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buber.net > Basque > Euskara > Larry > WebSite > The Larry Trask Archive: Some Important Basque Words (And a Bit of Culture)

The Larry Trask Archive: Some Important Basque Words (And a Bit of Culture)

by Larry Trask

Larry Trask, a world expert on Basque linguistics and the history of the Basque language, passed away on March 28, 2004. This is an archive of his site, including his Basque pages, posted here with permission of his family.

Some links to external pages and to Larry's email address still exist on these archived pages. Please be aware that, for the most part, they likely do not work anymore.

To learn about Larry, see this article.

Some Important Basque Words (And a Bit of Culture)

Below is a list of Basque words of particular interest, in alphabetical order. Under each word I explain what the word means, what is known about its origin, and something about the significance in Basque society of the thing it denotes.

Aberri Eguna The Basque national day, always celebrated on Easter Sunday. The word aberri `fatherland' was coined by the Basque nationalist Sabino Arana in the late 19th century; it consists of herri `country' preceded by a the fanciful word aba, supposedly `father', a confused invention of Arana's. Naturally, egun is `day', and the -a is just the Basque article. The practice of celebrating Aberri Eguna was itself introduced by Arana; since then, the day has become an event of considerable importance, and it has always been celebrated except when persecution by Spanish dictatorships has prohibited this.

abertzale `Patriotic' or `patriot'. As a rule, the word is only applied to a Basque patriot. This is another of Sabino Arana's inventions, from aberri `fatherland' (see the last item) plus the suffix -zale `fond of'. Today the word is also used to mean `Basque nationalist' in the broad sense: there is an important distinction between the abertzale political parties -- those which espouse Basque nationalism with varying degrees of militancy -- and the rest, the Spanish parties which are indifferent or hostile to Basque identity.

afari `Dinner' -- that is, the evening meal, usually the main meal of the day. One of the very rare native Basque words containing an /f/, this derives from auhari, preserved in the east; it has the regional variants abari and apari, and is probably a derivative of gau `night'. Dinner is eaten much later than in English-speaking countries, and it is a serious affair, taking an hour or two to get through and featuring several courses, lots of wine and bread, a coffee and a kopa or three. The other main meals are gosari `breakfast' (from gose `hunger') and bazkari `lunch' (archaic barazkari, from baratz `vegetable garden' or barazki `vegetable'). In addition, a mid-morning snack is common; this is the hamaiketako (from hamaika `eleven', a formation exactly parallel to British `elevenses'), and a further late-afternoon snack may be added, the merienda (of Romance origin) or askari (whose origin is debated).

agur The universal Basque salutation, equivalent to Latin ave. In the French Basque Country, it is used for both `hello' and `good-bye'; in the south, it is now confined to `good-bye', with kaixo now being preferred for `hello'. The word is thought to derive from *agurium, an unrecorded variant of Latin augurium `omen'.

Agur Jaunak An old Basque song, traditionally sung at the close of a special gathering; it is virtually a second national anthem. The name means `Farewell, gentlemen'.

Aitor A curious word. This is a man's given name, and quite a few people bear it. It derives from the legendary figure of Aitor, the shepherd who is supposed to be the ancestor of the Basques. This legend was invented by the 19th-century Basque Romantic writer Augustin Chaho (Xaho, in Basque spelling). Chaho had noted that the Basques habitually described themselves as aitoren semeak, apparently `sons of Aitor', and constructed his myth accordingly. In fact, philologists are satisfied that this phrase is merely a dissimilation of aitonen semeak `sons of good fathers' (aita `father', on `good').

akelarre The name of some kind of pre-Christian religious ritual. The name appears to be a compound of aker `he-goat' and larre `pasture, meadow', and the akelarre is commonly conceived as a kind of black mass or Sabbat involving the sacrifice of a goat. Thanks to the outraged attentions of the Church (see eliza), information about Basque paganism has been suppressed and garbled, and some Christian apologists have denied that such ceremonies ever took place. The great Basque linguist Azkue, who was also a priest, pointed out that Akelarre is also the name of a plain in Navarre which has some traditional associations with witchcraft, and suggested that the sacrificial ceremony might have been no more than a late and fanciful invention. But the Greek geographer Strabo, in his account of Spain, declares firmly that the sacrifice of rams was an important part of the religion of the Ouaskonous of northern Spain, presumably the same people as the Vascones of the Romans.

alboka A vernacular musical instrument, consisting of two animal horns joined by a mouthpiece. The name derives from Arabic al-buq, the name of a kind of trumpet.

amerikano A Basque who has emigrated to North or South America, or one who has returned to the Basque Country to retire after a life spent in the New World. After the Spanish discovery of America, huge numbers of Basques flocked to the New World and most of them remained there. From the Mexican city of Durango to the largely Basque-named vineyards of Chile, the frequency of Basque surnames and place names in Spanish America bears quiet testimony to the efforts of those Basque settlers who left their homeland forever to build a life across the sea. In the 19th century, a large number of Basques also emigrated to the western United States, where their legendary sheepherding skills were in great demand; many of these sheepherders eventually came into conflict with cattlemen in the range wars of the late 19th century. Today Americans of Basque descent, including some first-generation settlers, are mostly found in the western states of California, Nevada, Idaho and Wyoming. Quite a few of them still speak Basque, and the very few studies of American Basque have revealed some interesting developments. The major center for Basque studies in the USA is the University of Nevada at Reno, which has links with the Basque Country and sends its students there. The writer Robert Laxalt, son of a Basque immigrant, has emerged as the principal voice of the Basques in America.

andere (also andre) `Lady'; also `madam' and `Ms'. The female name Andere is attested in the Aquitanian ancestor of Basque and is surely the same word. In Bizkaian, the local form andra often just means `woman'. Elsewhere, `woman' is today usually emakume

ardo `Wine'. The word has regional variants ardao, arno and ardu; the original form was *ardano, and combining form is ardan- today. The word is of unknown origin; the only remotely similar words for `wine' found anywhere are Albanian ardhi and Armenian ort, which are usually thought to be cognate with each other and sometimes thought to be connected with the Basque word. See sagardo.

arrantzale `Fisherman'. The word is derived from arrain `fish' (from *arrani) plus the suffix -zale; this suffix usually means `fond of', but here it is used as a professional suffix equivalent to the more usual -ari. With their long coastline on the Bay of Biscay, the Basques have undoubtedly been fishing since time immemorial, though records of this activity go back only as far as the 12th century. Soon after this time, if not before, Basque fishermen and whalers were ranging over the North Atlantic; they reached Iceland no later than 1412, and they may well have reached North America before Columbus. By the early 16th century the Basques were fishing along the coast of North America, especially around the mouth of the St. Lawrence River; a Basque pidgin became an important trading language there, and Basque words were in use by the local Indians for generations afterward. The Basque fishing fleet is still important today, and it has recently benefited from new EU fishing regulations.

arto `Maize, sweet corn'. At first it seems surprising that Basque should have an indigenous name for a plant unknown in Europe before the discovery of America, but the explanation is simple. The word originally meant `millet', which was formerly a staple foodcrop in the Basque Country. But the maize introduced in the 16th and 17th centuries proved to be far more productive and reliable in the damp Basque climate than millet; maize rapidly replaced millet as the staple crop, and the name was simply transferred from millet to the somewhat similar-looking maize. Today millet is called artatxiki `little arto'.

artzain `Shepherd'. The word derives from ardi `sheep' plus -zain `guardian'. Animal husbandry, and especially sheepherding, has almost certainly been the backbone of the Basque economy since prehistoric times; seasonal transhumance may have been practiced since the Stone Age, and the shepherd's hut (variously called ola, borda, txabola, or etxola) was until recently a frequent sight in the mountains. The Basques who went to the western USA and to Australia in the 19th and 20th centuries mostly went as sheepherders; they were much in demand because of their legendary skills and their tireless efforts at saving lost or sick lambs.

aurresku The most famous of all Basque folk-dances. The name derives from aurre `front' and esku `hand'.

azeri `Fox'. This word is surprisingly taken from a Roman personal name, Asenarius or Asinarius, which was once common in the west. It was borrowed into Basque as the personal name Azenari, which developed regularly into Azeari, a personal name or by-name well attested in the medieval period. This name was given to the fox, and it underwent further reduction to azeri (or azari in some areas). The use of a personal name as a word for `fox' is common in this part of the world; compare French renard, from the personal name Reginhard. A second word for `fox', used in Bizkaia, is luki; this too derives from a Roman personal name, Lucius. The Basque personal name Azenari was borrowed into medieval Spanish, and is the source of the modern Spanish surname Aznar.

azoka A market. In spite of the arrival of supermarkets, traditional open markets are still a prominent feature of life in the larger Basque towns, as local farmers set up stalls with their produce. The word is a rare direct loan from Arabic, from Arabic as-suq, the source of English souk.

balea `Whale', a loan from Latin ballaena. It is clear that the Basques were already engaging in systematic whaling by the 12th century, the earliest period for which we have records, and it is thought by some historians that the Basques invented the practice of whaling and taught it to their European neighbors.

Basajaun The Old Man of the Woods, a character of Basque folklore. His name derives from baso `woods, wilderness' and jaun `lord', and he is commonly depicted as a semi-divine figure with some animal characteristics; he is often, but not always, regarded as malevolent. Some versions give him a female companion, Basandere (andere `lady').

baserri A farmhouse; a more or less isolated house located in the countryside, with land attached to it. The name derives from baso `woods, wilderness' and herri `settlement'; it is the word used in most of the Spanish Basque Country, the northerners preferring borda. There has long been a certain divide between the baserritarrak, the people who live in the countryside, and the kaletarrak, the people who live in town (kale `street', from Romance).

baso `Woods'. More generally, this word means `wilderness', `uncultivated or unsettled land'.

beltz `Black'. This word appears to be attested in the Aquitanian ancestor of Basque as Belex, -belex, and it's doubtless a contracted form of an original *beletz. This in turn is built on an ancient element *bel `dark', which recurs in many other words: bele `crow, raven', harbel `slate' (harri `stone'), ubel `dark, livid, purple' (ur `water'), ospel `dead leaves' (osto `leaf'), goibel `cloudy sky' (goi `high place'), ezpel `box tree' (ez- is a common element in tree names), gibel `liver' (the element gi- occurs in other words pertaining to meat), and possibly also in sabel `stomach'. In the Middle Ages, Beltza `the Black' was a common by-name, presumably conferred upon people of dark complexion, but, unlike some other by-names, this one has not survived as a modern surname (compare English Black, Blake, and German Schwartz, surnames of the same origin).

bertsolari A Basque bard. The name derives from bertso `verse' plus the professional suffix -(l)ari. At a bertsolari competition, each bard is given a theme and then must immediately compose and sing an original song upon that theme. Sometimes two bards compose and sing alternate verses, each trying to get the upper hand. These performances are little short of miraculous.

borda `Farmhouse, farm'. This is the usual northern word, equivalent to southern baserri. Earlier this word simply meant `shepherd's hut', just like ola and txabola. But during the population growth of the 17th and 18th centuries, a number of high pastures were converted into new farms, and the existing shelters, the bordak, were of course converted into new farmhouses, leading to a change in the meaning of the word.

buelta A trip into town to drink and chat with friends. The buelta is a central activity in Basque social life. The word is borrowed from Spanish vuelta.

buruhandi A giant papier-maché head worn on the shoulders at Basque festivals. The name is buru `head' plus handi `big'.

dultzaina A traditional Basque musical instrument, a large end-blown flute resembling a clarinet, typical especially of Navarre. The name is borrowed from Romance and related to English dulcimer.

eguzki `Sun'. The word is formed from egun `day' plus the noun-forming suffix -zki, and it has variants iguzki and iduzki; there is also an eastern variant eki, from egun plus the different suffix -ki. Some anthropologists suspect that the sun might have played an important part in the old Basque religion, but we have no evidence. Nevertheless, it is interesting that the famous cemetery of Argiñeta, in Elorrio, Bizkaia, dated to 883 and thought to represent pre-Christian burial practices, has tombstones with no trace of a cross but with discoidal shapes which may perhaps be sun-signs.

eliza `Church', a loan from Latin ecclesia or from some Romance descendant of this. Christianity came late to the Basque Country: in the Basque heartland of Bizkaia, Gipuzkoa, and the French Basque Country, there is not the slightest evidence for the presence of a single Christian before the 10th century, and in some areas even later than that. There is abundant evidence that the Basques remained pagans until that time: Christian missionaries met nothing but failure and opposition, the Arabs referred to the Basques as majus `wizards, pagans', and the famous cemetery of Argiñeta in Elorrio (Bizkaia) shows discoidal tombstones (sun-signs?) with no sign of a cross. Nevertheless, the eventual Basque embrace of the Church of Rome was so thoroughgoing that we know little about the old Basque religion, and the Church has been a major force in Basque affairs for centuries. Every Basque village has a prominent church, usually facing onto the town square; curiously, the local pilota court is almost always next to the church. So devout have the Basques been that the French have a saying: Qui dit basque, dit catholique -- though Protestantism is well established in the French Basque Country. Today, in the Basque Country as elsewhere, devotion to the Church is declining rapidly among young people.

erdara (variant erdera) The name given everywhere by the Basques to the Romance speech of their neighbors; depending on time and place, it may mean more specifically `Spanish', `Gascon', or `French'. The ending is the same -(k)ara `way' found in euskara, but the first element is mysterious: neither erdi `half' nor the archaic erdu(tu) `come, arrive' provides a satisfactory explanation. The 16th-century writer Garibay gives the word as erdeera, which complicates matters but sheds no light.

ETA The well-known militant (and sometimes terrorist) Basque separatist political group. The name in full is Euskadi Ta Askatasuna `Basque Homeland and Liberty'. ETA started life in 1953, deep in the years of the Franco dictatorship, as nothing more than a student discussion group at the University of Deusto in Bilbao; it was originally called EKIN, from the Basque for `get busy'. Associated for a while with the Basque Nationalist Party (a clandestine organization at the time), EKIN grew restless with the patient, non-confrontational style of the older organization, and in 1959 it broke away and re-named itself ETA. For some years the new group's activities were deliberately non-violent, but the sustained ferocity of the Spanish police in greeting every move eventually pushed ETA into armed resistance, beginning with the assassination of known torturers and murderers among the police but gradually escalating into increasingly indiscriminate shootings and bombings. Since the establishment of the Basque Autonomous Government in 1979, most former members of ETA have withdrawn into private life, but a handful of fanatics has continued its activities down to the present day.

etxe `House' or `household'. A traditional Basque house (a baserri or borda) is two stories high, with a distinctively asymmetric sloping roof, a built-in shelter for animals, and an amount of land attached. It always has a name; this name is conferred by the neighbors, not by the inhabitants. The house name is known to all, even though the surnames of the family living there may not be; it may be used as a postal address and as a way of addressing or referring to an inhabitant of the house. The organization of the household is highly formalized: the etxekojaun `master of the house' and the etxekoand(e)re `lady of the house' have precisely delineated roles and are responsible for all decisions affecting the household; when they retire, these titles are formally handed over to the child deemed most suitable to take over and to that child's spouse.

Euskadi The Basque state or the Basque nation, the Basque Country conceived as a political entity or at least as a nation. This name contrasts with Euskal Herria, the Basque Country conceived as a geographical area or as a cultural and historical entity. The name was of course invented by the Basque nationalist Sabino Arana (who spelled it Euzkadi; see euzk-); it consists of his eusko plus his all-purpose noun-forming suffix -di. During the Spanish Civil War, this name (spelled Euzkadi) was given to the short-lived Basque republic. Today it is used in two somewhat different senses. Narrowly, it is the political unit administered by the Basque Autonomous Government, the Eusko Jaurlaritza, which calls itself in Spanish el Gobierno de Euskadi. Broadly, it is applied to the whole territory of the Basque Country, the traditional seven provinces, north and south, by Basques who regard the Basque Country as a single nation.

euskal The combining form of euskara `Basque language'. This item is linguistically unusual: it can never stand alone, but it is used as a stem in word-formation (as in euskaldun `Basque-speaker') and as a preposed adjectival modifer to convey the sense of `Basque' in general, as in Euskal Herria `the Basque Country', euskal liburuak `Basque books', and euskal historia `Basque history'; when so used, it need not refer to the language. Northern varieties have a variant eskual. Compare eusko.

euskaldun A Basque-speaker. The word is formed from euskara `Basque language' and -dun `who has'; it literally means `one who has (i.e., speaks) Basque'. This is an unusual case of a people naming themselves after their language. In spite of some misunderstanding by outsiders, euskaldun still today means only `Basque-speaker', and never `ethnic Basque' (compare euskotar). When necessary, a distinction is made between euskaldun zahar `old Basque' for a native speaker and euskaldun berri `new Basque' for a person who has learned Basque as a second language (there are now thousands of these). Northern varieties have a variant eskualdun.

Euskal Herria The Basque Country, the territory which is historically, ethnically and culturally Basque. The name has been in use for centuries, at least; today it is normally conceived as embracing the area of the traditional seven provinces (Bizkaia, Gipuzkoa, Araba and Navarre on the Spanish side, Lapurdi, Low Navarre and Zuberoa on the French side). The name is formed from euskal, the combining form of euskara `Basque language', plus herri `country, with the article. Compare Euskadi.

Euskal Herriko Unibertsitatea (EHU) The University of the Basque Country. Established by the Basque Autonomous Government almost as soon as it took power, the EHU has its main campus in Vitoria-Gasteiz in Araba; its Department of Basque Philology is now the world's leading center for the academic study of the Basque language, and particularly for the study of its history and prehistory.

Euskaltzaindia The Royal Basque Language Academy. Founded in 1919 and now based in Bilbao, the Academy is chiefly responsible for the creation of euskara batua, the modern standard form of Basque; it publishes a scholarly journal devoted to the language (Euskera), organizes international conferences for scholars of the language, maintains an important library, collects and publishes data on the language, publishes scholarly books dealing with Basque, and generally tries to promote the status of Basque and to promote knowledge about the language. It has published a comprehensive grammar (in Basque), and it is currently publishing a comprehensive multi-volume scholarly dictionary, only the first few volumes of which have so far appeared. The name was coined by the Basque nationalist Sabino Arana years before the organization came into existence; it consists of euskal, the combining form of euskara `Basque language', plus -zain `guardian', Arana's all-purpose noun-forming suffix -di, and the article. It has been pointed out that a better choice of name would have been Euskaltzaingoa, with the human collective suffix -goa, but the traditional name is firmly established.

euskara The name of the Basque language; it has regional variants euskera and eskuara. Since we know that the ancient Aquitanians of southwestern Gaul spoke an ancestral form of Basque, it has long been suspected that the language name derives from the name of the Ausci, an Aquitanian tribe identified by the Romans. Recently, however, the Basque philologist Alfonso Irigoyen has made a good case for a different origin: he reconstructs a lost verb *enautsi `say', and sees this as the source of euskara, the final element being -(k)ara `way': hence `way of saying', or perhaps `way of speaking'. I find his case persuasive, especially since the 16th-century writer Garibay twice gives the name of the language as enusquera.

euskara batua The modern standard form of the Basque language. The name is literally `unified Basque' (batu, participle of the verb meaning `unify, unite', from bat `one'). The creation of batua was chiefly the work of the Basque Language Academy, Euskaltzaindia, with strong guidance from the great Basque linguist Luis Michelena (in Basque, Koldo Mitxelena). The standard orthography was promulgated in 1964, followed a few years later by a standard nominal and verbal morphology, standard forms of habitation names in the Basque Country, and some standard vocabulary for use in schools. Neither the pronunciation nor the syntax has yet received any standardization, and there continue to be substantial differences in the choice and use of words. The Academy has probably done all it reasonably can, and the standard language is now (one hopes) undergoing a period of consolidation and selection.

eusko A variant form of euskal, the combining form meaning `Basque'. This form was invented by the Basque nationalist Sabino Arana, who spelled it euzko, on the fantastic assumption that euskal was an altered form of eguzkiko `of the sun' (eguzki `sun' plus the relational suffix -ko). This capriciously altered form was taken up with enthusiasm by Arana's followers; for example, it appears in Euzko Gudari `Basque soldier', the title of a patrotic song sung by Basque soldiers during the Spanish Civil War. Opponents of Arana's awkward coinages have often used euzko as a term of abuse for an Aranista, particularly for one who publicly embraces Arana's coinages while doing little to improve the status of Basque. Now respelled as eusko, this form still finds some use today, notably in the name of the Basque Autonomous Government, Eusko Jaurlaritza, but it is rejected as a barbarism by a majority of speakers.

Eusko Jaurlaritza The official name of the Basque Autonomous Government, which administers the three provinces of the Basque Autonomous Region: Bizkaia, Gipuzkoa and Araba. (The fourth Spanish Basque province, Navarre, voted in a referendum to remain outside the Basque Autonomous Region, and Navarre now constitutes its own autonomous region.) With its capital in Vitoria-Gasteiz (in Araba), the EJ wields considerable power in its region: it collects taxes, maintains a Basque police force, funds education (including a Basque university), builds and maintains roads, promotes tourism, and supports Basque language and culture. Established in 1979, the EJ has usually been dominated by the Basque Nationalist Party (the PNV), but recently gains by other parties have led to power-sharing. The name consists entirely of some of Sabino Arana's neologisms: his eusko `Basque' plus his jaularitza `government', coined from jaun `lord' (combining form jaur-) plus the professional suffix -(l)ari plus the noun-forming suffix -tza.

euskotar An ethnic Basque, whether Basque-speaking or not. The word was coined by the Basque nationalist Sabino Arana (who spelled it euzkotar), from his eusko and the ethnonymic suffix -tar. This word filled an obvious gap, since the traditional euskaldun means specifically `Basque-speaker', and it is widely used today.

euzk- All the spellings in euzk- are the work of the late 19th-century Basque nationalist Sabino Arana, who tinkered with the language extensively but often not very skilfully. Somehow Arana got the idea that the language name euskara (euskera in his Bizkaian dialect) was derived from the word for `sun', eguzki; accordingly, he capriciously altered the spelling of euskera to euzkera, of euskaldun `Basque-speaker' to euzkeldun, and so on. The combining form Euskal he interpreted as a descendant of eguzkiko `of the sun', and he altered this accordingly to Euzko, which still survives today in the altered spelling Eusko. It was from this Euzko that Arana derived his new name for the Basque nation, Euzkadi; this spelling was used by the short-lived Basque Republic during the Spanish Civil War, but the word survives today only in the modified spelling Euskadi.

ezpata-dantza The sword dance, a traditional Basque folk-dance involving (would you believe it?) swords. From ezpata `sword', a loan from Latin .

foru `Municipal charter', but the significance of this word is far greater than the gloss would suggest. During the early Middle Ages, Basque cities and towns on both sides of the Pyrenees, and sometimes entire provinces, were granted charters detailing their rights and obligations. These charters are called fueros in Spanish, fors in French, and foruak in Basque; the name derives from Latin forum, originally the name of a public square in which municipal business was discussed. Particularly on the Spanish side, these charters allowed the Basques for centuries to retain a high degree of local autonomy, to keep their taxes well below those demanded elsewhere in Spain, to avoid or buy out of military conscription, and to remain free of the depradations wreaked by a rapacious and autocratic nobility elsewhere in Spain; throughout the foral period, the Spanish customs frontier was located at the Ebro, making the Basque provinces a duty-free zone for imports. In the 19th century, the foral privileges of the Basques came under increasing pressure from centralist governments in Madrid, leading to a series of armed conflicts known as the Carlist Wars. In the north, of course, the few remaining foral rights had already been swept away by the French Revolution.

Gaueko In Basque folklore, a nocturnal spirit or demon which prohibits certain activities during the hours of darkness on pain of punishment. The name means simply `[creature] of the night' (gau `night' plus the relational suffix -ko).

gaztai `Cheese'. The regional variants gaztae, gazta, and gazna, and the combining form gaztan-, point to an original *gaztane. In spite of its vague similarity to Latin caseus `cheese', this cannot be a borrowing from Latin, and it appears to be a native word. Unsurprisingly in a country in which sheep- and goat-herding has long been a major part of the economy, Basque cheeses are commonly made from sheep's or goat's milk. Most of them are hard, though a soft cheese called gaztanbera, literally `soft cheese', is made in places; this somewhat resembles cottage cheese. I have not come across any blue cheeses in the Basque Country. Some of the Pyrenean cheeses have a ferociously powerful odor and are definitely an acquired taste.

Gernika The name of the Basque holy city, site of the provincial assembly of Bizkaia in the Middle Ages, to which Spanish sovereigns were obliged to travel at intervals and swear to uphold Basque liberties under the Tree of Gernika. The city was destroyed in 1937 by the Condor Legion, a unit of the German air force dispatched by Hitler to aid Franco's Fascist rebellion and to give his pilots some combat experience for the European war to come. The second use in history of air power purely to terrorize civilians (the Legion had similarly attacked the Bizkaian city of Durango a month earlier), this attack caused worlwide outrage and moved Picasso to produce his most famous painting, Guernica, which the Basques are today trying to claim for their own art museum. Like all place names in -ika and -aka, this one is of pre-Basque origin.

Gernikako Arbola (1) The Tree of Gernika, the ancient oak tree which stands in the town of Gernika in front of the Casa de Juntas, the traditional home of Basque liberties. During the Middle Ages, Spanish sovereigns were obliged to travel at regular intervals to Gernika to swear under the Tree to uphold Basque liberties. The Tree itself has long been regarded as the symbol and physical embodiment of these liberties; it appears on the coat of arms of Bizkaia, was the subject of a poem by Wordsworth, and miraculously survived the destruction of Gernika by Hitler's air force in 1937. The original tree finally died a few years ago, but a new Tree was already in place, grown from a shoot of the old one. (2) The Basque national anthem, a celebration of Basque liberties composed by the most famous of all Basque bards, Iparraguirre, in 1853.

godalet-dantza One of the most famous Basque folk-dances, associated particularly with the northern province of Zuberoa (Soule). It is performed by four men in a variety of elaborate costumes. The central figure wears a paper horse around his waist which prevents him from seeing his feet; a major feature of the dance consists of his leaping repeatedly onto and off a glass of wine placed on the ground without spilling a drop. This part is the source of the name: godalet `wine-glass' is a loan from Romance and cognate with English goblet.

gorri `Red'. This is an indigenous Basque word; the Basque linguist Azkue suggested it might be derived from an ancient element *gor `flesh' (and hence `flesh-colored), but this is doubtful. This color name has a number of transferred meanings: `high fever', `vigorous, energetic', and `cruel, terrible' (the opposite in this last sense is zuri `white'. The word has other associations in Basque: `bareness, nudity' (larrugorri `naked', from larru `skin'), the Devil (Galtzagorri `Red Pants'), and doubtless others.

gudari `Basque soldier'. This is another of Sabino Arana's inventions, but well-formed this time, from gudu `combat, struggle' and the professional suffix -ari (from Latin). Arana meant the word to mean `soldier' in general, but it was applied to the Basque soldiers who fought in the Spanish Civil War, and ever since it has denoted specifically `Basque soldier', `person fighting for the freedom of the Basque Country'.

haitz `Stone, rock, boulder, crag'. The precise sense of this word varies according to region, but it is clearly ancient, since it occurs in a large number of place names and surnames, such as the mountain name Aizkorri in Gipuzkoa (gorri `red'), the village name Axpe in Bizkaia (-pe `below'), and the Bizkaian surname Atxa (the Bizkaian form of haitz is atx). It is clear that the earlier form of the word must have been *anetz or *anitz. Several Basque tool-names look as if they might be built upon haitz, such as haitzur `mattock' and Roncalese ai(n)zto `knife', but this etymology is not certain. But the similar-looking haizkora `ax' is almost certainly a loan from Latin asciola `hatchet'. Compare harri.

haizkolari `Woodcutter'. The word is formed from haizkora `ax' and -lari, a variant of -ari, the professional suffix. The word haizkora is almost certainly a loan from Latin asciola `hatchet'. Wood-chopping conteats among haizkolariak have long been a favorite sport in the Basque Country, and they have recently spread to several other countries, such as Australia and Canada, with the result that international competitions are now held from time to time.

haran `Valley'. This is the nearly universal Basque word for `valley', though ibar is used alongside it and is preferred in places. The word is native and clearly ancient, and it occurs in a large number of place names and surnames, such as the surname Haraneder `beautiful valley', and the surname Arana `the valley', borne by the father of Basque nationalism, Sabino Arana. On the basis of place-name evidence, scholars are confident that Basque was formerly spoken as far east in the Pyrenees as the valley of Arán, in territory which is today Catalan-speaking; the very name of this valley appears to continue Basque haran.

harotz `Smith'. A worker in wood and metal, the Basque harotz combines two trades which are elsewhere usually distinct, those of the carpenter and the blacksmith. The traditional ornately carved Basque wooden furniture, however, is not produced by the harotz, but by a different craftsman called a zurgin `cabinetmaker' (zur `wood' plus -gin `who makes').

harri `Stone'. The word is ancient, and it occurs in many place names and surnames, such as the place name Arrigorriaga near Bilbao (gorri `red' plus -aga `place') and the surname Harrieta (French Harriet), the name of the compiler of a huge but still unpublished dictionary of Basque.

harrijasotzaile A weightlifter. Lifting stone weights is a traditional Basque sport. The word derives from harri `stone' plus jaso `lift' plus -tzaile `-er'.

hego `South wind', south'. The original meaning was `south wind'; from this the compound hegoalde was constructed to denote `south' (alde `side, region'), but we also find hego used alone to denote `south'. The word Hegoaldea today commonly means `the South', i.e., the Spanish Basque Country. Compare ipar.

Herensuge A monstrous serpent in Basque folklore, often a sea serpent. The name derives from heren `third' (today only the fraction but perhaps formerly something else) plus suge `snake, serpent'.

herri A word of diverse meaning. Its two central senses are `inhabited place' and `people who live in a particular place'; in context, it may translate any of `settlement, habitation', `people', `nation', `country'. See Euskal Herria and baserri.

Herri Batasuna The most militant of all the Basque nationalist political parties; its name means `Popular Unity'. The relationship of HB to ETA has often been compared to that of Sinn Fein to the IRA.

hilargi `Moon'. The ancient Basque word for `moon' was *iLe or *iLa (where L represents a long, "fortis" lateral), but this ancient word survives today only as the first element of hilargi, originally `moonlight' (argi `light') and hilabete `month', originally `full moon' (bete `full'). Some anthropologists suspect that the moon may have been important in the old Basque pagan religion, but there is little in the way of evidence, and in particular there is seemingly no trace of any personification of the moon. The once-popular idea that the first element of hilargi was hil `dead' is now known to be wrong.

hiri `Town, city'. The word is ancient, and its earlier form *ili is attested in a number of ancient place names, the most famous being the mysterious Iliberris in Granada (modern Elvira); this is transparently *ili plus berri `new', but no one knows how a Basque place name could be found so far south.

hiztegi `Dictionary', a compound of hitz `word' and -tegi `place'. The first known Basque dictionary was compiled in 1562 by Niccolò Landucci, an Italian living in Vitoria; this appears to record the Basque spoken in that city at the time. A number of other dictionaries were compiled in the following centuries, some of which have been lost. Particularly famous is Larramendi's dictionary of 1745, which was published but which unfortunately contains a huge number of neologisms coined by the author. The French Basque Maurice Harriet compiled a vast 3500-page dictionary in the late 19th century which still remains unpublished today. In 1905 the great Basque linguist Azkue published his masterly dictionary; this is still today the best scholarly dictionary we have. The Basque Language Academy is currently preparing and publishing a huge multi-volume dictionary which is intended to be exhaustively comprehensive, but only the first few volumes have so far appeared. A comprehensive etymological dictionary of Basque has been published in fascicles by Manuel Agud and Antonio Tovar.

ibai `River'. This is the most widespread word, though there exists also uhalde, ugalde, especially in the east; this is a compound of ur `water' and alde `side'. The word ibai itself appears to be a derivative of ibar `valley', but perhaps originally `water-meadow'. Curiously, perhaps, the great majority of river names in the Basque Country are of non-Basque origin, though an outstanding exception is the biggest river in the Basque heartland, the Ibaizabal, from ibai plus zabal `wide'.

ibar `Valley'. The word exists alongside the synonymous haran, but there is reason to believe it once meant more specifically `water-meadow': in the Basque Country, the only water-meadows are in the valleys. The word is ancient and found in numerous place names and surnames, such as the surname Ibarrola (ola `place') and the place name Ibarra in Araba (Spanish Aramaiona, also a name of Basque origin).

idiprobak `Ox-trials', from idi `ox' and the loan word proba `test'. This is a traditional but rather cruel Basque sport in which pairs of oxen compete to drag a heavy weight as far as possible.

ikastola A Basque-language school. The word is a neologism, formed from ikasi `study, learn' and -ola `place where something is done'. The first ikastolas came into existence during the Franco dictatorship; they were clandestine, after-hours, and strictly illegal. With the gradual relaxation of some of Franco's restrictions, the ikastolas became quasi-legal, though they continued to be persecuted. Only with the achievement of autonomy after the old dictator's death did the ikastolas finally become integrated into the ordinary school system; today some of them have become part of the state-funded public school system while others remain private.

ikurrin The Basque national flag, consisting of a red field, covered by a diagonal green cross, covered in turn by an orthogonal white cross. In other languages, this flag is known as the ikurriña, with the Basque article attached and the palatal nasal arising from the usual pronunciation of the word in the western varieties of Basque. The flag was designed by the Basque nationalist Sabino Arana, who originally intended it only as the flag of Bizkaia, but it was quickly taken up by Basques everywhere. The name too was coined by Arana in his tyoically eccentric way. He started with the native verb irakurri `read', and concluded that this must be an ancient -ra- causative of a lost verb *ikurri, to which he assigned the meaning `signify'. This in turn he proposed to derive from a lost noun *ikur `sign'; to this ikur he added a suffix -in of his own devising to obtain ikurrin. This word he intended as a new Basque word for `flag' in general, but, almost from the beginning, it has been taken as the name of the Basque flag. The ikurriña was the flag of the short-lived Basque republic of 1936-37, and it is the flag that Basque soldiers fought and died for during the war. It doesn't have such a long pedigree as some other national flags, but the soldiers of the Spanish Civil War thought it was good enough to die for, and I reckon theirs is the only opinion that counts. Today the ikurriña is the flag of the Basque Autonomous Government, but in fact it flies everywhere in the Basque Country, north and south.

indar `Force, strength'. Most of the rather rugged Basque sports are based upon displays of strength of one sort or another.

ipar `North'. The great Basque linguist Michelena sees this as a specialized and altered form of ibar `valley'; his thinking is that the meaning of `north' is extracted from ipar-haize `north wind' (haize `wind'), which in turn is an alteration of *ibar-haize `valley wind'. The name Iparralde is applied to the French Basque Country.

irrintzi The traditional Basque mountain cry, a ululation characterized by a rising pitch and concluded with a kind of demented laugh. It was formerly used for calling in the mountains; today it is most commonly heard at festivals. The word is probably of imitative origin.

Irurak Bat `The Three Are One'. This was the motto of the Real Sociedad Vascongado de Amigos del País, an important 18th-century organization founded to promote new ideas in education, agriculture, and technology in Bizkaia, Gipuzkoa, and Araba. Founded in Azkoitia in 1764, this was the first such organization in Spain, and it was highly successful; among its other achievements, it established the first secular school in Spain (in Azkoitia). This motto was the inspiration for the modern slogan Zazpiak Bat.

itsaso `Sea'. Living along the coast as they do, the Basques have been seafarers since long before our records begin. Their fishermen and whalers have ranged the North Atlantic for many centuries; see arrantzale and balea. Basque sailors (itsasgizonak, from gizon `man') were involved early in the voyages of discovery; both Columbus and Magellan had Basque lieutenants, and, after Magellan's death, it was his lieutenant Elkano who successfully completed the first circumnavigation of the world. Today fishing is still an important industry, and seafood is a major component of the Basque diet.

iturri `Spring, fountain'. This is an ancient word, found in many place names and surnames, such as the place name Iturmendi in Navarra (mendi `mountain') and the surname Iturrieta (-eta `abundance of'). In Roman times a town called Iturissa existed on the Mediterranean coast; this looks very much like Iturritza, a transparently Basque place name recorded in the Basque Country itself, but the presence of a seemingly Basque place name in what was then Iberian-speaking territory is mysterious.

Izarra The name of a commercial liqueur manufactured in Bayonne. It is based on Armagnac, flavored with Pyrenean herbs, and colored yellow for the weaker version and green for the stronger. It somewhat resembles Chartreuse.

jai `Festival'. Every Basque city, town and village has a town festival once a year. These always feature performances by amateur and professional singers and dancers; there may be sporting contests, bull-runnings (see zezenketa and sokamutur), bertsolari contests, and all manner of other entertainments; and there is always plenty of eating and drinking. Even in a small village, the festival may go on for several days, and the banners displayed at the edge of town warning Jaietan Gaude `We're Having Our Festival' are meant to warn incoming drivers of the need for care to avoid running down a group of boisterous and possibly slightly inebriated revellers. This is one of the very rare Basque nouns with initial j, and its origin is a mystery.

jai alai See pilota.

jainko The ordinary word for `god' (in the generic sense) and also, as Jainko, a name for `God' (in the Christian sense). The word has a variant Jinko, and it is a puzzle. The most widespread name for the Christian God is Jaungoikoa, from jaun `lord' and goiko `who is on high', plus the article. This name too is odd, since the order of elements is very un-Basque: we would have expected *Goikojauna. It may be that Jaungoikoa has its anomalous form because it is a calque on some Romance term of the form `the Lord on high', but nobody knows. The word Jainko is still in use today, especially in the north, and in early texts it is often more frequent than Jaungoikoa. There are at least three hypotheses on the table concerning these two words. (1) Jainko is an ancient Basque word for `God' (possibly deriving from the name of a pre-Christian deity), and Jaungoiko is a folk-etymology designed to rationalize this name in Christian terms, thus accounting for the odd form of the latter. (2) Jainko is nothing but an irregular contraction of Jaungoiko. (3) The two names are not related at all, and the resemblance is purely coincidental. I myself favor the third of these, but I take no position on the origin of jainko. I note two things, however. First, it is extremely rare for a Basque noun to begin with j. Second, the presence of the cluster nk is highly anomalous: save only in the easternmost dialects, plosives in all Basque words, of whatever origin, were uniformly voiced after n some centuries after the Roman period, and hence this word does not look ancient: we would have expected *jaingo. Finally, the oft-made suggestion that English By jingo! derives from Basque Ala jinko! `By God!' seems too fanciful to be taken seriously, especially since English loans directly from Basque are virtually unknown.

jaun Originally, `lord'; today, just the ordinary word for `gentleman`, `sir' or `mister'. It is extremely unusual for a Basque noun to begin with a /j/, which is normally confined to participles of verbs (where it develops from original */e/ before a non-high vowel), and it is quite possible that jaun was originally a participle meaning something like `exalted'. Unlike its female equivalent andere, jaun is not attested in the Aquitanian materials. There is, however, a male name Andossus in Aquitanian, and Joaquín Gorrochategui has suggested an original stem *And-, with a female suffix *-ere for `lady' and a male suffix *-ots for `lord'. This idea is supported by the existence of a word-forming suffix -(d)ots in one or two names for male animals.

kale `Street', a loan from Spanish calle or a related Romance form. The word commonly has an extended sense of `town': a Basque who says Kalera noa does not mean `I'm going into the street' but rather `I'm going into town'. Since a very large part of Basque social life takes place in the streets and the bars of the town, what the speaker very often intends to do is to go into town to have a few drinks and to chat with friends doing the same thing. There is, in fact, a certain divide, not overwhelming but nonetheless real, between the baserritarrak who live in farmhouses outside of town and the kaletarrak who live in town.

koadrila A group of friends who regularly socialize together and who turn to one another in time of need. Koadrilak are of some considerable importance in Basque society. The word is borrowed from Spanish cuadrilla `group, gang, band'.

kopa A glass of spirits. Any respectable Basque meal concludes with a kopa or three; the favorite tipples are anis (anisette), koñak, and patxaran, though nowadays whisky is increasingly common. The word is borrowed from Spanish copa `drinking-glass'.

kopla zaharrak Traditional songs, or perhaps better traditional verses put to music. The word kopla `verse' is borrowed from Romance and related to English couplet; zahar is `old'.

Lamiak (also Lamiñak) Creatures of Basque folklore. Depictions vary, but they are often represented as beautiful but malevolent women with animal feet who deceive, enchant and kill young men. The Lamias are found all across southern Europe, as far east as Greece, and scholars believe the name is of Greek origin. The Basque variant with a second nasal is puzzling, but is probably secondary.

lauburu The Basque swastika, a rounded swastika resembling four commas joined at their points. Its name derives from lau `four' and buru `head'. The lauburu is found everywhere in the Basque Country, north and south, as a decorative emblem on houses, carved furniture, jewellery, and the covers of books with Basque themes; along with the beret and the Basque flag, it is one of the instantly recognizable signs of Basque identity. Its origin is completely unknown.

lehendakari `President'. This is another of Sabino Arana's coinages (he spelled it lendakari), derived from lehen `first' and a variant of the professional suffix -ari (I'm not sure what the bit in the middle is). This is the title conferred upon the President of the Basque Autonomous Government.

lur `Earth, land'. The word is indigenous and ancient, and it represents something of considerable importance: in traditional Basque society, there is a great divide between those who own land and those who don't. The first-ever Basque film was called Ama Lur `Mother Earth'.

Mari A rather shadowy figure of Basque folklore, usually conceived as a tall, beautiful and kindly woman with some kind of magical or semi-divine powers. Mari is strongly associated with particular locations, and some anthropologists have seen her as continuing ancient pagan deities associated with those locations; as usual, though, we have no way of investigating such suggestions. Whatever the origin of Mari, there is no doubt that the conception of her has been, at the very least, heavily overlaid by the Christian Virgin. Certainly the name cannot be of Basque origin.

mendi `Mountain'. In spite of its resemblance to Latin montem, this appears to be a native word; its earlier form was probably *bendi. The Basque heartland is, of course, overwhelmingly mountainous. The mountains are limestone and hence full of natural caves, some of which contain cave paintings from the Palaeolithic period. The most important of these caves are Otsozelaia in the French Basque Country, Ekain in Gipuzkoa, and Santimamiñe in Bizkaia. It is this mountainous terrain which is largely responsible for the survival of the Basque language down to the present day: the Romans apparently saw no point in trying to romanize the mountains, and the later Franks, Visigoths, and Arabs were simply unable to subdue the Basques in their mountains.

mus The traditional Basque card game, played by four people in two partnerships. Partnerships win beans by having the highest-scoring hands; first partnership to win an agreed number of beans wins the game. Hardly a bar is without at least one game of mus going on somewhere, especially on weekend afternoons. The game is never played for money, though the losers may be expected to buy a round of drinks. A remarkable feature of the game is the presence of a kind of institutionalized cheating, by which players are allowed to pass information about their hands to their partners by an agreed set of signals made with the face; unrecognized signals are not permitted, and a player caught signalling by an opponent must own up. The game is lively and skilful. The name, which is used in the game to request new cards during a hand, is of unknown origin, but cannot be native Basque; the Catalan etymologist Corominas thinks it derives from French mouche `fly'. Particularly noticeable during a game is the occasional cry of Hor dago! `There it is!', used to announce a particular sort of challenge.

nekazari `Farmer'. This is one of several Basque words for `farmer'; it is derived from neke `fatigue, work', which is a loan from Latin necem `death'. Though pastoralism has been the backbone of the Basque economy since prehistoric times, agriculture has been practiced in the area for perhaps 4000 years, wherever the terrain would allow it. Today almost every square foot of available land is under cultivation, and every farm produces a substantial proportion of its own food plus an excess which is sold at local markets.

ogi `Bread'. This word, which also means `wheat' in the east of the country (though `wheat' is otherwise universally gari), is surely ancient. Even in today's prosperous Basque Country, bread remains the staple food par excellence: no Basque meal, no matter how rich and elaborate, is eaten without bread.

ola An interesting word. Its most obvious sense is `forge, foundry', but it equally means `hut, cabin', especially a shepherd's seasonal shelter high on the mountains. It very frequently occurs as the final element in place names (and surnames); here it usually just means `place where something is done', or even just `place'.

Olentzaro A traditional festival associated with the winter solstice and characterized by eating, drinking and merrymaking; today this festival is increasingly assimilated into the celebration of Christmas, though it retains some distinctive characteristics, such as the personification of Olentzaro, often as an ugly little boy. As usual, next to nothing is known about whether, and to what extent, the Olentzaro might preserve remnants of pre-Christian religious practices. There is an attested variant Onentzaro, and specialists think this is probably the original form of the name, and that it has the obvious derivation from onen `best' and -zaro `season, time', making it parallel to Spanish Nochebuena `Christmas Eve'.

Orreaga The Basque name of the celebrated Pyrenean pass called Roncesvalles in Spanish and Roncesvaux in French. Here, in the year 778, a troop of Basques, apparently angered by the gratuitous sacking of their capital city, Pamplona, by a Frankish force retreating from combat with the Arabs, fell upon that force and annihilated it. Scandalized by this crushing defeat at the hands of an unregarded mountain people, Charlemagne's bards embroidered the tale into the magnificent Chanson de Roland, greatest of all medieval romances, in which the defeat is ascribed to a vast Muslim army aided by demons from Hell. Interestingly, a second Frankish army was crushed at Orreaga in 824. The name derives from orre `juniper' plus the suffix -aga `place'.

ortzi Probably the native Basque word for `sky', in which sense it is only marginally attested as an independent word. (The modern Basque word for `sky' is zeru, a borrowing from a Romance development of Latin caelum.) But ortzi and its western variant osti appear as the first element in dozens of formations with senses like `storm', `stormcloud', `thunder', `bright sky', `daylight', and `rainbow'; examples include orzargi `daylight' (argi `light') and ortzadar `rainbow' (adar `horn'). But there are two points that have intrigued many people. First, the 12th-century French pilgrim Picaud compiled a brief glossary of Basque words which is generally very accurate, and he reports that the Basque word for `God' was given to him as Ortzia. Second, the Basque name of Thursday is everywhere ortzegun or ostegun -- `ortzi-day' -- and of course Thursday is named after the local thunder god in both Latin and Germanic. These facts suggest that Ortzi might anciently have been the name of a Basque god of thunder, or of the sky generally. No one knows if this conjecture has any validity. Michelena has suggested that ortzegun might simply be *bortz-egun, from bortz `five', with a familiar phonological development -- but then `Friday' in Basque is ortzirale, with the same first element and a mysterious second one. It is also odd that the Basques should have been providing the name of a pagan deity as late as the 12th century, and Michelena suggests that, when Picaud asked for the word `God', he pointed at the sky, and that the Basques, misunderstanding his meaning, simply gave him their word for `sky'.

otso `Wolf'. Today no wolves survive in the Basque Country, though the last one was killed only a few generations ago, and wolves still prowl the mountains just to the west of the country. There is good evidence for the former importance of wolves among the Basques. The personal names recorded in Aquitanian (the ancestral form of Basque spoken in Roman times) show an element Osso- or Oxso- which is generally agreed to represent otso written in the defective Roman alphabet. In the medieval period, Otsoa `the Wolf' was a common by-name, and this survives today as the fairly common surname Otxoa, written Ochoa in Spanish. Interestingly, otso is widely used in the sense of `wild', especially in plant names, such as otsolizar `mountain ash, rowan' (lizar `ash') and otsoporru `asphodel' (porru `leek').

patxaran A favorite Basque tipple, made by soaking sloes in anisette. The name derives from the word for `sloe', basaran, which is baso `woods', wild' plus aran `plum'.

pilota The Basque national game, a member of the squash family. It is played in a number of different forms: one a side or two a side, with only a front wall or with three walls (no right-hand wall), with bare hands, with wooden racquets, or with a wicker basket strapped to one arm. By far the most famous version is cesta punta, played two a side with wicker baskets and three walls. This version is a professional sport of importance in the Basque Country, and it has spread to the USA and to much of Latin America; professional players, or pilotariak, regularly cross the Atlantic. In English, this version is somewhat curiously known as jai alai, a name which is Basque but is not used in Basque; it was deliberately coined by the 19th-century Romantic Serafín Baroja from jai `festival' and alai `merry'. The name pilota, of course, is a borrowing from Romance pelota `ball'.

pintxo A small snack eaten in a bar along with a drink. As elsewhere in Spain, pintxoak are a great tradition in the Basque Country, and the better bars usually display a wide range of hot and cold snacks, most of them prepared by the bar-owner's wife or daughter. Just as with drinks, payment is invariably on the honor system: only upon leaving do you list what you've consumed and pay up. The word is borrowed from Spanish pincho; the other Spanish word, tapa, is not normally used in Basque.

sagardo ~Cider', specifically hard cider, from sagar `apple' plus ardo `wine', with haplology. Cider is the traditional Basque tipple, and sagardotegiak `cider houses' were once commonplace in the Basque countryside. Indeed, it has been seriously suggested that the Basques were the first people to make cider, but such claims can rarely be evaluated. Today the ready availability of wine, beer and spirits has greatly reduced the consumption of cider, and cider-houses are rarer than they once were, but they can still be found in rural areas.

sokamutur A scaled-down kind of bull-running, in which a bull (rarely two or three) is led through crowded streets by handlers holding ropes attached to its nose. The idea is to reproduce most of the thrills of a genuine zezenketa while allowing the handlers to rein in an animal which looks set to injure somebody seriously. Sokamuturrak are very popular at festivals, and I can testify that stumbling into one unexpectedly confers remarkable and previously unsuspected powers of leaping and climbing. The name derives from soka `rope' (a loan from Latin) and mutur `snout' (a word of debatable origin: it is either a borrowing from Romance or an "expressive" formation).

sokatira A tug-of-war. This is a favorite Basque sport. The name derives from soka `rope', a loan from Latin, and tira `pull', a loan from Spanish.

sorgin `Witch'. Witches are important in Basque folklore, and anthropologists have sometimes suggested that some of the activities imputed to witches may represent garbled survivals of the old Basque pagan religion, but such suggestions are very difficult to evaluate. It is noteworthy that witches are strongly associated with particular locations, such as the mountain of Anboto in Bizkaia. The etymology of the word is obscure. The second element appears to be the common suffix -gin `who does, who makes', but the first is totally mysterious: neither zori `omen, fortune' nor the loan word sorte `fortune' can account for the form of the word. This word is frequently used in word-formation, as in sorgin-haize `whirlwind' (`witch-wind'), sorginorratz `dragonfly' (`witch-needle'), and, curiously, sorgin-oilo `butterfly' (`witch-hen'). The Zuberoan (Souletin) dialect has a different word for `witch', belagile; this is clearly `herb-maker', from belar `grass, herb' and -gile `who makes'.

Sugaar A serpent in Basque folklore, a somewhat shadowy but apparently hostile creature. The name is suge `snake, serpent plus ar `male'.

sukalde `Kitchen', from su `fire' plus alde `side'. The k is puzzling, but it might represent the relational suffix -ko. Until not so long ago, a Basque kitchen was indeed built around a large fireplace, and cooking was largely done in kettles suspended over the fire. Basque cuisine is rightly famous; it is generally regarded as the best cooking in Spain, and it is noticeably different from Spanish cooking -- for example, it makes no use of tomatoes. If you return to the main Basque page, you'll find a link to a Web site with a collection of Basque recipes.

taberna The most widespread Basque word for `bar', borrowed from Romance taverna, though several other words exist, such as ardandegi, literally `wine-place'.

trikitixa (also trikiti) An accordion, a traditional Basque instrument. The name is recent and of expressive origin.

txakoli (also txakolin) A kind of green wine, made from underripe grapes and having a sharp flavor. This is a favorite Basque drink. The name is of unknown origin.

txalaparta A vernacular musical instrument, consisting of a long wooden plank suspended on two padded barrels and struck with sticks. The name is of imitative origin.

txapela The Basque beret. The word derives from Latin capellum `cap', and the Basque word has the variants kapela and gapelu. The beret is the archetypal Basque artefact, and the Basques were probably the first to wear it. Basque men have worn black berets since time immemorial, both while working and on formal occasions, though in recent years the beret seems to be worn much less frequently. Both men and women may wear red berets on festive occasions. It is the custom to award a beret to the winner of a competition. especially a bertsolari competition, and the Basque word for `champion' is txapeldun -- literally, `one who has the beret'. Similarly, the usual word for `competition' or `contest' is txapelketa, with the suffix -keta, which forms nouns of activity. In Spanish, the beret is called a boina, a word unknown in Basque but widely thought to be of Basque origin, probably a Basque form of the Romance word that appears in English as bonnet.

txirula A vernacular flute resembling a txistu but differing in a few details. This instrument is typical of the province of Zuberoa (Soule). The name is of unknown origin; there is no obvious Romance source, and the word may be an imitative formation.

txistu A vernacular musical instrument, an end-blown flute played with one hand, usually while other beats a drum. The same word also means `saliva', and it may possibly be of expressive origin, but more likely it represents a Basque continuation of Latin fistula `shepherd's pipe'.

ur `Water'. The word is ancient and well-attested in place names and surnames, such as Urepele (`warm water'), a village in the French Basque Country, and U(r)beruaga (`hot waters'; i.e. `hot springs'), a surname. The great Basque linguist Azkue tried to make a case for a lost word *iz- meaning `water', but his case is rejected today as unsubstantiated.

Zazpiak Bat `The Seven Are One', a contemporary slogan asserting the unity of the seven traditional Basque provinces. This is a modern formation based on the 19th-century Irurak Bat.

zezenketa A bull-running, in which bulls are turned loose in the streets of a town or city, and young people run in front of them in order to demonstrate their own bravery or foolhardiness. As all readers of Ernest Hemingway will know, the most famous of these events takes place at the festival of San Fermines in Pamplona every July; there are always a few gorings, and occasionally there is a fatality among the not infrequently inebriated participants. Most of the victims, though, are tourists and not locals. The name derives from zezen `bull' and -keta, a suffix forming nouns of action. Compare sokamutur.

zori `Luck'. This word is unusually interesting. It is attested in early texts as meaning `omen', and the great Basque linguist Michelena reconstructs the original sense as simply `bird'. Centuries ago it was a common practice to try to foretell the future by studying the flight of birds, and the Basque word for `bird' came to have the sense of `omen'. It is the palatalized form of this word, (t)xori, which is today the universal Basque word for `bird'.

zuhaitz `Tree'. This is today the most usual word for `tree', and it is a compound of zur `wood' plus haritz, which today means `oak' but formerly just meant `tree'. There are over half a dozen other words for `tree' attested in early texts and in regional varieties today: errexala, habe, atze, ondo (this one only in compounds), zuhain(tze), zuhamu, ezkur, and the loan word arbola.

zuri `White'. The word often occurs in its palatalized form (t)xuri. It has a number of unpleasant associations, including `lazy', `useless', and `hypocritical, sycophantic'. The Basque linguist Azkue has proposed that it derives from zur `wood', which is possible but uncertain.

Getting Back

url of this page http://www.cogs.susx.ac.uk/users/larryt.html Revised: 23 August 1996
Copyright © 1996

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