Rustig vs Stil

Rustig (quiet, calm, tranquil) is one of those Dutch words that I’ve seen regularly, but never remembered to look up the definition until recently. In fact, if it hadn’t been for the election yesterday, I would have written about it for my Woordenboek Woensdag entry. But now, I’ve just come across a piece on the Dutch Word of the Day website about stilte (silence), and now I’m curious and vaguely confused.

I know rustig is an adjective or adverb, while stilte is a noun, but there’s also the adjective form stil (silent, quiet, still). Are rustig and stil interchangeable or is one used in certain instances versus the other? Is rustig used more for happy or peaceful silence, with stil used more for tense, sudden, or eerie silence?

Who knew something that I like could be so stress-inducing!

8 thoughts on “Rustig vs Stil

  1. Rustig is calm. I’ts mostly associated with movement (sea, child). Stil is quiet. This is more sound-related. ‘Een stil kind’ doesn’t speak much and ‘Een rustig kind’ just remains seated in it’s chair.

  2. I like your approach to learning the language – more inclined to learning the usage than just learning new words and increasing (only superficially) your vocabulary.
    I think that in many contexts these words could be interchangeable, though probably stil is a degree quieter than rustig? I think that for example, a room, a house, after a party can become rustig after some of the most noisy guests have left; but stil if they’ve all left and you’re alone with no music on, etc.
    A person who is rustig is calm but not necesarily silent and completely still?
    Also, as you said, stil has that connotation of tense, eerie silence – as in the phrase, “de stilte voor de storm”…
    Well, let’s see – I’ll try to pay attention to different contexts and situations when these two words can be interchangeable and when not…! :o)

    • Thanks for helping to clarify. It does help to have context, and sometimes by the time I look a word up, I’ve not got it in front of me, so I can’t always follow the context. Your explanations definitely helped. I think that because of my past career in publishing and editing and writing, I’m particularly sensitive to how similar words can still have different meanings, so I want to use them properly.

  3. I must’ve posted at the same time Arjen did – very helpful indeed! Thanks!

    True, Alison – it helps when you have a background like yours, but it also gives you more work! hehe

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