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-el /əl/ is one of the four verbalizing suffixes in Dutch. The others are -eer, -er and -ig. Verbs with -el are, for example:

Example 1

a. trappelen
to kick
b. duikelen
to tumble
c. brokkelen
to crumble

Verbs with this suffix often have an iterative meaning. In many cases, the action denoted occurs on a smaller scale compared to an equivalent verb without the suffix. See, for example prikken to prick - prikkelen to prickle. The function of the suffix could be described as a verbal diminutive (-el has also been used as a nominal diminutive).


Verbalization by means of suffixes is not a common procedure in Dutch. Of the four verbalizing suffixes -el, -er, -ig and -eer, only -eer is productive. The unproductive -el occurs, however, in a substantial number of verbs (De Jager 1875-1878), (Audring 2017). The bases to which the affix attaches are nominal, as in nest nest > nestelen to nestle, or verbal, as in hinken to limp > hinkelen to hop. Often there is ambiguity between the two categories: duikelen to tumble could be derived from the noun duik dive or the homophonous verb stem duik dive. In some cases, there is even a third option: some -el verbs can be conversions from an -el nominal. A case in point is kreukelen to rumple, which could be derived from the verb stem kreuk crease, the simplex noun kreuk crease or the suffixed noun kreukel crease. Other verbs are clearly conversions rather than the result of verbal suffixation, e.g. winkel shop > winkelen to shop. In yet other cases, the base is not an independent word, see smikkelen to enjoy one's food or struikelen to stumble.

  • Audring, Jenny and Geert Booij and Ray Jackendoff2017Menscheln, kibbelen, sparkle. Verbal diminutives between grammar and lexiconLinguistics in the Netherlands20171-15
  • Jager, Arie de1875-1878 Woordenboek der frequentatieven in het NederlandschGoudaVan Goor