Scooters and mopeds

A scooter is usually more of a child’s unpowered toy, whereas a moped has a small internal combustion engine.

Dutch uses “scooter” for the petrol-powered jobs with a seat that teenagers get about on without needing a driving licence.

  • Usages in both languages are changing a bit, particularly with the advent of the battery-powered stand-on devices with small wheels. Those are no longer kiddie toys, but they’re definitely scooters in English too.
  • But if Dutch people call those a scooter… what’s the term for the Vespas? I’ve now heard those called mopeds in Dutch. But not often.
  • There’s quite a bit of variation in the terminology used for the three-wheelers that help old people remain mobile. Those are (at any rate) definitely not mopeds. Mobility scooter gets in there.
  • (It’s mo-ped, by the way. Not moapt. Two syllables.)

The first couple of times I mentioned this one, I was told by Dutch people that I was wrong. Well, google up some pictures on site:.uk and site:.nl if you don’t believe me. There’s some overlap, but you’ll get largely battery-powered stand-on devices for the first and petrol-engined sit-on bikes for the second.

Prevalence: low. Unless there are teenagers in the family…
Frequency: very high. If it looks like an English word, Dutch people immediately assume it must be an English borrowing. But the meaning can get distorted along the way!
Native: no, but… As I said, there’s a new kid on the block that’s forcing a terminology shift.

Published by Mike Wilkinson

Twenty years of translating and editing Dutch into English, as well as writing and publishing in English.

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