Basque Language: Cool, Beautiful, and Useful Words & Phrases

The Basque language is a mystery to all. Sheltered between mountains in the north of Spain and southern France, it is the oldest living language in Europe, dating as far back as prehistory.

No one knows where the Basque language came from, and it is not related to any other languages.

History hasn’t always been kind to this ancient language, as it was on the brink of extinction just one century ago.

Its use was prohibited during Franco’s dictatorship, which went on for 36 years (1939-1975). Despite the difficulties, many underground Basque schools and societies managed to keep this language alive.

Nowadays, 750.000 people in the Basque Country and Navarre are lucky enough to speak it, and I can count myself as one of them.

This article is an introduction to some beautiful Basque vocabulary words and phrases that will tickle your «jakin-mina» (read further for the meaning).

Table of Content:

Cool Words in Basque

Here is a list of cool vocabulary words in the Basque language. Most of these arise from a combination of 2 basic words. What makes them cool is that these words are semantically related to the sum of their parts, in a cute and sometimes surprising way.

Beautiful Basque words

There are many stereotypes surrounding Basque people. They can be regarded as strong, brutish mountain people who like to drink. Reserved, but good-hearted.

These, of course, are only stereotypes, but it also translates to how people may regard the Basque language as something harsh and strong.

Nothing could be farther from the truth: The Basque language is full of heart-warming, beautiful vocabulary words. Here are some examples:

Basque terms of endearment

Let’s look at ways you can refer to your loved ones in the Basque language.

Ancient Basque words

As it was mentioned earlier, Basque is a prehistoric language. It is estimated that the modern-day Basque comes from an earlier version of the language, which used some simple, monosyllabic roots to form words.

Some of these ancient Basque words are still in use nowadays, and they let us have a look at what life was like thousands of years ago.

Root: Ur (water, living matter)

Root: Iz (energy, light)

Root: Haitz (stone)

Months of the year in Basque

While not as ancient, some months also give us an insight into how Basque people lived according to nature.

Funny Basque words and phrases

Basque language phrases

To navigate the Basque Country as a tourist, or even for a longer stay, there are some staple phrases that are useful to know.

Basque greetings phrases

Let’s start with ways of greeting someone.

General Basque phrases and words

Pronouncing numbers in Basque

Basque phrases for ordering food

Spain is known for its tapas, which are snacks or appetizers that you can take alongside a drink in a bar.

There is however no such thing as a tapa in the Basque Country. We have pintxos, which are an essential part of our culture. The snack usually comes on top of a bread slice and is held together by a pintxo (brochette):

Basque phrases for getting to know someone

How to pronounce Basque words

Although Basque is a difficult language, pronunciation is one of the easiest aspects of learning Basque, with a lot of sounds being similar to Spanish.

Of course, dialects can vary the pronunciation significantly, or even omit some letters. However, there is an official version of Basque which dictates how words should be pronounced.

To learn more about the Basque language, see this guide on writing a letter or an email in Basque. To discover another language that is also spoken in Spain, see this article on Catalan.