Things you need to know to visit San Sebastián like a true donostiarra that no one has ever told you

You’re planning your trip to the Basque Country, specifically to San Sebastián, and you’ve been scouring different websites for information about what to see, what to do, where to eat. Right?

Let me tell you something. The best way to get to know Donostia is like a true Donostiarra. And to do that, you need to know more than just where the locals hang out, their way of life, and where they go for pintxos: you need to learn some euskera (Basque).


I imagine that you’re now throwing your hands to your head and thinking, “How am I going to learn a new language in such a short time?” But not to worry; this article will help you learn all the words you need to visit San Sebastián like a true local.


But where does Basque come from?

Want to know a little secret? Nobody knows where it came from.

Imagine that you suddenly land in a place where they speak a mysterious language. A language that has no connection with any other, one who’s origin has no explanation. Incredible, right?

Well, now you can brag to your friends that you know how to speak it. Because yes, we’re taking about Basque. And no one knows where it came from.

So far, the only thing researchers have been able to determine is that the language existed over 11,000 years ago in the Neolithic era. A fact that makes Basque the oldest living language in Europe.



An unsolved puzzle

For years, researchers have tried to determine the origin of the Basque language. But it remains a mystery.

Some have traced Basque back to Caucasian or Berber languages. And while similarities have been found with both languages, no evidence proves that they’re related.

Another theory claims that Basque is the lone survivor of a European linguistic family from the Palaeolithic era.


In any event, no one has yet managed to shed light on the root of Basque, and it remains an isolate, a language with unknown origin and not found to be related to any other, and an ongoing headache for linguists.

The only thing we truly know is that today, Basque is spoken in all the Basque Country (Gipzukoa, Araba, Bizkaia, Nafarroa, Lapurdi, Behe-nafarroa and Zuberoa). And while not everyone speaks it, there are standard words that even newcomers to the city use.

So listen closely, because you'll hear them on more than one occasion. And this guide will be a must-have if you don’t want to find yourself scratching your head, trying to figure out what things mean.


Mini dictionary for getting around San Sebastián like a true Donostiarra

Sound like a local in just five minutes with this mini dictionary and you’ll be able to ask for traditional drinks like the txotx, order at a pintxopote, go to a sagardotegi and enjoy a round of zuritos. Prest? Aurrera! (Ready? Let's go!)


  • Kaixo: Hello
  • Agur: Goodbye
  • Egun on: Good morning
  • Arratsalde on: Good afternoon
  • Gero arte: See you later
  • Zer moduz?: What's up? 
  • Oso Ondo: Very Well
  • Ondo pasa: Have a good time
  • Ongi etorria: Welcome
  • Zorionak!: Congratulations! 
  • Mila esker, eskerrik asko: Thank you
  • Mesedez: Please
  • Ez horregatik: You're welcome
  • Barkatu: Excuse me


  • Txotx: Cry of war in a cider house. When one of the guests shouts it, the others get up and go to the Kupela for a refill.
  • Pintxo: Tapa
  • Pintxopotea: A place that serves drinks and a pintxo
  • Garagardoa: Beer
  • Zurito: Small glass of beer
  • Ardoa: Wine 
  • Taberna: Bar
  • Jatetxea: Restaurant
  • On egin: Bon appétit
  • Izozkia: Ice cream
  • Txuleta: T-bone steak
  • Sagardoa: Cider
  • Sagardotegia: Cider house
  • Piperrak: Peppers
  • Beste bat: Another one
  • Txikito: Small glass of red wine typically drunk while “bar hopping”
  • Txikitero: A person who goes bar hopping
  • Txakoli:The Basque Country’s quintessential white wine
  • Poteo: To go bar hopping


  • Etxea: House
  • Irekita: Open
  • Itxita: Close
  • Bai: Yes
  • Ez: No
  • Laguna: Friend
  • Muxu: Kiss
  • Gaupasa: Stay up all night
  • Hondartza: Beach
  • Jaia: Party
  • Xirimiri: The Basque Country’s typical light but steady rain
  • Azoka: Market

Now that you know a few basic words in Basque that you can enjoy Donostia like a true local. And you can also brag that you know how to speak one of the world’s most complicated languages. If you want to continue practicing, do not miss this little dictionary with audio guide.

So what are you waiting for? Save this post in your favourites and use it when you go out for pintxos, take a stroll along the beach and visit the Old Town of San Sebastián. You can also download this small dictionary (Hiztegi Txikia) to consult it if you still have any doubts.

  • Ongi etorri

    Ongi etorri

    Welcome. ‘Ongi’ means well and ‘etorri’ to come. A tradition that we still preserve is to welcome people with a traditional dance.

  • Kaixo


    Hello. We also use "Epa!" "Aupa!" and "Iepa!"

  • Agur


    Bye. We also say ‘Aio’, although we prefer a see you later (laster arte)!

  • Mesedez


    Please. Much better with a smile.

  • Eskerrik asko

    Eskerrik asko

    Thanks. We also use ‘Mila esker’ (a thousand thanks).

  • Etxea


    House. Donostia feels like home

  • Zorionak


    Happy Birthday!

  • Gosaria


    Breakfast. The most important meal of the day.

  • Bazkaria


    Lunch. Daily menu, pintxos, cider menu… which one do you prefer?

  • Afaria


    Dinner. A light super like a salad and… a ‘txuleta’! (delicious T-bone steak!)

  • On egin

    On egin

    Enjoy your meal!

  • Pintxo


    Miniature Culinary Art. On egin!

  • Goxoa


    Delicious. We like to say ‘goxo-goxoa’. It also works for “sweet”.

  • Azoka


    Traditional market. Fresh and seasonal products. You will find them in La Bretxa or San Martin markets for example.

  • Xirimiri


    Light rain. Although you think it is not raining, open the umbrella, if you do not want to finish completely drenched.

  • Hondartza


    Beach. Which of our 4 beaches do you prefer?

  • Zenbakia


    Bat (un), bi (deux), hiru (trois), lau (quatre)... Trouvez la chanson et apprendre ces chiffres!

  • Maite zaitut

    Maite zaitut

    I love you.

  • Muxu



  • Polita


    Jolie. Essayez de répéter cette phrase : Zu oso polita zara !

  • Donostia


    You should say Donostia, if you want to act like a local.

  • Euskara


    Basque language.

  • Txuri-urdin


    White-blue. These are the colors of the city and also of La Real Sociedad soccer team.

  • Bai, Ez

    Bai, Ez

    Yes, no.

  • Zenbat da?

    Zenbat da?

    How much is it?

  • Mendia


    Mountain. From the mountains of Igeldo, Ulia and Urgull, the views are amazing!

  • Txotx


    If you hear this word you are in a cider house and you have to stand up and fill your glass!

  • Besarkada


    Hug. There is a Chillida’s sculpture with that very same name, find it! It looks at the sea…

Ongi etorria Donostiara!