Schiphol opened on 16 September 1916 as a military airbase. The end of the First World War also saw the beginning of civilian use of Schiphol Airport and the airport eventually lost its military role completely. By 1940, Schiphol had four asphalt runways at 45-degree angles. The airport was captured by the German military that same year and renamed Fliegerhorst Schiphol. The airport was destroyed through bombing but at the end of the war the airfield was restored quickly. In 1949, it was decided that Schiphol was to become the primary airport of the Netherlands. The airport’s official English name, Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, reflects the original Dutch word order (Luchthaven Schiphol).
Schiphol’s name is derived from a former fortification named Fort Schiphol, which was part of theStelling van Amsterdam defence works. Before 1852, theHaarlemmermeer polder in which the airport lies was a large lake with some shallow areas. There are multiple stories of how the place got its name. The most popular story is that in the shallow waters sudden violent storms could claim many ships. This was the main reason for reclaiming it. In English, Schiphol translates to “Ship Grave”, a reference to many ships supposedly lost in the lake. When the lake was reclaimed, however, no ship wrecks were found. Another possible origin of the name is the word ‘scheepshaal’. A scheepshaal is a ditch or little canal in which ships would be towed from one lake to another. A third explanation would be that the name derived from the words “scip hol”. This is a low-lying area of land (hol) from where wood would be obtained to build ships.