Zeg maar

let’s say / like [Dutch phrase of the week]

The use of "zeg maar" is a bit of a plague in the Dutch language. Many people use it constantly as a filler. Being a filler, "zeg maar" doesn’t really mean anything. In fact, one could argue that it only shows that people who use it, are not really sure of what they’re saying, or are only just babbling on.

"Zeg maar" is used by people of all ages in any kind of setting, informal and at the office, even during presentations. Dutch Guru Marc has colleagues that use "zeg maar" almost every other word…

There’s no literal translation of "zeg maar", it is best translated with "let’s say". Literal translation of "let’s say" is "laten we zeggen", which is also often used as a bit of a more formal filler, but not as often as "zeg maar".

When young people use "zeg maar", we think the best translation would be "like", as in: "You know, it’s, like, you know, like I don’t know what to say, like, you know…" 🙂

– "Als ik naar dat schilderij kijk, krijg ik een warm gevoel, zeg maar."
("When I look at that painting, I get like a warm feeling.")

– "Snap je, zeg maar, wat ik bedoel?"
("Do you understand, like, what I mean?")

– "Als je na een hete sauna een koud bad neemt, is het, zeg maar, alsof je even niet kunt ademen."
("When you take a cold bath after a hot sauna, it’s – let’s say – as if you cannot breathe for a moment.")

Related expressions:
– "Laten we zeggen": (lit.) let’s say.
– "Weet je": you know.

Related word:
– "Stopwoord": filler. Literally "stop word". You also often hear ‘stopwoordje’.

7 thoughts on “Zeg maar

  1. Hello DWOTD guys,
    does this means that we cannot use “Zeg maar” to say for example “Say hello to sb”?
    Thanks a lot for your daily explanations, that’s great!

  2. I knew a Belgian girl who would often start an English sentence with the words “I say!”, which always made me think she had been (or thought she was) a member of the English aristocracy.
    Now I realise this was just her translation of “zeg maar”. Well, I say! 🙂

  3. @Kat:
    When you use ‘zeg maar’ in the way you illustrate, you are actually using ‘zeg’ as a command form. The ‘maar’ is then added to soften it a bit. So you can say ‘zeg maar tegen Kat dat ik morgen terugbel’ (‘tell Kat that I will call back tomorrow’)

  4. @Chris:
    ‘Zeg maar’ can translate to “let’s say”, but not really to ‘I say’. In the case that she started a sentence with “I say…”, it is more likely that she translated directly from Dutch: “Ik zeg …”. Although that literally translates to “I say”, it is more likely to mean something like “I claim”, “I am of the opinion” or “I want you to / I order you”, depending on the context.

  5. Ah, thanks Sander! That fits too, since the sort of girl she was, she was very likley to be saying “I order you”…:-)

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