Word of the day – ortzikara

Today’s word, ortzikara, is Basque and means “time when a storm is brewing” or in Spanish “tiempo amenazado por la tormenta”. Do any other language have a single word to express this meaning?

This word comes from a book I’m reading at the moment – Mother Tongues – Travels through Tribal Europe, by Helena Drysdale, in which the author and her family travel through Europe visiting people who speak minority languages such as Basque, Occitan, Sami and Corsican.

Related words include ihortziri (thunder), tximista (lightning), truxu (light rain), euri (heavy rain), bisuts (torrential rain), zara-zara (heavy rain), ortzadar (rainbow), haize (wind), elur (snow) and bisutsa (light snow). In fact there seems to be quite a lot words in Basque for different kinds of weather.

This entry was posted in Basque, Language, Spanish, Words and phrases.

9 Responses to Word of the day – ortzikara

  1. peter j. franke says:

    Not in Dutch, no single word, but there is: “stilte voor de storm”, (silence before the storm). Mainly used to express a certain tension before something exciting is about to happen…

  2. Adam says:

    Geilw y Storom (the call of the storm)

  3. Christopher Miller says:

    I was thinking there must be something of the sort in Old English, but nothing came up in a search. However, I did fall upon a wonderful article on weather words in Orkney English Dialect:


    There is a “gamfer”, an atmospheric omen of weather to come as in a “gamfer for snaa” (something that looks like snow coming) as well as a “glamsy” sky, glittery and stormy looking. There’s even “muify” for the close, warm, sultry atmosphere in thundery weather. And finally, “ugsome” for threatening or awe-inspiring weather as in the stormy dark at night.

    The page is well worth a read for the treasure of words in it!

  4. TJ says:

    I think the fact that one word express a composite meaning, in English, is something relative.
    I worked on translating some religious texts from Arabic to English, and I found out that the relation is vice versa. There are some words in Arabic that I could not explain solely in one word into English, and also there are words in English that do not fit in one word in Arabic. Add to that, and because of the cultural difference on the religious base, there are some ambiguities in translations between the two languages, when a word is supposed to mean something in Arabic for a Muslim reader but for a Christian reader the meaning could be something else (e.g. pray and praying activities in both cultures). In such occasions I tend to use more than word to translate and deliver the Arabic “meaning” to the western reader in as much appropriate context as possible.
    The thing that adds to the complexity of such thing is, in Arabic (specially the classic type), has many words for one object but those words are specific for a certain state. For example, sleeping, has 7 names in Arabic (classic) as far as I remember, depending on the level and the state of the sleeper. Hence, translating any state of these into English would require explaining in more than one word (if the precision in translating is desired).

  5. It’s interesting that in Brazilian Portuguese, I’ve always heard the reverse order: instead of “The calm BEFORE the storm”, we use “The calm AFTER the storm”: “Após a tormenta, [vem a] bonança” (“After the storm, [there’s] the calm”).

    I’m still figuring out which factors cause this inversion. Any ideas?

  6. peter j. franke says:

    Leonardo: may be your tropical storms are more disastrous compared with those in Europe…

  7. Tommy says:

    The Basque word “zara-zara” (heavy rain) jumps out at me because it resembles a Japanese onomatopoeia word ザラザラ (zara-zara) which refers to something with rough texture, gritty, abrasive, etc.

    @ Leonardo Cecchini: I think the order of calms and storms depends on which you want to emphasis as the present condition and which is foreboding/hopeful.

    Acho que esta frase “Após a tormenta, [vem a] bonança” quer nos encorajar a nao desistirmos. O inverso parece uma advertencia.

  8. Dennis King says:

    Irish has a simple idiom to mean that a storm is brewing: Tá stoirm air. Word for word: is storm on-it .

  9. Luke says:

    Did you know they have over fifty words for snow?

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