mexican textile design
nahuatl codices







A Brief History of the Nahua People.

The Nahua people held "the flower and song", or art, in great esteem. They considered it the only road to a more authentic form of knowledge, closer to reality, less subject to the relative, illusory nature of the earthly world. This is clear in their extensive legacy to universal art, poetry, architecture, murals, sculpture and textiles were some of the many disciplines which the Nahuas developed.

In Náhuatl culture, being an artist was reserved for only a few particularly gifted individuals and was directly linked with the realm of ritual and divinity, central to Aztec society. For someone to become an artist, different considerations were taken into account: first and foremost, he had to be destined to it, and that was determined by the position of the stars at his birth; secondly, he had to have "countenance and heart", which in the metaphoric Nahuatl language means "having a strong personality, a meticulously forged spirit".

In the Náhuatl cosmology, snakes were associated with earthly matters, the night, all things femenine, pleasurable and sensual. The serpent was one of the most important sacred symbols, associated not only with darkness, but also with precious things, such as in the case of Xiuhcóatl, or the turquoise serpent used as a weapon by Huitzilopochtli (a link between the blue of the heavens and the green of the earth), or the plumed serpent, Quetzalcóatl, the sacred serpent which could fly, covered with the plumes of the sacred bird, the quetzal.

Náhuatl tradition says that the world as we know it was created during the nocturnal transfiguration of Ometéotl, "the Absolute". This transfiguration is known as Tezcatlipoca, or "the smoky mirror", from which the four directions of the universe emerged:
, the North
, the West
, the South
, the East

Náhuatl - The Mexican language,
from the root 'Nahua' meaning
"a dance done with the hands
entwined, a concordance, to
move in cadence"
. Also known
as the turquoise smoke...
harmonious speech, that which is pleasing to the ear.

Pronunciation - Vowels
  a - ah, e - eh, i - ee, o - oh, u - oo.

Pronunciation - Consonants
  ch as in chain
  j like the h in hard
  x like the sh in she
  z like s
  qu before e or i sounds like k
  c sounds like s before e or i, like k everywhere else.
  h sounds like a soft h, more a pause than a sound. 

      * duplicated consonants are pronounced twice. All words
         have emphasis in the previous-to-last syllable.

In general, nouns are identified by the suffixes t, tli, li, in ...after the "root word".


A   B r i e f   D i c t i o n a r y   o f   C o m m o n   T e r m s
Nahuatl language varies according to the state where you are, some words are spelled starting with a "K" while another with a "C" for the same word, even the last letters maybe altered depending on your location in Mexico. We try to use the most common terms below.

Kalli - house, casa
Tlazocamatli - thank you, gracias
Tonatiuh - sun, sol
Meztli - moon, luna
Azteka - from Aztekatl (meaning from Aztlan), de Aztekatl (significa de Aztlan)
Tlatoa - speak, hablar
Ikniuhtli - friend, amigo
Nehuatl - I, yo
Tehuatl - you, tu
Niltze - hi, hola
Amo - no
Kema - yes, si

Titlatoa Nahuatl? - do you speak Nahuatl? Tu hablas Nahuatl?
Kema, Nitlatoa Nahuatl - yes, I speak Nahuatl, Si, Yo hablo Nahuatl
Amo, Nitlato Nahuatl - no, I do not speak Nahuatl. No hablo Nahuatl
Ken Motoka? - what is your name?, Cual es tu numbre?
Nehuatl Notoka... - my name is..., mi nombre es ...
Kanin Tichanti? - where do you live?, donde es tu vives?
Nehuatl Nichanti... - I Live..., yo vivo...
Kenin Otimo Uika - how are you doing?, como as estado?
Hue Kaulli - very good, muy bien
Kualli - good, bueno

Cihuatl - woman, mujer
Tlacatl - man, hombre
Nantlil - mother, madre
Tahtll - father, padre
Ikniuh - brother, hermano
Hueltiuh - sister, hermana
Cuacualti - beautiful, bonita
Papakiliztli - happy, feliz
Yoliliztli - life, vida
Yollotl - heart, corazon
Itacatl - food, comida
Cintlaolli - corn, maize
Atl - water, agua
Atoyaatl - river, rio
Mixtli - cloud, nube
Ehekatl - wind, viento
Kiauitl - rain, lluvia
Tletl - fire, fuego
Ayauhcozamalotl - rainbow, arco iris
Cicitlaltin - stars, estrellas
Ilhuitl - day, dia
Yoal - night, la noche
Axan - today, hoy
Cualcan - tomorrrow morning, manana
Nian - here, aqui

G e m s   &   M i n e r a l s
  Chalchiuitl - jade
  Itztli - obsidian, obsidiana
  Tecalli - onix
  Iztactehulotl - rock quartz or crystal, cristal de roca
  Huitzitzilteepatl - opal , opalo
  Teoxihuitl - turquoise, turquesa
  Apozonalli - amber, ambar
  Tlaquauacteepatl - diamond, diamante
  Tlapaltehuilotl - amathist, amatista
  Quetzalxoquiyae - emerald, esmeralda
  Cuacocoztic - ruby, rubí
  Epyollotli - pearl, perla
  Matlalxihuitl - saffire, zafiro

N u m b e r s
  Ce - one, uno
  Ome - two, dos
  Yeyi - three, tres
  Nahui - four, cuatro
  Macuil - five, cinco
  Chicuacen - six, seis
  Chicome - seven, siete
  Chicuei - eight, ocho
  Chihnahui - nine, nueve
  Matlactli - ten, diez




polished stones for jewelry

















C o l o r s
  Pisti - black, negro
  Ichcati - white, blanco
  Xoxocti - green, verde
  Asolti - blue, azul
  Chilti - red, rojo
  Costi - yellow, amarillo
  Axocoti - purple, morado

nahuatl art and symbols
  xoqui  (concha)

A n i m a l s
  Coyotl - coyote
  Tochtli - rabbit, conejo
  Coatl - snake, serpiente
  Cuetzpali - lizard, lagarto
  Totol - bird, pajaro
  Cahuayoh - horse, caballo
  Mazatl - deer, venado
  Ozelotl - jaguar
  Miztli - lion, leon
  Zorrah - fox, zorro
  Cuetlachtli - wolf, lobo
  Aitzcuauhtli - osprey, aguila pescadora
  Cuauhtli - eagle, aguila
  Moxi - vulture, zopilote
  Cuauhtlotli - marsh hawk, halcon
  Aztatl - heron / snowy egret, garza / airón
  Atotoli - pelican, pelicano
  Canauhtli - duck, pato
  Huilotl - dove, paloma
  Huitzitziltzin - hummingbird, colibri
  Aitzcuintli - otter, nutria
  Ayomichi - turtle, tortuga
  Ayotochi - armadillo
  Ytzcuintli - dog, perro
  Miztli - cat, gato
  Papalotl - butterfly, mariposa
  Cipactli - crocodile, cocodrilo
  Colotl - scorpion, escorpión
  Cuiatl - frog, rana


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basic nahuatl language