Ten unique Basque words you need to learn right now

The Local looks at some key unique words in Basque you can try out during your next visit to northern Spain.

Ten unique Basque words you need to learn right now
The Basque beret or txapela. Photo: AFP

Basque (or Euskara in the Basque language) is one of the most unusual and mysterious languages in the world.

One of the few surviving pre-Indo-European languages, it is one of the oldest in Europe and has been continuously spoken in the Basque Country – in northern Spain and southwest France – for thousands of years.

Little is known of its origins, only that it predates the Romance languages of its neighbours and has no known links to any other modern languages. 

The mingle of k’s and z’s can seem more than a little bit confusing for people unfamiliar with the language, so we’ve put together a handy guide to some of the most unique words in Basque that you can try out next time you are visiting the Basque Country. 

Euskara – Basque

Landscape of the Basque Country. Photo: Arrano/Flickr 

Let’s start with the obvious: euskara (also written euskera) is the Basque word for the Basque language. Euskara is spoken by around 30 percent of people in the Spanish Basque Country and around 22 percent of people who live in the French Basque Country.

Public use of Basque was frowned upon under the dictatorship of Francisco Franco (1939-75) but measures were taken in the 1980s to strengthen the language and nowadays it is the co-official language of the autonomous community of the Basque Country, along with Spanish. 

Xirimiri – a very light rain (pronounced shirimiri

Photo: Pyrios/Flickr 

Spain might have the reputation for being sunny all year round, but the lush Basque Country sees its fair share of rain, which is why Basque has its own word, xirimiri, which means a very light rain. Basques even use this word when they are speaking Spanish, as there is no perfect Spanish equivalent. 

Zurito – a tiny beer 

Photo: Alan Levine/Flickr 

The Basque Country, and particularly the city of San Sebastián (Donostia in Basque) is renowned for its delicious bites of tapas, known as pintxos. To go with the little morsels of food, the Basques have a beer even smaller than the Spanish caña (small beer), which is called a zurito – so remember to order one next time you’re in a bar in the Basque Country.

Txotx – toothpick (pronounced chotch

Photo: jose a del moral/Flickr 

While this word literally means toothpick, it is also said when you tip the cider out of the barrel to announce to everyone that the barrel is open and they should fill their glasses. Cider is a popular drink in the Basque Country, where people pour it into a glass from a great height to give the drink more fizz. 

Traditional cider houses are called sagardotegi in Basque and serve cider as well as Basque cuisine including cod fritters. 

Erdera – any language other than Basque 

The Basque flag, the Ikurriña. Photo: Rober/Flickr 

Basques hold their own unique language in incredibly high esteem, so much so, in fact, that they use the word erdera to refer to any language that is not Basque. 

Txoko – a gastronomic society (pronounced cho-ko)

Photo: Kok Chih and Sarah Gan/Flickr 

This typically Basque gastronomic society is usually private – by invitation only – where Basques get together to cook, experiment with their cuisine and socialize. They first started in San Sebastián in around 1870, then spread throughout the Basque Country. Traditionally, the txoko are only open to male members, but the more modern societies have begun to allow women to join too. 

During the dictatorship of Francisco Franco, txoko were a popular place to meet legally, free of state control and speak Basque – which was frowned upon – and sing Basque songs. 

The word txoko literally means nook or cosy corner in Basque. 

Aizkolaritza – wood chopping 

Photo: Emilio del Prado/Flickr 

Basques are incredibly proud of their unique sports, including wood chopping competitions, which are held all over the region. It is a popular kind of herri kirol (rural sport) usually held during local festivals. Other popular rural sports include trontzalaritza (log sawing), sokatira (tug of war) and harri-jasotzea (stone lifting). 

Txapela – beret (pronounced chapela)

Photo: Terre et Cote Basques/Flickr 

Also known as a boina, a beret is a staple of any traditional Basque wardrobe. The traditional outfit, worn during festivals, includes white trousers and T-shirt, a red neckerchief and red beret.

Txakoli – Basque sparkling wine (pronounced chakoli

Photo: restcat/Flickr 

This fresh white wine is a popular accompaniment to pintxos and is poured from a height, the bottle above the barman’s head, to add bubbles to the wine when it hits the glass, held in his other hand. 

Baserri – traditional Basque farmhouse

Photo: txindoki/Flickr 

A baserri is a half-timbered or stone house traditional in the Basque Country. Typically used as farmhouses, they can be spotted dotting the landscape and have been at the core of Basque society for hundreds of years. 

Traditionally, the household is administered by the etxekoandre (lady of the house) and the etxekojaun (master of the house) who then pass on the baserri to one of their children – they can choose any child, male or female. 

Most baserri have a stone carved sign built into the wall (armarriak) and a lintel stone above the doorway stating who built the house and the year in which it was built. 

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How can I change my Covid vaccine appointment in different regions in Spain?

What happens if you can’t make it to your Covid-19 vaccination appointment and need to change it to another day? Here's what you need to know about the process for the different regions across Spain.

How can I change my Covid vaccine appointment in different regions in Spain?
Health workers vaccinate people against Covid-19 at the Donostia Arena former bullring in San Sebastian. Photo: ANDER GILLENEA / AFP

In most regions, when you first register for your vaccine, you are able to confirm or reject the vaccine appointment you are given, depending on your availability. In other regions, there are online links you can follow or telephone numbers to call in order to change your appointment.

If you can’t attend for whatever reason, it’s important that you let your local health authorities know, so that the vaccine dose is not wasted and can go to someone else.


When registering for your appointment, you will receive an SMS with the day and time of your appointment. At that time, you can confirm your attendance or not. If you cannot make this appointment and do not confirm, you will receive a call from the number 915 026 058 to offer you a new one.


If you can’t attend your vaccine time you must call your local health centre to tell them. They will then cancel your appointment and give it to the next person on the list. When all the people in your age group who kept their original appointments have been vaccinated, your health centre will call you again to arrange a new appointment.


In order to change your appointment, you must call the telephone number 955 545 060, when your age group is called up. Please find more information below or click on the link here

Andalusia vaccine infographic. Credit:


In Catalonia, simply click on the following link and click the button that says ‘demana o modificar cita‘ to register for your vaccine or change it. 

Balearic Islands

As soon as you have registered for your vaccination appointment, you will receive an e-mail from BITCITA with your individual link to cancel or change your appointment. You can also do this via the QR code that you will have received. For more information about the vaccination process click here

Canary Islands

If you need to change your appointment for any reason you can call 012 to do so when your group has been called up.


From June 4th, Murcia opened up vaccine appointments for those aged 40 to 59 in 20 of its municipalities. You can register via the ‘MurciaSalud‘ portal or your Cita Previa SMS. The system will give you the first appointment available, but if you can’t attend this you can click ‘cambiar cita’ in order to be able to choose a different day and time.


Those in Galicia who have any questions about their appointments should call the numbers associated with the health authorities in their province. You can find a list here of all the telephone numbers and e-mail addresses for each province.

Basque Country

The Basque Country health authorities Osakidetza will send you an SMS when vaccination for your age group is open. They will send you a link where you can register either online or via a mobile app. Once you have registered your details, you will be given a choice of different days and times. Simply select the one you can attend. If at a later date, you can’t make this day, you need to call your local health centre to let them know. More information can be found here.

Castilla-La Mancha 

You will receive a call or a text message to register for your appointment. At the time you can say if you’re able to make the date they give you or not. If you need to change at a later date, the health authorities in Castilla-La Mancha haven’t detailed exactly what you should do however, the number for getting more information about your Covid vaccine is 925 248 367. For more information on the vaccination process in Castilla-La Mancha click here

Castilla y León

On the official health website for Castilla y León, they simply say that if you cannot attend your appointment then do not call them and that you will be contacted by them. More information about vaccination in Castilla y León can be found here.


You will receive a call or a text message when it’s your turn to be vaccinated and can accept the vaccination date and time. You can also let them know if you’re unable to attend this date and they will tell you what to do. If you discover at a later date that you’re unable to attend, you can e-mail [email protected] or [email protected] for any questions you have. 


If you have a justified reason for not attending your appointment and you let your local health centre know, they will call you a second time around to rearrange the time. 

Details on how to change your appointment in Asturias, Cantabria, La Rioja and Aragon haven’t yet been made available, but we will update you when they are. 

READ ALSO: Region by region: How to get a Covid-19 vaccination certificate in Spain