Where did the nameNeeltje Jans come from?
Neeltje Jans was the name given to Nehalennia by the local population. Nehalennia, Nehalenia, Nehalaenniae, Nehalaenia; all of these are different spellings meaning “Lady of the North Sea”. No one is absolutely certain of the meaning of the name.
Apparently in the 18th century a ship named Neeltje Jans sank on a sandbank in the Eastern Scheldt and the sandbank was then given the name of the ship. However, no proof of this claim has ever been found.
Some people think that the name Nehalennia is derived from the Hebrew words ‘nahal’, meaning to guide and ‘aniah’ meaning ship. This would indicate the meaning to be ‘guide the ship’, i.e. he who guides the ship(s).
Another possible explanation could be as follows:
Neeltje Jans: Ne/Helle/Jaan/s
- Ne = near
- Haale = ancient name of the North Sea, as the region used to be called where now the Flemish and the Zeelanders live (sometimes pronounced as Hale (n). This could also explain the various spellings found on altar stones, e.g. Nehalennia).
- Jaan = jeanne = jane = lady
- s= feminine gender.
Neeltje Jans = Ne+halen+ia could therefore be roughly translated as meaning Lady or Goddess of the Sea. Our logo, the mermaid Neeltje Jans, reflects this version
The exhibition room at Deltapark Neeltje Jans houses a cast of a temple stone from a temple dedicated to the Roman goddess Nehalennia. Similar stones have been brought up out of the water by fishermen near Colijnsplaat and Domburg.
Not far from Neeltje Jans, there is another sandbank and this is called Vuilbaard. Deltapark Neeltje Jans has taken inspiration from this sandbank to develop a new character, which we have named Zoutbaard. The word baard is thought to derive from bard or singer (minstrel).
Zoutbaard is the minstrel who serenades the mermaid Neeltje Jans.