Klinken

Klok / Bel (bell)

Last week I learnt an interesting Dutch word – klinken – which means to rivet, sound, ring, chime, toll, peal, knell, pledge, clink (glasses), (drink a) toast; to appear to be, seem, sound; and clinking. I particularly like the past tense forms of this word – klonk and geklonken.

Here are some examples of usage:

- die naam klinkt me bekend (in die oren) = that name sounds familiar to me
- dat klinkt mooi = that sounds nice
- het klonk me als muziek in de oren = it was music to my ears
- Waar hebben die woorden eerder geklonken? = Where have I heard those words before?

Here are some similar words and expressions:

- klink = (door)handle; latch
- klinker = brick; vowel
- medeklinker = consonant (also consonant)
- klinken op = to drink a toast to; to drink to; to toast
- laten klinken = to sound
- vals klinken (“to sound false”) = to jangle; to be off/out of key; to be/sound out of tune
- geklingel = jingle
- klingelen = to jingle; tinkle (also tingelen, rinkelen & kletteren)

The word vals in vals klinken can be translated as ‘false’, but also means mischievous, vicious, nasty, malicious and spurious. It can also be combined with spelen (to play) to make vals spelen – to cheat.

The English word clink possibly comes from klinken, and the clink, as a slang word for prison, comes from the prison in Southwark in London called The Clink, the name of which is possibly onomatopoeic and derives from the sound of metal doors being closed, or the rattling of the prisoners’ chains. The English words clonk and clunk are thought to be onomatopoeic in origin, while the word clank might come from the Dutch word klank, which means sound or tone.

What sounds do bells make in other languages?

Sources: bab.la Dictionary, vanDale, dictionary.sensagent.com, SYSTRANet, interglot.com, OED.

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This entry was posted in Dutch, English, Etymology, Language, Words and phrases.

3 Responses to Klinken

  1. Mark says:

    I don’t speak Dutch, but I think you’ve actually got two verbs conflated here: one is the verb klinken, pertaining to sounds, ringing, and clanging, and is perhaps onomatopoeic in origin; and the other verb, of the same form but different etymology, means ‘to join together’ (and hence ‘rivet, latch’ etc.). At any rate, the Woordenboek der Nederlandsche Taal considers them to be separate verbs. The latter verb is cognate with English ‘clench’, which in northern English and Scots dialects could take the form ‘clink’, thus the term ‘clinker-built’ for boats constructed in a particular way. The OED seems to think that the name of the Clink prison in Southwark comes from the ‘fasten, latch’ root, though it suspects due to the form that the term is a borrowing into southern English; on the other hand, that OED entry has not been updated since 1889, so why not have it come from the sound of doors clanging shut?

  2. David Eger says:

    German has klingen(v) = ‘to sound, ring’ (plus many derivatives and related words)
    and, apparently unrelated, Klinke(n) = (door)handle, catch, ratchet.

  3. Yenlit says:

    In Latin a tintinnabulum was a small ‘clinking bell’ which was derived from the Latin verb tinnire, tinniō – I ring, clink, jingle. It’s also the source of the medical term tinnitus (ringing in the ears) ‘a ringing’.