One of the questions often asked is why The Netherlands is also called Holland? The use of two names to describe the same country is indeed peculiar. So let’s clear up any confusion by understanding where the names Holland and The Netherlands are coming from.
Holland is only a part of the Netherlands. However, Holland has always been the most important and powerful part of the Netherlands. The name Holland is therefore often used to describe the entire country of the Netherlands.
Linguists call the use of a part (Holland) to describe the whole (Netherlands) a metonymy. So let’s dive deeper into the history of these names to understand why Holland is now often used to describe The Netherlands.
Where Are The Names The Netherlands And Holland Coming From?
The name Holland was used much earlier than the name The Netherlands.
The county of Holland was located in the western coastal part of The Netherlands and is colored yellow on this map of The Netherlands.
The name Holland is derived from the old Dutch word Holtland, which literally means woodland in English. The name Holtland changed into Holland, and the county of Holland was founded in the 11th century AC.
(Map is from Centraal Bureau voor de Statistiek)
The first use of the name The Netherlands was in the 15th Century AC.
The word “neder” means down or low in Dutch, and Nederland is the Dutch word for The Netherlands. Therefore, The Netherlands refers to the geographical location of The Netherlands, located largely on land below sea level.
In the 16th century, the county of Holland allied with neighboring provinces and counties to form The Republic of 7 United Netherlands and gain independence from Spain.
Holland was, by far, the richest and most powerful part of The Republic of The 7 Netherlands, and the name Holland is therefore often used to describe the entire country of The Netherlands.
In 1815, The Kingdom of The Netherlands was founded, and Holland became a province of The Netherlands. Later, Holland was split into two provinces, North-Holland and South-Holland, to decrease its political influence.
Do The Dutch Call It Holland Or The Netherlands?
Most Dutch use the name The Netherlands, even those living in North Holland or South Holland. I live in the province of South Holland but never used the word Holland to describe the country I am living in.
On the other hand, most Dutch don’t care if foreigners use the name Holland to describe The Netherlands. We know what you mean and find it irrelevant if foreigners use Holland instead of The Netherlands.
It is not offensive to call the Netherlands Holland.
Is Amsterdam Located In Holland Or In The Netherlands?
Amsterdam is located in the province of North Holland and, therefore, located in Holland and The Netherlands.
The location of Amsterdam in Holland was the most important reason that Holland was such a rich and powerful part of the Republic of The 7 Netherlands. Most merchants and traders lived in Amsterdam, and they became incredibly wealthy when Dutch merchant ships explored the globe in the 17th century.
The dominance of Amsterdam and Holland has always been a problem in The Netherlands. To decrease the dominance of Amsterdam, the Dutch government and Dutch king reside in The Hague even though Amsterdam is the capital of The Netherlands. Holland was also split into two provinces instead of one because it was considered too large and dominant in The Netherlands.