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:

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).


Collation and capitalisation[edit]

Collation and capitalisation of names differs between countries:


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.


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]