The Referentiebestand Nederlands (RBN) is a lexical database for the Dutch language. Although its main objective is to function as a lexical resource for the production of bilingual dictionaries with Dutch as either source or target language, the RBN is designed as a multi-purpose lexical database. As such, the RBN is successfully used for the production of bilingual dictionaries as well as in the domain of language technology. Being a multi-purpose lexical database the RBN has a flexible structure and it contains more information about the entries than is strictly needed for the production of bilingual dictionaries. In this paper we describe the lexical information in the database and some of the principles and choices underlying its design. We will discuss some aspects of the macrostructure and we will elaborate on the microstructure by describing the lexical information about nouns and verbs. Special attention will be given to some of the characteristic properties of the RBN: the handling (of polysemy by using meaning shifts, the minute description of complementation patterns for verbs and the description of the many examples of combinations, like idioms and collocations. © 2007 Oxford University Press. All rights reserved.