Learn a few Basque words before the vacations!

Published on: 04/03/2021

The people of the Basque Country are very attached to their history, their culture and their language: Euskara. This ancient language is still spoken every day. This little glossary will help you learn a few Basque words and expressions so you can enjoy your vacation in O.V. without subtitles!

Basque pronunciation

Some letters are pronounced differently from French.

  • E is pronounced “é
  • U is pronounced “or
  • J is pronounced “y” (as in yogurt) at the beginning of a word and i in the middle of a word,
  • Z is pronounced “ç
  • S is pronounced “sh
  • X is pronounced “ch
  • TX is pronounced “tch”.
  • G is pronounced “gu

In Basque, we pronounce all the letters. Thus, “eu” is “éou”, and “au” is “aou” (pronounced as a single syllable).

Let’s start with the basics

  • Yes: Bai (baï)
  • No: Ez (és)
  • The Basque Country: Euskal Herria (é-ou-schkal éria), meaning “country where Basque is spoken
  • The Basques: Euskaldunak (é-ou-shkaldounak)
  • Do you speak Basque? Euskara badakizu? (éouskara badikisou)
  • I don’t speak Basque: euskara ez dut mintzatzen (éouskara és dout mintsatsenn)
  • How are things? Nola zara?
  • How’s it going? : Ari?
  • I’m fine: Ongi naiz / Ontsa naiz

To say hello and goodbye

  • Hello: Egun on (égoun onn)
  • Welcome: Ongi Etorri (Onn-gui étori)
  • Good afternoon: Arratsalde on (aratchaldéon)
  • Good night: Gau on (gaou onn)
  • Goodbye: Ikus arte (ikoush arté)
  • Salut, adieu: Agur (agourr)

Did you know that the name of our campsite – Biper gorri – means “red pepper” in Basque?

Basque politeness

  • Thank you: Milesker (miléshkerr)
  • Many thanks: Eskerrik asko (esh-ké-rrik asko)
  • Please: Plazer baduzu (plasser badoussou)
  • Excuse me: Barkatu (barcatou)

Vacation vocabulary

  • Where do you live? : Non bizi zara?
  • I live in Esplette: Ezpeletako bizi naiz
  • Tourist office: Turismo bulego
  • I’m thirsty: Egarri naiz (égarri naïs)
  • Bar: Ostatu
  • Aperitif: Aperitifa
  • To your health: Zure osagarriari (souré osagarriari)
  • I’m hungry: Gose naiz (goché naïs)
  • Restaurant : Jatetxe (yatétché)
  • Bon appétit: Apetitu on (apétitou one)
  • Very good! : Biziki ona da!

A few swear words: Basque in hot sauce!

For fans of bird names, here are a few bonus swear words: Zozoa! (Idiot, fool), Zakurra! (scoundrel!), Kaka! (poop!) or Ala jainkoa (“a-la yaïnn-ko-a”), an expression from the Ainhoa region used to swear in all sorts of ways.

Europe’s oldest language

Euskara is an ancient language unlike any other, whose origins are still unknown. Some linguists trace the Basque language back to prehistoric times. There are also striking similarities with dialects of ancientSouth American tribes and certain regions of the Caucasus.

After the French Revolution in 1789, speaking Basque was frowned upon or even forbidden. But that didn’t take into account the Basques ‘ attachment to their language! In 1969, the first Ikastola (Basque-language school) opened its doors. Since then, the number of Basque speakers has grown steadily. Today, there are an estimated 700,000 speakers (25% of the total population), including 150,000 in the northern French provinces.

All that’s left for us to say is “Oporraldi on” – in other words, happy vacations in the Basque Country!

ALSO READ: Basque traditions: play, dance and sing like a true Basque!