the man referred to as coming from the gates: each of these family names goes back to a child of assumedly an emigrant from the then nearest walled city. "Van der" or "Vander" also occurs contracted to "Ver" and then must never be separated from the main term, e.g. in the surname Verpoorten. Names starting with "Van" and its derivatives often refer to a placename (never with any de- form) or some word for a location. Few with "Van" relate to other common sources as professional occupations and physical characteristics, though for instance Van der Jeugd, Van der Kinderen and Vanden Avond atypically refer to 'youth', 'children' and 'evening' respectively.
  • In anglicised versions of Dutch names (as in Dick Van Dyke, George Vancouver, Martin Van Buren), the "van" is almost always capitalised in the United States, but in the British Isles some families of Dutch origin continue to use the Dutch form (e. g. Caroline van den Brul).
  • Where the word "Van" is not of Dutch origin, such as in the Vietnamese middle name Wen or Van (as in Duong Van Minh, Nguyen Van Thieu) there is no reason to use a lower case "v."

Concatenation[edit]

In some names, usually those of the Flemish/Belgian ones, and also some of the names of people from outside the Low Countries (with Dutch-speaking immigrant ancestors), the prefixes are concatenated to each other or to the name proper and form a single-worded or two-worded surnames, as in Vandervelde or Vande Velde. Prominent examples include "Vandenberg" and "Vanderbilt".

Names[edit]

In the United States some English surnames were later given the preposition Van, such as in the case of Van Allen, Van Owen or Van Blake. Since Owen and Blake don't represent geographical locations, they are recognizable as not original Dutch "van" surnames. "Owen" is a Welsh cognate with Eugene meaning noble-born. "Blake" could come from "blac", a nickname for someone who had light hair or skin.

Prominent people with Van in their surname[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]