1. intention, aim, purpose, idea, meaning [noun] [de bedoeling, de bedoelingen] [‘bu-doe-ling’] Iconspeaker_klein_2

Although the literal translation of "bedoeling" is "intention", it is used so often in Dutch in various contexts with subtle differences that many descriptive translations will apply. Especially the following phrase you may see a lot: "Het is de bedoeling dat…", which would literally translates to "It is the intention/idea that…" but which would best be translated with the hint "You’re supposed to…" (where the subject "you" can be substituted by any other person or subject).

– "Is het jouw bedoeling om mij te beledigen?"
("Is it your intention to insult me?")

– "Frank, het is de bedoeling dat je eerst de gebruiksaanwijzing leest."
("Frank, you’re supposed to read the manual first.")

– "Vrees niet, ik heb geen kwade bedoelingen." – "Ik geloof u niet!"
("Fear not, I have no cruel intentions." – "I don’t believe you!")

– "Met de beste bedoelingen": with the best of intentions.

Related words:
– "Doel": goal, purpose.
– "Intentie": intention.
– "Betekenis": meaning.

2. odd situation, fuss, ado [noun] [de bedoeling, de bedoelingen] [‘bu-doe-ling’] Iconspeaker_klein_2

The use of "bedoeling" in this context is in fact incorrect! It is actually "bedoening", but a lot of people say "bedoeling" instead. "Bedoeling/bedoening" is used informally and refers to an out of the ordinary situation going on.

– "Ik vind dit een rare bedoeling…"
("I think this is a strange situation (going on)…")

– "Fraaie bedoeling is dit, eet ik bij een drie-sterren restaurant, drijft er een vlieg in mijn soep!"
("How nice, I’m eating at a three star restaurant, and there’s a fly in my soup!")

Related words:
– "Bedoening": odd situation, fuss.
– "Gedoe": fuss, hassle.
– "Situatie": situation.
– "Toestand": state.

5 thoughts on “Bedoeling

  1. Hi,
    I think that one of the example-sentences is not correct:
    “Fraaie bedoeling” should be (in my humble opinion:) “Fraaie bedoening”. Bedoening can be translated best as “Affair”: “What an affair, here I am in a 3 star restaurant and here’s a fly in my soup!”

  2. Oh, and the same comments on the example “Ik vind dit een rare bedoeling.” Here again, I think you mean “bedoening”. Bedoening can relate to an affair or a situation.
    Needless to say that I enjoy my daily dosis of dwotd!

  3. Dear Rosalie,
    Of course, you’re absolutely right. As I explained, the use of “bedoeling” in the second context (instead of “bedoening”) is actually incorrect. But still, Dutch people use it like that. As a consequence, I’ve intentionally given incorrect examples… Maybe you find this a “rare bedoening” and a totally irresponsible thing to do. In that case, forgive me 🙂

  4. – “Fraaie bedoeling is dit, eet ik bij een drie-sterren restaurant, drijft er een vlieg in mijn soep!”
    Is this syntax common? In what other non-question contexts would one have verb first like that? (It seemss almost like a subordinate clause…)

  5. Dear k,
    this syntax is not uncommon. It is often used in a narrative context, e.g. when people tell a story or joke. A common ‘joke genre’ are the doctor jokes, which in Dutch usually start with: “Komt er een man/vrouw bij de dokter…”, where the inversion would be lost into English translation: A man/woman goes to the doctor…
    One of Holland’s most popular books at this time is “Komt een vrouw bij de dokter” by Kluun, see
    Also available in English…

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