73 Nahuatl Words That You Never Heard of…But should know!
73 Nahuatl Words That You Never Heard of…But should know!

73 Nahuatl Words That You Never Heard of…But should know!

Nahuatl is the language of the Aztecs and it is still spoken by approximately 2 million people in Mexico. While many people have the misconception that the language of the Aztecs is dead, this is simply not true. Nahuatl is not only only alive but there is growing interest in the language both in Mexico and in other parts of the world including the United States.

I want to give a shout out to all the scholars and others who are helping to both preserve and invigorate the Nahuatl language.

Common Nahuatl Words

  1. Nantli – Mother
  2. Tata – Father
  3. Tlakatl – Man
  4. Siyotl – Woman
  5. Tlakamej – People
  6. Kali – House
  7. Tlalli – Earth
  8. Atl – Water
  9. Tlen – What
  10. Kenin – How
  11. Amo – No
  12. Kanin – Where
  13. Ye – Already
  14. Nehnemi – Slowly
  15. Teh – Here
  16. Yehuan – With him/her
  17. Tlahtoa – Speak
  18. Niltse – I am happy
  19. Nihualaktika – I work
  20. Nikneki – I want

Nahuatl Words That Have Influenced Spanish and English

Many words that we use all the time such as chocolate (which as a word has entered so many languages) are Nahuatl in origin. The impact on Nahuatl on European languages is a topic that deserves more scrutiny. Many Nahuatl words have strongly influenced Mexican Spanish and the indigenous language continues to exert its influence today especially in southern Mexico.

  1. Chocolātl – Chocolate
  2. Tōmatl – Tomato
  3. Āhuacatl – Avocado  Nahuatl word āhuacatl used to literally mean crocodile pear.
  4. Chīlli – Chilli. The Nahuatl word chīlli literally means hot pepper.
  5. Cacahuatl – Cacao. Cortez may have been among the first Europeans to use Nahuatl word cacahuatl.
  6. Cōyōtl – Coyote Before the Nahuatl word coyōtl was adopted, the Spanish referred to Coyotes as wolves.
  7. Mēxihcatl – Mexican
  8. Ēyōtl – Eyotl (Island)
  9. Ōcēlōtl – Ocelot
  10. Tamalli – Tamale
  11. Tlāloc – Tlaloc (God of rain)
  12. Mētzli – Metztli (Moon)
  13. Xōchitl – Xochitl (Flower)
  14. Pēyōtl – Peyote
  15. Tēkōatl – Tequila
  16. Cōcōxōtl – Cochineal (a type of insect)
  17. Zacatl – Sacate (grass)
  18. Tōchtli – Tochtli (rabbit)
  19. Īztāc – Istac (white)
  20. Īztācahuēyōtl – Iztacahueyotl (white heron)

Nahuatl Words that Cannot be Translated into English

Every language has words that are very difficult or impossible to translate. Here are some from Nahuatl.

  1. Tlazotli – A term of endearment that has no direct English equivalent
  2. In lak ech – A Mayan phrase that loosely translates to “You are my other me,” but the full cultural and spiritual significance is lost in translation (this may be both Mayan and Nahautl but I will verify)
  3. Teotl – Refers to the supreme deity or force in Aztec religion, but it is more complex and nuanced than the English word “god”
  4. Nahui Ollin – Represents the concept of four movements, has deep significance in Aztec cosmology, and does not have an equivalent term in English
  5. Tlamatini – Refers to a wise person, but carries a deeper connotation of respect and reverence
  6. Cē mēxihco – Literally translates to “one Mexican,” but it carries a deeper cultural significance of unity and identity that can’t be directly translated into English.

Long Nahuatl Words

  1. Huehuetlatoani – Old, respected speaker (elder)
  2. Tlatoanimēyeh – Plural of tlatoani, meaning speakers or authorities
  3. Tlachinolli – Literally “burnt thing”, symbolizes war
  4. Ticitl – Healer or curandero, implying a respected role in society
  5. Tlazohcamati – A deep form of gratitude, more profound than the simple English “thank you”
  6. Tlaxcalnanqui – Nahuatl term for a baker, indicating a specific societal role
  7. Tlazotemaz – To love oneself, with a deeper spiritual and emotional connotation
  8. Tlacatlacalli – Literally “man’s pot”, term for a specific type of Aztec ceramic vessel
  9. Tlalxicco – Center of the earth, has deep significance in Aztec cosmology
  10. Tlacochcalco – Place of the house of weapons, historical location in Tenochtitlán, the capital of the Aztec empire.

Deep Nahuatl Words

Aztec philosophy and religion are receiving more attention from both academics and laypersons. Many concepts in Nahuatl cannot be found elsewhere.

  1. Teyolia – The spiritual heart, is believed to be the part of the human soul that carries memory, knowledge, and feelings.
  2. Tonalli – Translated as heat or energy, it is considered the source of life in Aztec spirituality.
  3. Ihiyotl – Refers to the human spirit, considered the source of dreams and emotions.
  4. Nahual – Spiritual animal companion, a concept deeply enmeshed in Aztec culture and identity.
  5. Cipactli – The primordial sea monster from Aztec cosmogony, symbolizing the chaos and potentiality of the universe before creation.
  6. Xochiquetzal – Literally “Flower Quetzal,” she is the Aztec goddess of beauty, love, fertility, and women’s crafts.
  7. Tlalocan – Paradise of Tlaloc, the god of rain, a spiritual place of abundance and plenty.
  8. Tezcatlipoca – Translates to “Smoking Mirror,” a powerful god associated with many aspects of life and death, destiny, and the night sky.
  9. Quetzalcoatl – “Feathered Serpent,” a central deity in Aztec religion, associated with wind, air, and learning.
  10. Huitzilopochtli – “Left-handed Hummingbird,” the patron god of the Aztecs, associated with the sun and war.

Interesting sounding Nahuatl Words

For most of us, Nahuatl words sound nothing like the languages we grew up with…be it English, Chinese, Punjabi, Persian etc. so words from a different language family may sound different. Here is a sample of such Nahuatl words.

  1. Cacaxtli – Translates to “back-basket,” a type of backpack used in the Aztec era.
  2. Pipiltin – Literally means “little noble ones,” referring to the nobility of the Aztec society.
  3. Tlazolteotl – Literally “Filth Deity,” she is the goddess of purification, steam bath, midwives, filth, and a patroness of adulterers.
  4. Huēhueh – It means “old or ancient,” but it sounds like “huehue,” a popular internet laugh.
  5. Quetzalpapalotl – Literally “Beautiful butterfly,” a term used in Aztec art and architecture.
  6. Chīmalli – Translates to “shield,” but can also be used to refer to a turtle.
  7. Tlacolula – An actual place in Oaxaca, Mexico, but could be amusing due to its pronunciation.

Aztec Gods

The names of many an Aztec deity is listed below.

  1. Xipe Totec – Known as “Our Lord the Flayed One,” he was the god of life-death-rebirth, agriculture, and the east direction.
  2. Mixcoatl – “Cloud Serpent,” he was the god of hunting and the Milky Way.
  3. Tlaloc – The god of rain, fertility, and water, a vitally important deity in Aztec culture.
  4. Chalchiuhtlicue – “She of the Jade Skirt,” the goddess of water, rivers, seas, streams, storms, and baptism.
  5. Mictlantecuhtli – The god of the dead and the king of Mictlan, the lowest and northernmost section of the underworld.
  6. Xochiquetzal – The goddess of flowers, beauty, art, love, and female sexual power.
  7. Tonatiuh – The sun god, he was also the patron of warriors, particularly of the esteemed warrior class of the Aztecs.
  8. Coatlicue – Also known as “Serpent Skirt,” she was the mother of the moon, stars, and Huitzilopochtli, the god of the sun and war.
  9. Itztlacoliuhqui-Ixquimilli – The god of frost, ice, cold, winter, sin, punishment, and human misery.
  10. Coyolxauhqui – The moon goddess, she was associated with the moon as the female reflection of the sun.

How to say I love You in Nahuatl

Expressing affection in Nahuatl extends beyond the simple “I love you.” Here are a few phrases that encapsulate the profound emotion of love in this enriched language:

  1. Nimitztōtzin – A respectful way of saying “I love you” in Nahuatl, often translated as “I esteem you greatly”.
  2. Ninōtz – A more casual way of expressing love, often used among close friends and family.
  3. Tehuatzin tictoz – Literally translates to “You are my beloved”.
  4. Nictēmalli – An intimate expression, meaning “I embrace you”.
  5. Nicnēqui – A more direct way of expressing desire or love, conveying “I want you”.
  6. Nimiqui – A deeply romantic phrase, signifying “I love (and miss) you”.
  7. Nictlāzotla – A powerful expression of love and affection, translating as “I adore you”.

Keep in mind, that Nahuatl has many dialects and so the usage of these words may vary from region to region.

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