Words that transcend time

to tell us about Mexico’s past and its people

Did you know that many words we use today in Mexico have their origin in several indigenous languages? That’s why today we want to make a small compilation of all the dialects that we can find throughout our country. You will be surprised to know the number of people still faithful to their mother tongue and, thanks to that, we can live unique experiences when we have the pleasure to meet them.

According to official data, there are 69 official languages in Mexico; 68 indigenous and Spanish. The ten most spoken aboriginal words in Mexico today are Nahuatl, Chol, Totonaco, Mazateco, Mixteco, Zapoteco, Otomi, Tzotzil, Tzeltal, and Maya. There are another 40 indigenous languages that are spoken in our country, which are about to disappear because there are very few speakers, for example, the Paipai, Kumiai and Cucapá languages.

The Mayan language is considered one of the oldest in Mexico and has a written record since 200 AD. There are more than 800 thousand people in the country who still speak it, and it is the second most important language after the Nahuatl spoken by more than one million people. Can you imagine the history we can get to learn through these dialects?

As I commented to you at the beginning, there are some words that we use a lot in our everyday life that originated in these languages.

  • Esquite: This is a typical Mexican snack, and its name comes from the Nahuatl word “izquitl” that means “corn snack.”
  • Apapachar or cuddling: is another word of Nahuatl origin that means “soften something with your fingers” and comes from “apapachoa.”
  • Aguacate or Avocado: means “testicle,” here we do not have to explain the reason for the name and yes, it’s also a Nahuatl word; “aguacatl.”
  • Chocolate: our favorite word and yours too. It comes from the Nahuatl word “xocolatl” which means “bitter water.”
  • Cigar: This word comes from the Mayan “Siyar” and is a verb that means “smoking rolled tobacco leaves.”
  • Pibil: another Mayan word meaning “to cook under the ground” and is the reason why we love the cochinita.

You can’t imagine the number of stories and knowledge that these past cultures have inherited to us through these indigenous languages. We must take care of and preserve them so that more people can learn and appreciate them.

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