Dutch windmills by the water with a blue sky and white clouds

What is the correct name: Holland or Netherlands?

Wondering whether it is Holland or Netherlands? The difference between the two is not always clear to tourists, but also not to the Dutch themselves. In this blog I will explain it clearly and for this we have to go back in history.

Do you say Holland or Netherlands?

Province of Holland

The area where the Dutch people live in now has been fought over for centuries, by different groups, changing the countries boundaries and it’s rulers many times. At the start of the 17th century (Dutch Golden Age) the country then consisted out of 7 counties/provinces: Holland, Zeeland, Groningen, Friesland, Overijssel, Utrecht and Gelderland. These provinces formed a confederation known as the ‘Republic of the Seven United Netherlands’. But they stayed autonomous and had their own government, the ‘States of the Province’.

Holland was a rich province, from here Dutch sailors started to establish new trading routes to the East (Australia, New-Zealand, Indonesia, South-Africa) and to the West (New York, Dutch Antilles, Suriname). If you asked a sailor where he was from he would answer: Holland, as he was employed by the province of Holland. This is how our country got widely known as ‘Holland’.

Holland or Netherlands

Flag of Holland on the left (yellow with red lion) and flag of The Netherlands on the right (red/white/blue).

The kingdom of The Netherlands

The Kingdom of The Netherlands came into existence after the liberation from Napoleon (1813). The Netherlands nowadays contains 12 provinces; North-Holland, South-Holland, Friesland, Groningen, Utrecht, Overijssel, Drenthe, Gelderland, Noord-Brabant, Zeeland, Limburg and Flevoland.

‘Nether’ means ‘low’, so Netherlands literally means lowlands. Very appropriate as one-third of the country is below sea level. ‘Hol’ refers to ‘holt’, an old Dutch word for ‘wood’. The region around Dordrecht, Holland’s oldest town, was known as Holtland, after its many forests.

Holland or Netherlands

Where are you from? Holland or Netherlands

If people ask me where I’m from I would answer The Netherlands, because I’m not living in the province of North- or South-Holland. Only if you are not familiar with The Netherlands I would add Holland, as our country is usually known by this name. That is also why we have ‘Holland’ in our name (Holland Private Tour).

For a quarter of a century, companies, embassies, ministries and universities also presented themselves as ‘Holland’ abroad. But the Dutch government has decided that the name Holland officially no longer exists since January 1st, 2020. Since then they only use the official name: The Netherlands.

I also encountered this 4 minute video explaining the difference between Holland, The Netherlands and Dutch. Worth checking out so hopefully it gets a little more clear!

Want to explore The Netherlands for yourself? Get in touch with us!