1. cap, hat [noun] [de pet, de petten]

The word "pet" is typically used for caps or cap-like hats. In Dutch we seem to have a word for all different kinds of hats, which makes it a bit difficult to translate at times.


The "army officer-like" hat that is worn by the Dutch male police is called a "politiepet". This word might look a bit weird if you don’t know that the base word is "pet". Female police wear a different hat which is rounder.

Many common expressions exist with "pet", see ‘Expressions’ for a few that you should know of.

"De politiepet is een belangrijk onderdeel van het politie-uniform."
("The police hat is an important part of the police uniform." The hyphen between "politie" and "uniform" is put there in order to avoid confusion in pronouncing the word, as "eu" is a common vowel in Dutch. However, here one can argue that the combination of the words is so common that the hyphen is not necessary.")

– "Politievrouwen dragen geen pet maar een hoedje."
("Female police do not wear a cap, but a hat (instead)." Literally: "Policewomen… ")

– "Honkbalpetjes zijn populair bij de jeugd."
("Baseball caps are popular amongst youngsters." Literally: "…popular with the youth.")

– "Huilen met de pet op.": literally "to cry with a cap on". This expression is used to indicate that an experience or performance was really bad.

"Hoe heeft het Nederlands elftal gespeeld?" – "Man, het was huilen met de pet op!"
("How did the Dutch team play?" – "Man, it was really bad!" The word "elftal" indicates a group of eleven people. Het "Nederlands elftal" is always used for the Dutch football/soccer team. If it would be hockey, then we would add the word hockey 🙂 .)

– "Jan-met-de-pet.": this is used to informally refer to the "ordinary (working class) civilian", literally: "Jan with the cap".

– "Petje af!": literally "cap off!", indicated the gesture one makes to pay respect by taking off the hat or cap. Consequently this expression is used to express admiration for an achievement.

– "Dat gaat me boven mijn/de pet.": literally "that goes above my/the cap", this expression is used to say that something is beyond your comprehension or understanding.

– "Rara politiepet!": this is a really weird expression of which we do not know its origin. "Rara" is informally used to express something is mysterious, see the example. How "politiepet" came in we don’t know, but together it means something like "how is this possible??".

"Rara, hoe kan dat?"
("How is this possible??" Literally: "… how can this?")

2. bad, lousy (quality) [adjective, adverb]

The use of "pet" as an adjective or adverb in the meaning of bad or lousy (with respect to quality) is less common, but definitely in use. Some people regard it a bit archaic, but it is one of Sander’s favourite words 🙂
Recently during the Dutch "verkiezingen" ("elections") the leader of the party D66 (Lousewies van der Laan – currently no longer active in politics) described the outcome of the elections for D66 as "pet". This was then mocked by the media because the usage of "pet" was deemed archaic.

– "Dit is echt pet!"
("This is really bad/lousy!")

– "De kwaliteit van dit gereedschap is pet!"
("The quality of these tools is really bad!" The word "gereedschap" is used for tools like hammers, screwdrivers, drills etc.)

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