39 Mayan Words You Never Heard…But Should Know!
39 Mayan Words You Never Heard…But Should Know!

39 Mayan Words You Never Heard…But Should Know!

The Mayan languages are still spoken by the descendants of the Maya in southern Mexico (especially Yucatan) and the region of Central America. This page will show many words from Yucatec Maya and other Mayan languages as well! Enjoy!

Common Mayan Words

Everyday Terms

  • Bix a bel?How are you?
  • Ma’alob.Good.
  • K’iin.Sun/Day.
  • Ts’íib.Write.
  • Wa’awTortilla.
  • Ch’úupSoup.
  • NoolGrandfather/Ancestor.
  • MejenChild.

Nature and Environment

  • K’aaxJungle.
  • Ha’Water.
  • ChaakRain.
  • SáasilLight/Moon.


  • Ek’Star/Starfish.
  • BáalamJaguar.
  • Much’Mouse.
  • TzubBee.

Remember that pronunciation and usage can vary significantly across the different Mayan languages and communities.

Mayan Words that Have Influenced Spanish and English

The Mayan languages have contributed several words to Spanish and English, often related to the rich flora, fauna, and culture of the region. Here are some notable examples:

  • Gum – Originating from the Mayan word “tsicte,” which refers to the sap of the sapodilla tree used to make chewing gum.
  • Cacao – Taken directly from the Mayan word “kakaw,” Spanish adopted this term for the seeds from which chocolate is made.
  • Hammock – From the Taíno word “hamaca,” which was adopted by the Mayans into “hamak” before it made its way into the Spanish language.
  • Sisal – Named after the port of Sisal in Yucatan, from the Mayan word “sisal,” referring to the stiff fiber used in making twine and rope.
  • Papaya – The fruit name comes into Spanish from the word “papaya” in Mayan, referring to the tropical fruit native to the region.
  • Shark – The word for this marine predator in Spanish, “tiburón,” has possible Mayan connections, derived from “xook” (pronounced “shok”), a Yucatec Mayan word meaning “shark.”

While not all these words are of direct Mayan origin, the influence of Mayan culture and language on these terms is recognized, blending with words from other indigenous languages as they were picked up by the population which was speaking Spanish and later into English.

Mayan Words with No Direct English Translation

The Mayan languages, with their complex structures and cultural nuances, contain concepts that lack direct translations into English. These terms often convey ideas that are deeply rooted in Mayan philosophy and worldview. Examples include:

  • “Ch’ulel” – A term from the Tzotzil language referring to the life force or spirit that permeates all living things, akin to a soul.
  • “In lak’ech” – A phrase expressing the concept of unity and collective responsibility, often translated as “you are my other self” or “I am another you.”
  • “K’ox” – Describes a deep, inexpressible yearning or longing for someone or something, more profound than the English word “yearn.”
  • “Alux” – Refers to small mythical creatures believed to inhabit the natural world, similar to sprites or elves, but with unique characteristics understood within Mayan folklore.
  • “Tzolk’in” – The Tzolk’in is the name for the 260-day ritual calendar, which doesn’t have a direct equivalent in the Gregorian calendar system and holds significant spiritual and cultural importance.
  • “Way” – In some Mayan languages, a “way” is a person’s ‘alter ego’ or ‘animal companion spirit,’ which has no single-word translation in English.

These words illustrate the richness of Mayan languages and the cultural concepts that are either difficult to translate or require explanation to be fully appreciated in other languages like English.

Deep Mayan Words

These words reflect philosophical and cultural concepts

  • “Yuumtsil” – A reverence and respect for the divine in all aspects of life, often linked to the guardianship and stewardship of nature.
  • “Halach Uinik” – Denotes a community leader or ‘true man,’ who embodies the moral and social qualities expected of someone in authority.
  • “B’a’ax ka wa’alik?” – A greeting phrase that transcends the simple English “How are you?” embodying inquiries about a person’s physical, spiritual, and communal well-being.
  • “K’iche'” – Refers not only to the K’iche’ people, a Mayan group, but also encapsulates their language, culture, and collective spirit.
  • “Sak’bej” – A ‘white road’ used both physically, to refer to ancient Mayan causeways connecting cities, and metaphorically, to symbolize one’s life journey.
  • “Popol Vuh” – This is the comprehensive and sacred book of the K’iche’ people encompassing their cosmology, mythology, traditions, and history.

Romantic Mayan Words

  • “Q’eqchi'” – In the Q’eqchi’ Mayan language, this word represents “sweetheart” or “beloved,” capturing the tender affection one person can feel for another.
  • “In lak’ech” – A deep expression akin to “I am you, and you are me,” used to communicate a profound connection and unity between individuals.
  • “K’isin” – Literally means “moonlight,” it is often used poetically to convey romance or the natural beauty that surrounds us at night.
  • “Tz’i'” – Represents “faithful” or “loyal,” qualities that are revered in relationships and seen as essential for lasting love.
  • “Xibalba” – Though primarily known as the Mayan underworld, it’s also used in myths to allude to places or events where transformational encounters in love occur.

Want to know Nahuatl words?

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