June 14, 2019

Art With Frisian-Language Quote From The Little Prince

"You can see the best with the heart. That which is essential may not be seen with the eyes." 

Quote from the Frisian translation of "The Little Prince" (De Lytse Prinsand painting by Ludwig Knaus (1829 –1910). I made this with Paint.NET software. 

May 20, 2019

DRÛGJE - "to dry"

Drûgje, alternatively spelled droegje, is the verb for "to dry." The first spelling with the -û- is the more up-to-date one. It is pronounced with the long "oo" sound in "drew." Meanwhile, drûch is the word for "dry," such as with dry weather.

One of my favorite Frisian proverbs involves this verb:

Dy't nachts fisket moat deis netten drûgje
[DEET nAWkhts fIHs-kuht MWAWt DIGHs NEHT-tuhn drOOg-juh]


Wa't nachts fisket moat deis netten drûgje
[VAHt nAWkhts fIHs-kuht MWAWt DIGHs NEHT-tuhn drOOg-juh]

They both literally mean that the one who fishes by night must dry nets by day, or that there are consequences to actions... e.g., stay up late and feel it the next day.

Public domain image (1839) from the Freshwater and Marine Image Bank

March 2, 2019

FAN BÛGJEN FRJEMD - "We Bow To No one"

A quick little post. I thought I'd share a picture I made a while back with a good Frisian patriotic phrase:

Fan bûgjen frjemd
Colloquial translation: "we bow to no one" - literally, "of bowing foreign/strange"

This phrase is in the Frisian provincial anthem, De Alde Friezen. The picture is one I took at the Imaginarium Festival in Tytsjerk.

January 25, 2019

OPROMJE- to tidy up

I recently learned a new Frisian word just in time for all the renewed interest in Marie Kondo... opromje, which means "to clean up" or "to tidy up."

to tidy up

It's interesting to me, as an English-speaker, how the word has a connection to the root rom ("space," "vastness," "roomy"), a connection which we don't have in our own language. 

Another word where we can see that bond is ferromming, meaning "relief," "solace," or "expansion." This makes so much sense: when something is a relief, it gives you a renewed feeling of space and freedom!

Rom roughly rhymes with "bomb" and is the emphasized syllable in the other words. [fuh-RAWM-ing], [awp-RAWM-yuh].

It is worth adding that rom has another meaning: fame or glory. For example, the provincial anthem describes it Fryske lân fol eare en rom... the Frisian land full of honor and glory. 

The verb romje has a number of different meanings. It can mean "to praise" or "to commend." However, it can also mean "to clear out," "to leave," or "to abandon."

It fjild romje...

To leave the field...

To conclude, here is a picture of a beautifully expansive field that I took on a bike ride to Boalsert from Snits:

December 7, 2018

TA - The Tiny Word That Also Means "Closed"

This post is based on a question asked by a member of the Fun With Frisian Facebook Group. The Frisian word ta looks very simple, like a happy cognate to the English "to." It can mean "to" or "towards" just as you would suspect. However, it seems to have another layer or two that might not match up so well with modern English. Ta can mean "closed" or carry the sense of something ending, or only going up to a certain point and no further. It can also imply that something is breaking into pieces or separating.

Let's start with these two less English-friendly examples:

De gerdinen binne ta. 
The curtains are closed (or: tight, shut).
[duh guh-DEEN-uhn BIHN-nuh TAH.]

De doar is ta.
The door is shut.
[duh DWAWR IHs TAH.]

In another example, we can see the "to" meaning combined with the idea of an ending, a limit, or closing:

Hy stie oan 'e knibbels ta yn 't wetter.
He stood up to his knees in water.
[HIGH shTEE AWN uh knIHb-buhls TAH EENt VEHt-tuhr.]

The underlying idea of going towards a place, but with a limitation on time or space (there and no further), shows up again here:

Er nei it húske ta moat.
He must go to the bathroom.

...oan 'e ein fan it jier ta...
...until the end of the year...
[AWN uh IHGn fAWN uht EEr TAH...]

Meshing a bit with the idea of limitation or closing, ta can also sometimes be used to express adversity or as a word of emphasis:

Tink ris ta!
Really think about it!

It is der wol ta kommen.
It's going to take effort.

Of course, sometimes ta means "to" like you'd hope and expect.

Lju ta it feestmiel roppe.
To call people to the feast.

...yn augustus nei Ljouwert ta komme.
...to come to Ljouwert (Leeuwarden) in August.

View from the Ljouwert bus station.
Photo taken by the author in August of 2017.

September 29, 2018

BERINNE - "to achieve" or "to overwhelm"

Here is a very useful Frisian verb: BERINNE. Stress is on the second syllable. [buh-RIHN-uh]. One of the the meanings is "to achieve" or "to amount to." Another meaning is "to overwhelm." The noun BERIN (stress on the second syllable)--[buh-RIHN]-- means "course" or "slope" (as of a sea-dike).

HY KIN DAT EIN NET BERINNE - he cannot achieve that end. 

DE PINE BERINT MY - the pain overwhelms me
[duh- PEE-nuh buh-RIHNT MIGH]

IT MOAT SYN BERIN HAWWE - it must have its course... it cannot be forced or rushed.

IT RJOCHT SIL SYN BERIN HAWWE - the law (what is right) must have its way.

August 17, 2018

HELJE - "to catch, drag, succeed"

Clip from an 1834 painting by Rudolph Jordan
Here's a versatile Frisian verb with connections to an archaic word in English: helje. It can mean to catch, fetch, drag, haul, or realize (a goal). Apparently, in English we once had "hale" as a verb meaning "to drag or draw forcibly." A few examples:

besykje te heljen
try to catch 
[buh-SEE-kyuh tuh HEHL-yehn]

it net helje
it doesn't succeed
[UHt NET HEHL-yuh]

it skip hellet
the ship is swept back and forth by wind

On a related note, the word FANGE means "to catch" and FISKJE specifically means "to fish."

July 27, 2018


The century's longest lunar eclipse is today. The Frisian word for a lunar eclipse is "moannefertsjustering," literally, "moon darkening."

The word TSJUSTER means "darkness"... say it with a vowel somewhat like the long "oo" in "moon," but with a narrower sound.

The entire word is very roughly pronounced: MAW-nuh-fur-TCHOOS-tuhr-ing.

Lunar eclipse - Photograph from NASA (public domain).

May 28, 2018

Video: From 0 to 100 Years In Frisian

Numbers as ages in Frisian going up to a hundred. A very nice way to really see and hear the language:

"From baby to centennial, filmed in one village in Friesland, which is a northern province of the Netherlands. Frisian is an entirely different language than Dutch."  ImagineVideoclips

April 5, 2018

SUVEL - "dairy"

I saw this word today while reading and thought that it would make a good basis for a lesson. English-speakers who have so much as dabbled in Frisian will be quite familiar with the word tsiis, a veritable twin-flame to its English equivalent "cheese." However, the word suvel will likely be less familiar.
"Butter, bread, and green cheese"
Photograph by author

Suvel is the Frisian word for "dairy." The first syllable is said with the long -oo- in "soothe" and the second syllable is pronounced with a schwa. [SOO-vuhl]

Let's branch out from this starting point. Taalweb Frysk explains the word's meaning further. Incidentally, the Frisian for "meaning" is betsjutting, related to the verb tsjutte - "to indicate," "to point," or "to interpret."

...molke en alles wat fan molke makke wurdt, lykas bûter, tsiis, yochert..

...milk and all that is made from milk, such as butter, cheese, yogurt...

[MOHL-kuh EHn AWL-luhs VAWT FAWN MOHL-kuh MAHk-kuh VUHT, LEE-kuhs BOO-tuhr, chEEs, yOH-huht]

Here is an example of the word suvel in an article from Omrop Fryslân:

Kâns op staking yn 'e suvel. Meiwurkers fan Fryske suvelfabriken binne ree om takom wike it wurk del te lizzen.

Chance of a strike in the dairy. Employees of Frisian dairy factories are ready to quit work next week. (Del te lizzen more literally means "to lay down" work.)

Kij op It Amelân, 2015 - Photograph by author
Of course, any mention of dairy requires that we know the word for "cow." 

Ko, pronounced like the English co- as in "co-op," is a singular cow. [kOH]

Kij, pronounced like the first part of "kite," [kIGH], is the plural form, cattle.

A "calf" is keal, said with an -ee- quickly blending into an -eh- sound. [kYEHL]. Meanwhile, a bull is bolle, pronounced like the English "bowl" followed by a schwa in the second syllable. [BOHL-luh]

What if you don't eat dairy? Maybe you are a feganist [fey-GAHN-ihst], a vegan. Or maybe not. In any case, "fruits and vegetables" can be either griente en fruit orless commonlygriente en fruchten. Note the reversal from the usual English word order.  [GREEN-tuh] is vegetables. Fruit looks like English, but it rhymes with "out." [FROWt]. So look out when you see fruit in Frisian! Fruchten is said with a long -oo- vowel in the first syllable like the word that it means in English. [FROOkh-tuhn]. There are also nôten (grains) and nuten (nuts): [NAWT-uhn] pronounced like the word "knot" and [NOOT-uhn] pronounced like the word "newt," respectively.

Lekker ite! 
Good eating (literally: "delicious eating")!
[LEHK-kuhr EE-tuh!] 

February 23, 2018


I recently came across the word reden in a useful phrase, which I will of course share here. However, it also turns out that there are different, similar-looking words in Frisian with their own distinct meanings. Today, let's explore these.

One of the common meanings of reden  is a "cause" or a "reason." Pronounce the first syllable like the English word "ray" followed by the word "done" (a schwa vowel). REY-duhn.

There's a phrase for saying that something is obvious which goes like this:

Eleven Cities Route - Alvestêdetocht on fy.wikipedia.org
...yn 'e reden lizze...
..is obvious... (literally: "lies within the reasons or causes...")
[...EEn uh REY-duhn LIHz-zuh...]

It leit yn 'e reden dat elk syn sin altyd net krije kin.
It is obvious that everyone can't have their desire/wish all the time.
[UHt LIGHt EEn uh REY-duhn DAWT EHlk SEEn SIHn AWL-teet NET krIGH-uh KIHn.]

What is also obvious is that ice skating is important in Friesland! So, we have another use for the word reden: it can mean "an ice skate."

Redens is the plural, meaning "ice skates." [REY-duhns]

Also, reden can mean a "talk," "conversation," or "discussion."

Mnemonic: Obviously we have cause to talk about ice skating!

How about the similar-looking word rêden? The first syllable is pronounced like the English word "red" and ends like our word "done." REHd-duhn. 

This word is common in news articles, as it means to be saved or rescued.

...is rêden...
...is saved / is rescued...
[IHs REHd-duhn]

Here's one of many examples from Omrop Fryslân (article here):

Man út grêft rêden
Man saved from canal
[MAHn OOt grEHft REHd-duhn]

There is also a verb, rêde, which can mean "to rescue" or "to occupy with."

Wat is dêr te rêden?
What is there to do?

Rêd by itself sometimes means a "wheel" or "circle." 

For example, reuzerêd, the word for a giant Ferris wheel such as the London Eye, is a combination of the word for "a giant" (like in fairy tales) and the word for "wheel." 

Rêd can also mean "quickly," "fast," or "soon."

Sa rêd as de wyn.
As swift as the wind.

Mnemonic: Swiftly save us from the red wheel!

Photograph by Steven Fine on Wikimedia Commons