What Does Dutch Courage Mean?

Dutch Courage Meaning

Definition: Bravery that comes from having drunk alcohol.

Origin of Dutch Courage

This idiom dates back to at least the 17th century and alludes to the reputation of the Dutch as heavy drinkers.

An early example can be found in Edmund Waller’s 1665 Instructions to a Painter:

  • The Dutch their wine, and all their brandy lose, disarm’d of that from which their courage grows.

Sources state that this expression developed from the idea that Dutch people had no true bravery, and could only gain fleeting courage through becoming drunk.

This expression is one of many that uses Dutch in a pejorative way. These idioms come from the various conflicts that the English had with the Dutch throughout history.

As some have pointed out, the English, who are known for their proclivity for alcohol, pointing out the Dutch’s reputation for heavy drinking is an example of the pot calling the kettle black.

Examples of Dutch Courage

source of dutch courageIn the dialogue below, two friends are at a nightclub.

Tina: Isn’t this great? I love this music.

Keanu: Um, I guess it’s fine. I’m not really into the whole club scene.

Tina: Well, you’d have a lot more fun if you would loosen up and dance a little.

Keanu: That’s okay. I feel awkward dancing.

Tina: You just need a little Dutch courage. I’m going to buy you a strong drink. After you drink that you’ll definitely feel like dancing.

dutch courage idiomIn this example, two friends are discussing the romantic problems that one of them is dealing with.

Jonah: You and Bradley are so cute together.

Tatiana: Thanks, but I’m actually avoiding him right now. I’m not in love with him anymore, and I can’t figure out how to break up with him.

Jonah: Well, there’s not really a good way to do it. You should just tell him quickly and directly.

Tatiana: I know, but I’m scared I’ll hurt his feelings.

Jonah: Of course you’ll hurt his feelings. But if you’re scared just do a few shots of tequila before you do it. The Dutch courage will help you get through it.

More Examples

This excerpt is about how drinking a little can make you feel more comfortable speaking in a second language.

  • If you are struggling with the language when you’re abroad, the answer could be a little bit of Dutch courage, a study suggests. –Telegraph

The second example is about the history of the idiom.

  • In fact, so strong is the link to booze and bravery that it gives us the term ‘Dutch Courage’. When the British fought with the Dutch during the 30 years war, they were served a shot of genever, or Dutch gin, specifically to embolden the troops. –Spectator


The expression Dutch courage refers to a false sense of daring that comes from imbibing alcohol.