Nice in Dutch - lekker vs aardig vs mooi
In this blog post I will discuss the difficulties you may come across when you want to say that something or someone is nice in Dutch. If you look up the word "nice" in an English - Dutch dictionary you'll notice that there is a long big list of words which all mean nice, but which unfortunately cannot be used at random. In this blog I will try to help you how to decide which one to pick in which situation. I have chosen 3 of the most popular words you can use to say that something or someone is nice.
A popular Dutch word for "nice" is the word "lekker". If you look up the Dutch word "lekker" in a Dutch - English dictionary it will tell you the meaning is "nice" (we already knew that). The other descriptions of "lekker" however will give you a better idea of the meaning of this word. It mentions tasty, delicious, scrumptious, palatable, and heavenly and in popular dictionaries even the word "yummy". It is therefore mainly used to describe food; "Appeltaart is lekker" (= Apple pie is nice), "Pannenkoeken zijn lekker" (Pancakes are nice). The second meaning of the word "lekker" is "something that smells nice". "Die bloemen ruiken lekker" (=those flowers smell nice).
Another word for "nice" in Dutch is "aardig". If we use the same method we used before and look for the meaning of "aardig" in a Dutch-English dictionary, it will give us words like friendly, funny, likeable, good-natured and bonny. So the word "aardig" would not be used to describe food but applies to people. If you would like to say that the teacher of your child is nice (meaning friendly) and you would say "De lerares is lekker" instead of "De lerares is aardig" you better hope she did not overhear you, as you are saying you think she is tasty. Calling a woman "lekker" in Dutch has a strong sexual connotation! It is colloquial language (slang) and only said with an ulterior motive.
In sentences where "nice" means nice-looking or beautiful you can use the word "mooi". So "mooi" can be used for all things that are beautiful. If you use the word "mooi" you will have to make sure you pronounce it correctly. The Dutch letter combination [oo] is pronounced as the letter [o] in the English alphabet. The [ooi] in the Dutch word "mooi" sounds like [oy] as in Roy. Pronouncing "mooi" with the [oo] sounding like book will make it sound as if you say "moe" (tired) to a speaker of Dutch. The girl is nice-looking will become "Het meisje is mooi". "The weather was beautiful" translates into "het weer was mooi". "she wears a nice dress" = "zij draagt een mooie jurk".
So beware when you translate the word "nice" into Dutch. Use "lekker" if you talk about food or smells. "Aardig" if you mean friendly or kind and "mooi" for all things that are beautiful.