Prefixes in surnames

Medieval portrait

Floris van Egmond

Many Dutch family names have prefixes like ‘de’ or ‘van’. They have a special role in the Dutch family name which you have to be aware of when researching names with prefixes.

Prefixes and their meanings

The most common prefixes are:

  • de – the
  • van – from
  • van de, van der, van den – from the
  • te, ter, ten – on

Examples of such Dutch surnames: De Vries (the Frisian, person from Friesland), De Bakker (the baker), Van Raalte (from Raalte, a town in Overijssel), van den Heuvel (from the hill), te Kolste (on Kolste, a name of a farm).

Using prefixes in practice

In Dutch family names, family names are sorted without their prefixes, so ‘Van Raalte’ would be alphabetized as ‘R’. If both the name ‘Raalte’ and ‘Van Raalte’ occur in the same index, ‘Raalte’ comes first, followed by ‘Van Raalte’, in indices most often written as ‘Raalte, van’.

Many people use online sources for their genealogy that require you to fill in a family name. Most Dutch search forms that ask for a family name, require the name without the prefix. If you’re looking for the Van Raalte family, only fill in ‘Raalte’ as family name. Sometimes a search form provides a separate textbox for the prefix. The Dutch word for prefix is ‘Tussenvoegsel’ or ‘Voorvoegsel’.

About Yvette Hoitink

Yvette Hoitink, CG®, QG™ is a professional genealogist in the Netherlands. She holds the Certified Genealogist credential from the Board for Certification of Genealogists and has a post-graduate diploma in Family and Local History from the University of Dundee. She has been doing genealogy for over 30 years and helps people from across the world find their ancestors in the Netherlands. Read about Yvette's professional genealogy services.


  1. Eszter K. says

    Hello Yvette,
    My great-great-grand mother’s name is Wierik, and my grandfather said that she came from England to Hungary to marry my great-great-grand father. But as I searched for this name, I found that this name is probably dutch, and some people use it with this prefixe “te” ( te Wierik). What do you think, is this name can be dutch, and is this prefixe belongs to her name ( and maybe after marrige she didn’t use it), and is there any meaning of this name? Thank you!

    • Hi Eszter,

      Te Wierik is a Dutch name. The name derives from a farm in Overijssel. Check the “Te Wierik” entry in the Family name database of the Meertens institute for a map with the distribution of the name and my article about Farm Names for more information about that phenomenon. The “te” prefix means “at” and means the person lived at the Wierik farm. So yes, it could well have been a Dutch name. Alternatively, it could be a spelling variation of an English name (Warwick comes to mind). The best advice I can give you is to gather as much information as you can about your great-great-grandmother and then see if there are any clues about her origin.

  2. Hello Yvette,

    I have a question. Our last name is van Doorn and some of our family members capitalize Van, others don’t, and some others spell it Vandoorn. Which one is correct?

    Thank you,


    • Currently, the correct way to spell these names in the Netherlands would be Van Doorn if used without a first name (Mr. Van Doorn) or van Doorn if used with a first name (Jan van Doorn). In Belgium, it is common to attach the -van- and make it Vandoorn. Of course, in earlier days there was no official spelling and many people could not read or write, so you may expect several variations in the same family.

      • thank you so much!

      • Gerard Lemmens says

        Hello Yvette,

        Not only in Belgium but very much in the USA do they attach the van to the the other part of the Dutch surname – thus Vandepoel – sometimes the van with a capital and sometimes also Poel with a capital.
        The article above does not explain the meaning of the prefax – van and ten – thus can that be attend to the article ??
        With sincere regards,


    • Kerstin Lancaster says

      My maiden name is Van Dooren

  3. Constantine says

    A famous scientist named Johannes Diderik van der Waals developed a theory of molecular interactions. The attractive force is named after him, the “van der Waals force”. Usually, “van” is not capitalized. Is that correct, or should it be “the Van der Waals force”?
    Thank you for your interesting webpage on this topic.

    • The Dutch rule is that prefixes are not capitalized when preceded by a first name, and are capitalized in other cases. So the correct Dutch spelling is Johannes Diderik van der Waals / Van der Waals force / Mr. Van der Waals. I remember being taught about him in science class in high school.

  4. Is Van-laurel is a surname?

  5. Hi there! After reading this article, I was hoping if you could tell me about the usage of knighthood in Dutch surnames, particularly in regards to titles like ‘Ridder’, ‘Jonkheer’, ‘Jonkvrouw’, and what kind of effect it has on the name if children of hereditary Ridders who don’t have a noble title acquire one or become knights themselves. I would also like to know whether or not ‘Velder’ is of Dutch genealogy and how all this compares to German titles. Thanks!

    • A ridder is a knight. Ridder can also be a hereditary noble title, but that form is quite uncommon in the Netherlands (only 6 families). The way the title inherits depends on the way that the family acquired the title, it could either be in all male lines or just the oldest son’s line. You can also be knighted by the King (Ridder in de Orde van Oranje-Nassau) but that is a personal title that is not inherited.

      Jonkheer (male form) and Jonkvrouw (female form) are the title to address the lowest ranks of nobility who do not have a noble title, similar to Esq. in England. The titles inherit in the male line. Unmarried daughters of Jonkheren are Jonkvrouwen, but lose the title when they marry.

      I do not know the details about German titles, so I cannot compare the two.

    • Velder could be Dutch or German. You would have to research your family tree to find out where the name originates from.

      • Cesily Roussopoulos says

        Hello Yvette and kind Readers, I have been reasearching my family Maternal line, my Grandmother came to the United States from Rotterdam. My name is Cesily and I am the granddaughter of Josephine Alida deGroot and so far I have found that my line may go back as follows, Alida Buurman, Alida Leijdes, Alida van Wingerden, Alida Bakker, and Trintje den Hollander. I have very little information due to WWII, short lifespans and orphaned. Any help, advice or knowledge shared on how to navigate the Dutch historical sites or about the family names given would be greatly appreciated.

  6. Sandra Johnson says

    Around 1800 Virginia I have an ancestor named van der Grift. Spelled in America many different ways! I found a Grift river on a map in the Netherlands. So would this person be “from the Grift river”?

    • Hi Sandra,
      According to the family names database of the Meertens Institute, the word ‘grift’ means ‘dug out channel,’ which his probably what gave the Grift river its name. I imagine there were plenty of such waterways in the Netherlands, so it would be impossible to say which ‘grift’ gave its name to your family. The only way to know is to research the family back to the earliest person to use the name, and see if you can find an explanation.

  7. Arie Posthumus says

    What about the name Posthumus, My Father was a Steenhouwer in Friesland. There was a King
    in the olden day’s I think.

    • Posthumus means born posthumously, i.e. after the death of the father. Whether that explains your family name too, would require further study to see if that explanation makes sense for the first person to use the name.

  8. Clinton Buning says

    Could you tell me what my last name Buning or Buining means ??? Thanks

  9. Kathy Norton says

    My great grandmother’s name was Maria Francina Storij van Sorge Peters from Middelburg Holland.(1846 -1891) What is the meaning of the three last names. Is it traditional to include the maiden name of the married woman and her mother’s maiden name? I’m curious to know whether I can trace ancestry through the additional names of Storij and van Sorge. I would love to know if that is
    a reasonable path to follow. Thank you for any light you could shine on this matter


  10. Michelle Corbin says

    Hi Yvette,
    My ancestor’s last name is Heillegger. Can you tell me anything about this surname? My ancestors are from Netherlands Antilles.
    Thank you.

  11. Fred Davis says

    The names Devere (perhaps de Vere) and Holdridge appear in my mother’s lineage. What can you tell me about these names?

    Thanks – Fred Davis

  12. Peter Stoveld says

    Hello Yvette,

    My surname is “Stoveld”. Given that “veld” is “field” in Dutch do you think the origin of the name is Dutch? If so, what might the “Sto” prefix mean?


  13. Adam Haase says

    Hi Yvette.

    Can you please tell me what you know about the surname Haase (my dad’s side) and how it came to mean ‘Hare’ as in “The Tortoise and the Hare?”

    Also, what’s the correct pronounciation of it?


    What was the first recorded use of the surname Haase?

    Also, are all Haase’s in someway related?

    Look forward to your reply.

    From Adam Haase.

    P.s. my surname, somewhere a few generations back, started being pronounced “Haze.”

  14. Fran Rynen says

    My last name on my birth certificate is Rijnen we have gone by. Rynen since I was little. My brothers have retaken the Rijnen version and I have stayed with the Rynen. Which name would I use on a legal document

    • Deciding how to use your software is a personal choice. Personally, I always use the form on the birth certificate as the main form, and enter any later versions as alternative names.

  15. Stefanie de Zutter says

    Hello Yvette,

    Is the surname “de Vreese” related to “de Vries”? I can’t find this information at all…

    Greetings Stefanie.

    • That depends where you find the name “de Vreese.” If that is in an English-speaking country, it could be a sleeping variation since the English pronunciation of Vreese is similar to the Dutch Vries. But if you found the name in Dutch records, there would not be a connection since the Dutch pronunciation is quite different.

      • Stefanie de Zutter says

        Thank you so much for the fast reply Yvette!

        The major part of my paternal side of family came from Germany and from Belgium.
        I’ve been always told that there was a woman that came from Belgium called Marie Christine de Vries (maiden surname), she was married with Louis Hostin/Hostyn. I even had this information matched with a Brazilian descendant of the Hostin family in MyHeritage website.

        And then, recently, in one of my research I came across a Brazilian website with some baptism records (of one daughter of theirs) and there I found their names, although her surname was spelled differently, was written “de Vreese”. Now I wonder if this information is official, if there was a variation of spelling or if that was a completely different surname. In Brazilian portuguese, to get the same sound as “de Vries” is pronounced in Dutch, it should be written something like “de Fris”, nothing similar to “de Vreese”. I’m really confused about it all now…

        • Stefanie de Zutter says

          I forgot to mention that I’m from Brazil!

          • The Portuguese pronunciation would be quite different. Most immigrants to Brazil came from Zealand, where De Vreese or De Vreeze occurs as a last name, so that would be my first guess. Be sure to drop the “de” prefix when searching for names in websites like Zeeuwen Gezocht:

            • Stefanie de Zutter says

              Wooow, that’s interesting! I didn’t know about the occurency of “de Vreese / de Vreeze” in Denmark. It would be a big surprise for me to discover ancestors from Zealand, although I don’t think that there’s a big chance of that happening. According to my families stories it is more likely to be “de Vries” the surname.

              * Some more informations that I have found it that Brazilian website that I just told you (I don’t know if it if official):

              1. Marie Christine de Vries/de Vreese’s parents names: Anna Devreker and Pierre François de Vries/de Vreese.
              2. Louis Hostin/Hostyn’s parents names: Catharina Lievens and João (Portuguese for Johannes/John) Hostin/Hostyn.

              Sometimes it’s a bit frustrating that I can’t discover things, but I will definitely keep looking for information!

              I want to thank you for the help you’re providing me Yvette, I really appreciate that and I really admire the work you are doing 🙂

            • Stefanie de Zutter says

              Oh wait, I was just wondering… did you mean Zealand in Denmark? Or Zeeland the province of the Netherlands?

      • Jacob Van de moere says

        My last name is van de moere.

  16. Donna haysham says

    Hi yesterday we just found out that our family surname was van den quicker in th 16th century then changed to chick when ancestors came to England was that a Dutch name many thanks

  17. Katerina says

    In my dissertation I have to reference multiple names with the “infix” and I am struggling to fins the correct way of putting them into an alphabetical order. The names are for example Olivier de Mendez (French) and Marieke de Mooij (Dutch).

    Would the correct way of listing them be as follows?

    MENDEZ, Olivier, de.
    MOOIJ, Marieke, de.

    Or what is the correct way? Thank you!

  18. Hi Yvette,
    I’ve been researching my family name TenBrook, including online, but still have not received a solid answer regarding the origin of my surname. The name traces far back in America (1700s or before) and I assume it began as ten Broek. Do you have any knowledge on this? Thanks in advance!

    Brad TenBrook

    • Seth Ten Broeke says

      Hey brad,

      I’m a ten Broeke. I’m having s lot of trouble too. I’ve seen everything from “of the swamp” to “on the meadow.” Very interested in seeing a response to this.

      In the meantime check out rugter ten Broeke and han ten Broeke. So of our relatives did some stuff.

  19. Hello Yvette,

    My name is Charis Van Brimmer. I have been trying to do some research on where our Surname originated. There is no information on Van Brimmer that I can find anywhere. However I did find a few other names that SOUND a lot like it… Van Bremmer, Van Bremer and Van Brhemer. Do you think that these could all be from the same origin? We have been told that our ancestors were German Dutch and I did read that the prefix Van can mean ‘of or’ from in Dutch…and the surname Bremer comes from a German town called Bremen…Do you think that this is a bit of a stretch? Or could I maybe be on to something?

    • Hi Charis,
      The English pronunciation of Brimmer is closer to the Dutch Bremer. The name could well have been derived from Bremen originally. There were also towns called Bremervoorde, Bremerlehe and several other towns starting with “Bremer” in present-day Germany, so it could also be that they dropped a syllable along the way. I would recommend you trace the male line until you find the earliest man who used the name and then see what variations he used.

      • Grant Van Brimmer says

        Hello, my last name is Van Brimmer also. I am wondering why someone from Germany would have the prefix Van. I have been told Von is the German prefix , while Van is Dutch.

        • They might have been from a part of Germany where “van” was the local dialect, or settled in an area with many Dutch speakers. “Von” would be the standard German but many regions had different dialects.

  20. Hi, I’m trying to do some research on my family names. My fathers name is Veleke and my mothers maiden name was de Mooy or deMooij. I always thought both parents were dutch but I remember hearing years ago that my mothers family were huegnots from France and that the name de Mooij was dutch for LeBeau.

  21. Hi Yvette, my name is Peter DeMoor (anglicised from the Dutch “de Moor”). My grandfather was born in Vlissingen, Zeeland. His grandfather and as far back as we know were ship pilots (harbour masters) in Vlissingen. They knew the harbour well and it was their job to steer and park (moor) the large ships. They may have been descendants of Joost de Moor (a Vice Admiral of the Dutch navy in the 1500s), who was also born in Vlissingen.

    I would like to know the origin of my surname, but do not speak Dutch. English surnames often originate from professions (Smith was a blacksmith and Baker was a baker). Is it possible De Moor originates from parking ships? Most Dutch people I ask say the name may refer to someone from North-West Africa (Morocco etc.). Moor sometimes refers to upland parks (England) or swamps (Germany). I have found some evidence of De Moors sending ships to the Americas (I am hoping De Moor does relate to the slave trade).

    What’s your best guess of where my family name originates?

    • The CBG family names database says the name either derives from an address or personal characteristics. That would be my guess too. One of your ancestors may have lived in a house or ran an inn called “De Moor,” for example, or may have had a dark complexion earning him the nickname. “Moor” in Dutch is not a word associated with the English word “moor” for parking ships. In the 1600s, there were also sailors being captured for ransom in Africa, which I also imagine could give somebody such a nickname.
      The only way to find out the true origin is to first trace the male line back to the first person who used the name and see if there were any circumstances that explain the name.

      • Peter DeMoor says

        Thanks Yvette, you are most knowledgeable about Dutch genealogy. One day I hope to visit Vlissingen and start the the family name “treasure hunt”. Until that day, your answer is our best start :). All the best from Australia! Peter de Moor.

  22. Joseph Theranger says

    I have Dutch ancestry for sure on my mother’s side, van Moock. The town is now known as Mock but I have seen an old map from the 1700s I believe where the town name was spelled Moock. I am less sure of a name on my father’s side of the family. The name is Therwanger. Now I know from several sources that -wang and its alternate spelling -wong can mean a field, a marshy field or meadow (note: it can also mean cheek but that is not the case here). I was wondering if the name Therwanger could really have been a variation of Ter Wanger meaning someone who lived on or near the meadow,

    Any insights?

  23. Dear Yvette,

    What a wonderful service you provide!

    I wonder if you have any thoughts about whether the surname “de la Haye” could possibly have evolved into the surname “van Hoven?” I am finding signs that a Protestant family named de la Haye, who lived near the French/Belgian border around Bailleul in the 1500s, might be the same family who emigrated to Frankenthal, Germany around 1570 and had the surname van Hoven in the Dutch church there. I have read that the French name “de la Haye” (“from the hedge”) can be translated to “from the forested enclosure” or something like that, and that “hove” is a Flemish word that indicates a field, surrounded by a fence or trees, or that it means “estate.” Is it plausible or likely that those surnames could be related?

    Thank you for any insights.

  24. Jo Standaar says

    HI My ex husbands name is Standaar and my daughter is trying to find out if there is any meaning attached to this name… can you help in any way please.

  25. Rachael Gudema says

    This is a long winded question: So hopeful that you can help me- Arend-Abraham Mozes Gudema lived in oude pekela in 1770, he is the 1st male in the family line with the Gudema surname. His father was buried in Stoulzenua Germany, in 1776 prior to receiving the Gudema surname & was buried “Moses the son of Elchonon” I am looking to find the family country of origin prior to Holland/Germany. Can you direct me?

  26. Rupa majumder says

    Hi. My surname is majumder .. so how can I fill it without prefix

  27. ryankarouw says

    I come from Indonesia. my surname is karouw, and I found that there is a karouw surname in the hobie van familie (, is it possible that karouw is from the Netherlands? what is the meaning of karouw in Dutch.

    • Hi Ryan, I stumbled upon this page by accident but I’ll try to answer your question.

      As the Van Hoboken family database shows, there’s indeed four people of Dutch descent named Karouw who lived and died in Indonesia. Michiel Hermanus Karouw and his three daughters. All of them have typical Dutch names (e.g. Geertruida). However, his daughters don’t seem to have left any offsrping named Karouw. His ancestors are unkown, but you may or may not share a common ancestor with the same last name.

      About the name Karouw, it’s the Dutch version of Karow, which refers to cities in Germany with the same name. (In English it would be Carow.) About 20 people with the surname Karouw lived in the Netherlands in 2007 and a few hunderds in Germany (and the US) are called Karow. If your last name is Karouw, it’s highly likely you’re both of German and Dutch ancestry.

      The Indonesian language version of Wikipedia has an article named Marga Minahasa which features Indonesian surnames used in certain cultures, mostly influenced by Dutch and some of Portuguese and Spanish surnames. All other sources on the internet connect the name Karouw to the Dutch East Indies. Maybe your Indonesian is better than mine, but it seems to me like Karouw is a surname of the Dutch Indonesian diaspora, who have possibly migrated from Germany some time earlier.

  28. Howard Florine says


    My maternal side has the surname of Moak, sometimes appearing as Mook in early records of German and Dutch churches of Schoharie County, New York in the 1700s. Family lore says the family came from the Netherlands but we have no documentation. What are your thoughts on the country of origin? Thank you.

    • I can’t speculate on the basis of one name. Mook is a Dutch name, but whether the family is actually Dutch would require tracing the family back to the immigrant ancestors and analyzing the available evidence.


    Thank you. Currently we have not been able to trace the family back to Europe. This has been a many decades project. It’s good to know that the Dutch origin story could be correct.

  30. Hi Yvette, my last name is Rexwinkle who came to America from Gelderland. I am curious if Rex was a prefix and what the name means? Some families spell it Rexwinkel.

    • Rexwinkel is a farm in the hamlet of Heurne in the former municipality of Dinxperlo. In that area, people named themselves after the farm they lived on. I do not know why the farm was named that. A “winkel” is an angular piece of land, but I don’t know what “rex” could be.

  31. Hi Yvette,
    My maternal grandfather’s name was Van Pamele, and our family was originally from Ruiselede, Belgium. Our earliest known Van Pamele was a Thomas (Antonius) Van Pamele who lived in the 1600s, and we cannot locate any records that identify his parents. The only other Van Pamele records around this time period appear to nearly all be for members of noble family of barons that sometimes went by aliases Blondel de Joigny van Pamele, and were from Oudenaarde (Pamele). But I cannot find any connection with our van Pamele ancestor to these ones. But then again, I have never found anything disproving a connection either. So my question is if you know if it would be unusual for a commoner or a peasant farmer to take a name being used by a noble family of barons without having any relation to them? We thought our family were farmers, so just trying to get some clarity about how they could have wound up with a baron family name if not actually related to them. Any valuable insight you may be able to provide, would be greatly appreciated!

  32. Donald Baar says

    Hello Yvette,

    My paternal grandmothers surname is Op’tHolt. As far as I can determine, this is the proper spelling and punctuation. She was born in Holland. Can you shed any light on the meaning of the name. Among we Dutch here in the states, no one seems to know what it means. Any help is greatly appreciated.

    Thank You!

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