Nahuatl: You Know More than You Realize

The language of the indigenous people that Spaniards met for the first time in the grand city of Tenotichlan may seem very remote from your experience. I think you’ll be surprised how many words, especially food vocabulary you already know.

Many of the world’s favorite foods come from Mixteca (Aztec) culture, see the chart below.

Náhuatl: Sabes más que creías

El idioma de las personas indígenas que los españoles encontraron por la primera vez en la gran ciudad de Tenotichlan (ahora Ciudad de México) puede parecer muy lejos de tu experiencia. Pero creo que te quedarás sorprendid@ cuanto vocabulario de comida ya tienes.

Muchas de las comidas favoritas mundiales vienen de la cultura mixteca/azteca. Mira la tabla siguiente:

Nahuatl (Aztec/Mixteca)EspañolEnglish
xocolatl 🍫 chocolatechocolate
cacáhuacacaocacao
tomatl 🍅 tomatetomato
ahuácatl 🥑 aguacateavocado
tamallitamaltamales
chilli 🌶️ chilechili
xicamatljícamajicama
camohtlicamotesweet potato
mollimolemole (mo-lay)

Which Mixteca foods have you eaten today?

¿Cuáles comidas mixtecas comiste hoy?

¡Olé! –Rebecca

Hot Chilies Photo: Kmtextor
Rebecca Cuningham

40 thoughts on “Nahuatl: You Know More than You Realize

  1. I didn’t know this but it makes sense. We were most confused when avacado is not aguacate in Peru and Bolivia but is the quechua (I think) word palta. It was very difficult to get out of the aguacate habit. Maggie

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  2. Well, yes and no. I had to look up both jicama and tamales, both of which are unknown here in the UK. I often wonder how it is that Spanish and Portuguese so completely took over from the pre-existing languages of South America quite so comprehensively. Any ideas?

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    1. Thanks, Margaret! I didn’t know what jicima was until I went to college in California. 🙂 I had my first tamales in Texas. As for Spanish and Portuguese taking over in Latin America, they are the official languages (French and English in the Americas too). But people still speak many indigenous languages to this day.

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      1. That’s good to know. We see documentaries on TV from time to time from Latin America with apparently fairly isolated groups, probably not highly educated, talking in Spanish or Portuguese to the interviewer, looking very comfortable doing so.

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  3. Very true. many words come from nahuatl. And more than those. When we first arrived in Mexico we had trouble doing grocery shopping, so many names here are different. Elote, ejote, etc…
    Feliz año Rebe. Mis mejores deseos…
    Abrazo

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  4. Wow, I had no idea that so many of our beloved foods originated from the Mixteca culture. It’s fascinating to see the connections between the language and the food we eat. I can’t help but think about how much more there is to learn and discover about the world’s cultures. ¡Gracias por compartir esta información!

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