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Thread: Aztec naming of places

  1. #1

    Default Aztec naming of places

    I'm from México and I really like the aztec civilization. This is a little guide on how aztecs used to name places. I'm not an expert in nahua, but this is something of what I know. By no means this is a complete guide and the rules can differ in some cases. Examples are the original word of real places, it could be different from today names.

    Toponymies are formed by a noun and a prefix or suffix:


    Select a noun, remove the –tl, –tli or -lli, add a suffix.
    If monosyllabic, the accent of the word is always in the last syllable. Except co, wich is in the penultimate syllable.
    In polysyllabics, the accent of the word is in the penultimate syllable. Except apan, wich is in the last syllable.

    can/ca - place (Coyohuacan, place of those who workship the coyote)
    tlan - land/city (Aztlan, city of cranes)
    pan – in, at (Acapan, at the reeds)
    co – in, where (Mexico, where Mexictli is [workshiped])
    calco - house (Xochicalco, house of flowers)
    puzalco – height, hill (Azcapuzalco, anthill)
    ixco - infront (Cuautlixco, infront the eagles)
    nepantla – in the middle (Tlalnepantla, in the middle of the earth)
    apan – river (Papaloapan, river of butterflies)
    tepetl/tepec - mountain (Chapultepec, mountain of crickets)


    Select a prefix and add a noun, the accent remains in the strong syllable of the noun.
    If the noun ends in –lli, remove the two last letters.

    ixtla plain (Ixtlazihuatl, plain with the shape of woman)

    example NOUNS (Accents are in caps)

    Atl –water
    Acatl – reed
    CIhuatl – woman
    chalchiHUItl - emerald
    chiMAlli - shield
    COAtl - snake
    COyotl – coyote
    cuAUtl – eagle
    cuaHUItl – wood, tree
    eHEcatl – wind
    huiTZIlli - hummingbird
    miQUIztli –death
    MIztli – small procionidae
    Ometl – dawn
    oCElotl – jaguar
    oCOtl – pine-tree
    queTZAlli – feather, also used as limpid, bright
    TEotl – god (plural, teTEo)
    TEtl – stone
    TLANtli – fang
    TOCHtli – rabbit
    XOchitl – flower
    yoAlli - night
    YOlotl - heart


    To denote ownership, workship or being holder:
    hua (Teteohuacan, place of those with the gods)
    Place this before the suffix or after the prefix.

    pul (Acapulco, where big reeds grow)
    Place this after the noun, if it’s the last syllable, use pulli instead.

    To name the inhabitants from one place:

    If the word ends in -tlan, remove the suffix and add TEcatl (plural, TEca). Ex. Azteca, from aztlán, Guatemalteca, from Guatemallan.
    If the word ends in -can or –pan, remove the last n and add NEcatl (plural, NEca). Ex. Tlalpaneca, from Tlalpan.

    Hope all this it's understandable.
    Last edited by maledictus; 03-12-2010 at 07:52 PM.

  2. #2


    That is helpful! Who doesn't love mezzo American native cultures, or for that matter all native cultures. Have some REP.

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  3. #3


    Superb! I've crosslinked it with the Cartographic Terminology thread.

    And rep from me, too!
    Bryan Ray, visual effects artist

  4. #4
    Community Leader NeonKnight's Avatar
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    Aug 2007
    Surrey, Canada, EH!


    Gave More rep, because I LOVE me the MesoAmerican stuff. LOVE IT!
    Daniel the Neon Knight: Campaign Cartographer User

    Never use a big word when a diminutive one will suffice!

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  5. #5


    Thanks! nice to see you like it, in my next chance, I'll put how to name characters.

  6. #6
    Guild Journeyer
    Join Date
    Dec 2013
    Maryland, USA


    Thank you for sharing this with us and for providing an addition resource for languages and how places are named.


  7. #7
    Guild Novice Milan Neddich's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2014
    East coast U.S.A


    Neat! Nahua is a really cool language, and this is really helpful.

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