Aztec Names

Nahuatlatoa Aztec Speaker

This page is for anyone who might be put off reading my books by the prospect of having to master tongue-twisting Aztec names!


In my books, I have (regretfully) used as few words in the Aztec language, Nahuatl, as possible, and favoured clarity at the expense of strict accuracy in choosing English equivalents.  Hence, for example, I have rendered Huey Tlatoani (literally, "Venerable Speaker" as “Emperor” and Cihuacoatl (literally, "Snake Woman", the name of an Aztec deity) as “Chief Minister”.  I have been similarly cavalier in chosing English replacements for most of the frequently recurring personal names.

In referring to the Emperor at the time when my books are set I have used the most familiar form of his name, Montezuma, although Motecuhzoma would be more accurate.

And finally, to avoid confusion, I have called the people of Mexico-Tenochtitlan “Aztecs”, instead of using their own name for themselves, “Mexicans”.

Pronunciation Guide

The Aztec language, Nahuatl, is not difficult to pronounce, but is burdened with spellings based on Sixteenth Century Castilian Spanish.  The following note should help.

SpellingPronunciation
cc as in “Cecil” before e or i; k before a or o
chsh
xsh
hu,uhw
quk as in “kettle” before e or i; “qu” as in “quack” before a
tlas in English, but where “-tl” occurs at the end of a word  the “l” is hardly sounded.  Try saying "t" without releasing the tip of your tongue.

The stress always falls on the penultimate syllable.

Examples

These are by no means all the Nahuatl names used in the books, but a small selection to help readers get used to the sound of them.  But don't worry if they still sound formidable - most personal names occur only once in Nahuatl, before reverting to English. The sound files are all in MP3 format.


    * The hero of the novels, Cemiquiztli Yaotl

    * Yaotl's evil master, Tlilpotonqui ("Feathered In Black")

    * Yaotl's lover, Oceloxochitl ("Tiger Lily")

    * The Aztec capital, Mexico Tenochtitlan

    * The capital's northern district, Tlatelolco

    * The god Huitzilopochtli ("Hummingbird of the South")

    * The god Tezcatlipoca ("Smoking Mirror")

    * The god Quetzalcoatl ("Feathered Serpent")

    * The goddess Cihuacoatl ("Snake Woman")