The origin of 'Schiphol'
Schiphol: The origin of this unusual name is a mystery to many. Where did it come from? There are plenty of stories on this topic. Today we will finally provide an answer to this intriguing question.
You may already be aware of the fact that Schiphol is located in the Haarlemmermeer area, which was reclaimed from the water in 1852. Haarlemmermeer used to be a turbulent inland sea where many battles were fought and many ships were lost. This corner of the inland sea was particularly treacherous. For this reason, some believe the name comes from Ships Hell or the Dutch Scheepshol, where ‘hol’ means grave. This means the Schiphol area was where ships would sink to the bottom of the lake. Although this is an exciting story, it has nothing to do with the origins of our name.
Another explanation is that the name comes from the Dutch word 'scheepshaal'. A 'scheepshaal' was a ditch used for towing ships from one lake to another. Sounds plausible, but again, there’s no truth to this explanation. Our name actually bears no connection to water or ships.
The word Sciphol first appears in old documents from around 1450 and refers to a stretch of land. This area was part of Aalsmeer, located south of Amstelveen, but was most certainly not a lake or sea. It was in fact a marshy area where people could go to gather wood. Schip Holl dates from the 15th century and combines the Gothic words ‘Skip’ (meaning wood, timber) and Holl (low-lying land). Later on a fort was also built on this spot, which carried the same name.
On September 19 in 1916, farmers in the vicinity of Fort Schiphol hear a strange hum in the air. A little later they see a plane landing, a Farman biplane of the Aviation Department of the Dutch Army. This is the beginning of Schiphol airport.
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