Word Nerd: 5 Aztec words that you definitely know

6 Nov

Technically, the language spoken by the Aztecs is known as Nahuatl, and there are many variants of it. It’s the language Europeans heard in the 16th century, when they first arrived in the great city of Tenochtitlan (the site of today’s Mexico City). Nahuatl has been spoken for more than 1,000 years in Mexico, where civilization goes back to approximately 8,000 BCE. Today, many Nahuatl words are part of everyday English, so you probably speak a smattering of Nahuatl without even realizing it.


1. Chocolate

Mexico is the birthplace of cacao and chocolate consumption. The word ‘cacao’ is derived from cacahuatl. And ‘chocolate’ comes from xocolatl or chocolatl, meaning food made from cacao seeds. Chocolate was not always the milky and sugary confection that we know today.


2. Chilli

Some people in India may swear that no traditional meal is complete without chillis. It’s a good thing those people weren’t around 500 years ago, otherwise they’d be very hungry indeed. After the Europeans conquered the Americas in the 16th century, global trade brought chillis and other native American species to Europe and Asia. But a couple of centuries passed before those foods – including chillis – reached the kitchens of ordinary people in India. Chilli is straight-up Nahuatl, not even a derivative word.


3. Tomato

Yes, this juicy fruit that is found in everything, from bacon-and-lettuce sandwiches to rasam to pizza, is native to Central and South America. Its Nahuatl name, tomatl, found its way into French, Spanish and Portuguese as tomate in the early 17th century.


4. Coyote

This English word refers to Canis latrans, a wolf-like wild dog native to North America. The original Nahuatl word is coyotl.


5. Shack

This English word for a roughly built hut or cabin dates back to the late 19th century. The Nahuatl word for ‘wooden hut’ is xacatli, and the Mexican Spanish word is jacal.

We’re pretty sure you know some more Nahuatl words. If you can think of any to add to our list, leave a comment below!


By BrainGain Magazine Staff Writer


For more #WordNerd posts, check out the links below!
Everyone speaks Farsi
7 words of wisdom that India gifted to the English language
9 awesome alternatives to ‘awesome’ that you need to know
An English-speaker’s guide to funny Americanisms
5 Hinglish words that don’t travel well
5 types of people with a big, black cloud over their head
‘Apposite unfoldments’ and other words too fancy to understand

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