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For the geological term, see Allochton.
Simplified scheme of autochtoon/allochtoon relations.

Allochtoon (plural: allochtonen) is a Dutch word (from Greek ἀλλόχθων, from ἄλλος [allos] other and χθών [chthōn] soil/earth/land), literally meaning "emerging from another soil." It is the opposite of the word autochtoon (in English "autochthonous" or "autochthon"; from Greek αὐτόχθων, from αὐτός [autos] self/same and again χθών [chthōn] soil/earth/land), literally meaning "emerging from this soil."

In the Netherlands (and Flanders), the term allochtoon is widely used to refer to immigrants and their descendants. Officially the term allochtoon is much more specific and refers to anyone who had at least one parent born outside the Netherlands.[1]The antonym autochtoon is less widely used, but it roughly corresponds to ethnic Dutch. Among a number of immigrant groups living in the Netherlands, a "Dutch" person (though they are themselves Dutch citizens) usually refers to the ethnic Dutch.

In 1950, Dutch descent, Dutch nationality, and Dutch citizenship were in practice identical. Dutch society consisted mostly of ethnic Dutch, with some colonial influences and sizeable minorities of German and Flemish heritage. In 1950, most Dutch were either Catholic or Protestant, with some atheists. Decolonisation and immigration from the 1960s on altered the ethnic and religious composition of the country. This development has made the 'ethnicity' and national identity of the Dutch a political issue.

Dutch nationality law is based primarily on the principle of jus sanguinis ("right of blood"). In other words, citizenship is conferred primarily by birth to a Dutch parent, irrespective of place of birth.


The Dutch Centraal Bureau voor de Statistiek (CBS) uses the definition that at least one of the parents is not born in the Netherlands.

A first distinction is made between first-generation and second-generation newcomers.

  • A first-generation allochtoon is a person living in the Netherlands but born in a foreign country and who has at least one parent also born abroad. The 'country of origin' is the country in which that person is born.
  • A second-generation allochtoon is a person born in the Netherlands with at least one parent born in a foreign country. When both parents are born abroad, the 'country of origin' is taken to be that of the mother. If one parent was born in the Netherlands, the 'country of origin' the other parent's country of birth.

Note that someone who is born abroad, but with both parents born in the Netherlands, is an autochtoon.

A further distinction is made between "Western" and "non-Western" allochtoon people. A non-Western allochtoon is someone whose 'country of origin' is or lies in Turkey, Africa, Latin America and Asia, with the exception of Indonesia (or the former Dutch East Indies) and Japan.

This last distinction was made because the official definition of allochtoon deviates from the common use in popular speech, where people refer to someone as allochtoon only when that person is an immigrant or an asylum seeker who is clearly distinct in ethnicity, clothing or behaviour from the traditional Dutch society. However, in the official sense, the largest group of allochtoon people are of German ancestry. The groups that people usually think of when they hear the word allochtoon are those of Turkish, Moroccan and Surinamese ancestry. As of 2006, these groups comprise roughly 350,000 people each, together constituting just over 6% of the population.[2] So a new term was introduced that lies closer to that meaning, "niet-westers allochtoon", which excludes allochtoon people from Europe, Japan (a developed high income country) and Indonesia (a former colony), but not those from the Netherlands Antilles and Suriname, even though the Netherlands Antilles are part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands and those from Suriname immigrated when that country was still part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. This definition coincides better with the popular conception of the word as signifying people of low socio-economic status who are "different from us".

Although some view the usage of allochtoon as a stigma, several members of the Dutch Royal Family are officially allochtoon people, as one of the parents was foreign-born. This includes 'western-allochtoon' current monarch Willem Alexander, as well as his 'non-western allochtoon' wife Queen Máxima of the Netherlands and their children.


Originally proposed as a neutral term, the use of the term allochtoon has been criticized as being stigmatizing.[3] There is a regular stream of newspaper articles reporting statistics that unfavourably distinguish allochtoon people from the rest of the Dutch.[4]

In 2013, the city council of Amsterdam decided to stop using the term because of its divisive effect.[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Definition by the Dutch Central Buro of Statistics (CBS) in Dutch
  2. ^ "Bevolking per maand; leeftijd, geslacht, herkomst, generatie". Centraal Bureau voor de Statistiek, 23 December 2011.
  3. ^ Geschiere, Peter (2009). The Perils of Belonging: Autochthony, Citizenship, and Exclusion in Africa and Europe. University of Chicago Press. pp. 149 ff. ISBN 978-0-226-28965-6. 
  4. ^ de Zwart, Frank (2012). "Pitfalls of top-down identity designation: Ethno-statistics in the Netherlands". Comparative European Politics 10 (3): 301. doi:10.1057/cep.2012.8. 
  5. ^ "Amsterdam dumps the 'A' word". Expatica. February 14, 2013. Retrieved February 16, 2013. 

Related concepts in other languages[edit]