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Thursday, November 11, 2010

Words borrowed from Nahuatl

Totopo (totopo)
Totopo is an action that comes from the Nahuatl word totopotchtli= to fry or to toast

Chia (chia seeds)
Chia comes from the Nahuatl chiyan and it is a plant from the family salvia Hispanica that was cultivated by the Aztecs in pre-Hispanic times and it was so valued that it was given as an anual tribute from the people to the rulers. This plant has blue leaves with edible seeds and it is related to mint

Chocolate (chocolate)
Chocolate comes from the Nahuatl xococlatl or chocolatl which would be derived from xococ=bitter and atl=water (with an irregular change of x >ch). However the word socolatl does not appears in Nahuatl language until the 18th century. This was a foamy drink made with cacao beans, drank only by the emperors.

Chayote (chayote)
chayote comes from the Nahuatl word chayotol

Epazote (epazote)
Epazote sometimes mispronounced ipasote or ypasote is devived from the Nahuatl epazotl. Epazote is a leaf vegetable and a herb with a pungent flavor that is hard to describe.

Mezcal (mezcal)
Mezcal comes from the Nahuatl mexcalmetl=maguey. Maguey grows in many parts of Mexico and it was the conquistadors who began experimenting with the maguey plant to find a way to make a distilled mash. The result is mezcal

Nopal (nopal)
Nopal is a word that comes from the Nahuatl word nopalli=for the pads

An Ancient language but very much alive

Chipotle, avocado, chia, tortilla, totopos? what do these words mean?

To understand what these words mean and where did they come from? we have to first know the language they came from.

Nahuatl has been spoken in Central Mexico since at least the seventh century AD. It was the language of the Aztecs who dominated what is now Central Mexico during the last postclassic period of Mesoamerican Chronology. During the preceding century and a half, the expansion and influence of the Aztec Empire had led to the variety spoken by the residents of Tenochtitlan becoming a prestige language in Mesoamerica. With the introduction of the Latin alphabet. Nahuatl also became a literary language and many chronicles, grammars, works of poetry, administrative documents and codices were written in the 16th and 17th centuries. This early literary language based on the Tenochtitlan variety has been labeled classical Nahuatl and is among the most studied and best documented languages of the Americas.

Many words from Nahuatl have been borrowed into Spanish and thence have diffused into hunderds of other languages. Most of these loanwords denote things indigenous to Central Mexico which the Spanish heard mentioned for the first time by their Nahuatl names. English words of Nahuatl origin include. "Avocado", "chilli", "coyote", and "Tomato".

Lets explore some of these words.
Aguacate (Avocado)

Aguacate comes from the Nahuatl word ahuacatl ('testicle' in reference to the shape of the fruit) and atl=agua, water

Guacamole (guacamole)

Guacamole comes from the Nahuatl word ahuacamolli. Ahuacatl+ molli=sauce,stew, porridge, so the word guacamole means 'avocado soup'

Jitomate (tomato)

Jitomate comes from the Nahuatl word xictli=belly botton and tomatl, tomahuac=something fat, thick and corpulent

Huitlacoche, cuitlacoche, cuiclacoche, guitlacoche (corn smut)
Cuitlacochtli comes from the Nahuatl words (cuitlatl=excrement or "rear end" and cochtli "sleeping" from cochini="to sleep"), thus giving a combined meanig "sleeping excrement" or "corn excrement" meaning part of the vegetable that did not survived, instead it went asleep.

Chipotle, chilpocle (chipotle pepper)

Chilpoctli or xipoctli comes from the Nahuatl words chil=pepper and pectli=smoke (smoked pepper)

Tortilla (tortilla)

Tlaxcalli,tlaxcallan comes from the Nahuatl word which means ('cooked bread or bread house') tla=a thing or something; xcalli=cooked, boiled "the cooked" name given to the tortilla