To me this looks really weird. According to Dict.cc,

The Hague [geogr.] = Den Haag {n}

  • First, I don't understand why it's Den Haag and not Der Haag or Das Haag (as suggested by {n} above).

  • Second, why does Dict.cc state that Den Haag is neuter? As far as I can say, den + [singular noun] indicates that the noun is masculine, not neuter.

  • And finally, why is Den Haag always used with a definite article?

By the way, both in German and English (as far as I know) it’s about the only city name that requires a definite article.

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    The Dutch name is not translated in German. – Arsak Sep 28 '16 at 21:23
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    Städtenamen sind im Deutschen größtenteils (mir fällt auf jeden Fall grade keine Ausnahme ein) Neutren, das München, das Berlin, das Moskau, das Peking, und so auch das Den Haag. Dass der erste Teil dieser Stadt zufällig in der fremden Sprache auch ein (archaischer) Artikel ist, ignorieren wir dabei. – tofro Sep 29 '16 at 7:15
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    By the way, both in German and English (as far as I know) it’s about the only city name that requires a definite article. – Well, there always is Den Helder. Also there is der Selfkant (though not really a city), at least historically die Wiener Neustadt, and die Stadt Wehlen under some conditions. – Wrzlprmft Sep 29 '16 at 7:40
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    @Wrzlprmft I dare to challenge the "definite article" part (at least for the Dutch names) - It's das Den Helder and das Den Haag in German - In both cases, the "den" is an archaic Dutch article we simply consider part of the name in German. Selfkant is not a city, as you rightly state, and the others are not really names, but rather compound names where the "Stadt" part brings the article. Nothing special here, because it is also das historische München and die Stadt München. – tofro Sep 29 '16 at 7:57
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    Sidenote: there are at least three places in Flanders whose name starts with "De": De Panne, De Haan, De Pinte. These place names appear to be sufficiently recent to assume that the "De" is the definite article "de" and does not have another origin. – Tsundoku Sep 30 '16 at 11:14

Den Haag is the Dutch name of the city. The den in there is not considered a German accusative masculine definite article (or a German plural dative definite article) but an integral part of the city’s name. Rather than pronouncing it /de:n ha:k/, as a German definite article would imply, the German pronunciation is /dɛn ha:g/ with a more open and shorter e sound than the article has.

Copying a city’s (or town’s) name including that name’s inherent article is a common feature, see for example Le Havre, La Paz, The Bottom* or my personal favourite The Dalles. The last one being in Oregon is a perfect counter-example to your assumption Den Haag be the only town in English that requires a definite article.

The real question is not why there is a Den in German but why English decided to translate the name into The Hague. But that is a question for a different site.

*: The Bottom is actually a town in the Dutch Antilles and thus part of the Netherlands but still uses the English article.


We simply use the Dutch name of that city and don't translate it into German - And that happens to be Den Haag.

The fact that this looks like "den", the accusative of "der" is pure coincidence (or maybe not, as both languages have common roots). (See also Carsten S's comment on the different pronunciation/stress of the "e" in "den")

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    Addition: at least for me the e in Den Haag is short, while the e in German den is long. – Carsten S Sep 29 '16 at 7:40
  • @CarstenS. For "short" read "mid-high"; for "long" read "high". – fdb Sep 29 '16 at 16:32
  • @fdb, wenn ich dich richtig verstehe, möchtest Du darauf hinweisen, dass sich die beiden Vokale eines Paars im Deutschen nicht nur in der Länge, sondern auch in der Qualität unterscheiden, und dass das e, um das es hier geht, die Qualität des kurzen deutschen e hat, die Länge an sich hier aber kein gutes Unterscheidungsmerkmal ist. Richtig? – Carsten S Sep 30 '16 at 12:02
  • Ja, ungefähr so. – fdb Sep 30 '16 at 12:15

As others have pointed out: Den Haag is a Dutch name, adopted without change in German. In the source language "den" is a local or archaic variant of "de", the definite article for masc. and fem. sing. and is used in Dutch for all cases. The common noun "haag" ("hedge") is in fact feminine. So, etymologically "den Haag" means "the hedge", regardless of case.

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