Amsterdam FAQ – Frequently Asked Questions

Mokum is a popular nickname for Amsterdam. It is the Yiddish word for “place” or “safe haven”. It is derived from the Hebrew makom (place).

Linguists say Mokum was used in Bargoens. This 17th century Dutch street language was used by criminals, tramps and travelling salesmen. They referred to cities with the Yiddish word for place, followed by the first letter of the city transliterated from the Hebrew alphabet. For instance:

Amsterdam = Mokum Alef
Delft = Mokum Dollet
Rotterdam = Mokum Resh

Later, Amsterdam was also called Godel Mokum (‘large city’).

Mokumer as a nickname for ‘Amsterdammer’ was recorded in 1906, in a Bargoens dictionary by Amsterdam police commissioner W.L.H. Koster Henke.

Then, in the 1940s, Mokum was popularly used in cabaret, radio shows, and popular literature.

But Mokum truly became a term of endearment in 1955, when Amsterdam singer Johnny Jordaan scored a hit with “Geef Mij Maar Amsterdam” (Give Me Amsterdam). Just about any Mokumer will sing along with the refrain:

Geef mij maar Amsterdam, dat is mooier dan Parijs
Geef mij maar Amsterdam, mijn Mokums paradijs
Geef mij maar Amsterdam, met zijn Amstel en het IJ
Want in Mokum ben ik rijk en gelukkig tegelijk
Geef mij maar Amsterdam!

Just give me Amsterdam, that’s more beautiful than Paris
Just give me Amsterdam, my Mokum paradise
Just give me Amsterdam, with its Amstel and the IJ
Because in Mokum I am rich and happy at the same time
Just give me Amsterdam!

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