Leendert: Baby Name of the Day

by appellationmountain on January 23, 2013

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Dutch flag (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

He’s a Dutch appellation seldom heard in the English-speaking world.

Thanks to Charlotte for suggesting Leendert as our Baby Name of the Day.

Leendert is undeniably a rarity in the US, but I had trouble finding him across the whole wide world, too.

The only notable bearers are Dutch.  Working backwards:

  • -dert isn’t a common element in a name, but I wonder if he could be a variant of -bert, as in Albert and Gilbert.  In those cases, -bert comes from the Germanic beracht – bright, though I’ve sometimes heard it described as brave, too.
  • The element leen makes me think of lion.  That led me to Leander, and the possibility that Leendert is a variant of that name.  That makes Leendert a lion of a man.
  • Leendert is also sometimes translated to English as Leonard.  Leonard was a Frankish saint back in the 400s and 500s, and while his name wasn’t popular in English until the Norman invasion, it must have made it to the Netherlands.

Saint Leonard was wildly popular through Europe in the 1100s.  Leonhard, Linhart, and many other spelling variations were heard.

Listening to native speakers say Leendert, I hear layn dur.  A closer phonetic spelling might be Lainder.  And just like that, I go from scratching my head wondering about Leendert’s appeal to instantly getting it.

In English, you’d almost certainly hear lean dirt.  He’s surfaced in US Census records, usually for men born in the Netherlands.  I suspect he was quickly Anglicized.

But there are notable Leenderts aplenty, including:

  • Seventeenth century painter Leendert van der Cooghen.
  • Leendert Hasenbosch, a castaway on a desert island in the early 1700s.  His journals survive.
  • Eighteenth century banker Leendert de Neufville helped finance the Seven Years’ War.
  • Leendert Viervant was an architect and furniture maker.  So was his same-named grandfather.
  • Landscape painter Leendert de Konigh worked in the 1800s.

Then there’s Leendert van der Vlugt.  The early twentieth century architect was based in Rotterdam.  Much of the credit for his designs often goes to his partners, but it is now believed that he was the creative force behind several important works, including the Van Nelle factory.  It’s considered a Dutch national landmark, and an example of the Russian constructivist style.

More recently, there have been a handful of twentieth century athletes and politicians – just enough to show that the name remains in use.  Leendert Jan Vis draws illustrations of bears, frogs, and other animated animals.

The most common short form seems to be Leen, but in English Lee and Leo are also options.

Like Arto and other potential imports, Leendert raises the question of how easy it is to borrow a name from another language.  In Dutch, I suspect he’s something like Archibald – quirky and classic.  Or maybe he’s more like Larry – an accepted name, but a dated one.

Either way, I’d put Leendert right on the edge.  Pronounced correctly, he feels like Lennon and Linden and Lane, a string of names that feels quite stylish today.  His ends-with-r sound is stylish, too.  But this will present a few spelling and pronunciation challenges along the way.

If you’re after a daring Dutch heritage choice seldom heard in English, Leendert is one to consider.

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Emma/Voornamelijk January 28, 2013 at 5:42 PM

Leendert is pronounced as ‘LANE-dirt’ of ‘LANE-dairt’, depending on where you’re from. It used to be a not-uncommon name, but I think nowadays most boys named Leendert are officially named after a grandfather, whilst being called ‘Sem’ or ‘Luuk’ or some other completely unrelated name in everyday life.

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Maarten van der Meer January 23, 2013 at 11:31 AM

Leendert is indeed cognate to Leonard. Dutch has a tendency to insert Ds into words, hence names like Leendert, Reinder (< Reinier), and Reindert (< Reinhard).

To me as a Dutchman, Leendert sounds dated and a bit "working class". (To my surprise, 46 Dutch boys were called Leendert in 2012. I had expected the name to be virtually extinct.)

Another famous Leendert is singer Leendert "Leen" Huijzer, known by the stage name of Lee Towers.

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Charlotte Vera January 23, 2013 at 7:09 PM

Thanks for the Dutch perspective! I’m always amazed at Abby’s willingness to cover obsucre names from other languages and cultures — it’s so difficult!

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appellationmountain January 23, 2013 at 9:29 PM

Thanks, Maarten!

So I guess Leendert is the Dutch equivalent of Larry in the US. There’s nothing wrong with Larry, but I’d be stunned to meet a baby named Larry.

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