Kate Monk's Onomastikon

(Dictionary of Names)

Aztec (Mexica)


The area of Central America which became the Aztec empire had been settled for at least 3000 years before the Spanish arrived in the C16th and even the Catholic friars which they sent to convert the native peoples were impressed by the level of civilization.

The Toltec empire flourished from about AD 900 to its sudden and violent fall around 1170. The powerful capital, Tula or Tollan, controlled a large proportion of what is now the state of Mexico. It was traditionally thought that Toltec warriors conquered the Yucatan peninsula, helping to form the Toltec-Maya states but archaeological investigations are beginning to indicate that there was more of a mutual influence. It is not yet clear why the Toltec collapse came about but there is a theory that the highly military culture was not able to cope with population movements brought by a long period of drought in the northern area. Tula was destroyed by fighting, with buildings showing signs of fire and deliberate demolition having been excavated.

Refugees settled in some of the towns of the southern Valley of Mexico and in the C13th, other tribes came from the north to the central plateau, four of which influenced the rise of the Aztec Empire. These were: the Chichimecs under the legendary leader Xolotl, the Tepanecs who were probably from Toluca, the Acolhua who moved to the uninhabited eastern area and the Mexica, a mixture of several groups who settled on the islands that became the capital, Tenochtitlan. The state of Acolhuacan (Tetzcoco) began to develop during the C13th and C14th.

The term Aztec means 'man of Aztlan', the place where the Mexica came from, but was not commonly used until it was adopted by C18th and C19th historians. The Aztec people called themselves Mexica after the migration and this was how they were known to the Spaniards, hence the name Mexico.

The various groups developed rapidly to form the Aztec empire, based in Lake Tetzcoco around the island cities of Tenochtitlan (where Mexico City is now) and Tlatelolco by the C14th.

As most Mexican rulers had many wives and children, power did not pass automatically from father to eldest son. The next king was elected but the choice was often affected by politics and an important wife had a better chance of having her son chosen.

Tenochtitlan had about 250 000 - 300 000 inhabitants yet it fell to a small force of the Spanish invaders who had arrived in 1519. The Aztec Emperor, Motecuhzoma II (Montezuma), seems to have believed that their leader, Cortes, was the legendary god-king, Quetzlcoatl, returned to claim his kingdom as he had prophesied. He welcomed and honoured the Spaniards but was taken prisoner and forced to surrender although some sources state that he was a guest of the Spanish so he may possibly have done this willingly due to his religious beliefs. Despite this easy victory, fighting broke out during the Toxcatl ceremonies of 1520 after the Spanish had attacked and killed a large group of Aztec lords, and Motecuhzoma was killed. His brother, Cuitlahuac, was elected to take his place. He does not appear to have shared his predecessor's attitude to the invaders and continued to resist until dying of smallpox in December 1520.

After the defection of the city of Tetzcoco early in 1521, the Aztec Empire was substantially weakened and Cortes' men isolated and surrounded Tenochtitlan and Tlatelolco. The new Aztec leader, Cuahutemoc, was captured trying to escape in August 1521 after a three month siege and surrendered to Cortes, bringing an end to the great native civilizations of Mesoamerica.

Mexicans died from disease in huge numbers in the years after the conquest as they were not resistant to many of the illnesses common amongst the Spanish. This and the suppression of Aztec culture and religion by the invaders led to the abandonment of many tradititonal customs. Many of the indigenous inhabitants of the Estados Unidos de Mexico now have Spanish names and are Catholics although some Aztec cults remain.

Aztec names


Acacitli Acamapichtli Acampichtli
Acapipilotzin Acatlotzin Achicauhtli
Achitometl Acolhnahuacatzin Acolmiztli
Acxotecatl Ahcambal Ahexotl
Ahuaxpitzatzin Ahuítzotl Amacui-Xolotl
Apanacatl Atlixcatzin Atonal
Atzauatzin Auellitoctsin Axayaca
Axayacatl Axayácatl Axayactaztin
Axoacatzin Axolohua Axoquentzin
Cacama Cacamatzin Camargo
Cenyaotl Chalchiuhtlatonac Chichimecatecle
Chihuaquequenotzin Chimalpahin Chimalpopoca
Citlacoatl Citlalpopocatzin Coanacoch
Coanacochtzin Coancochtzin Coanocochtzin
Coatzontli Cocozca Copil
Cuaucoatl Cuauhtemoc Cuauhtlecoatl
Cuauhtlehuanitzin Cuautemoc Cuautlehuanitzin
Cuautlequetzqui Cuitlahuac Cuitlalpitoc
Cuitlauac Ecatzin Eyahue
Ezhuahuacatl Huaxpitzcactzin Huemac
Huetzin Huicton Huitzilihuitl
Ilhuicamina Itzcoatl Itzquauatzin
Itzquauhtzin Itzquemitl Ixtlilxochitl
Iztahuatzin Macuilmalinal Mamexi
Maxixcatzin Maxtla Mayeuatzin
Mazatl Meconetzin Miahuaxochitl
Moquihuix Motecuhzoma Motecuma
Motelchiuh Nauyotl Nezahualcoyotl
Nezahualpilli Nezahualquentzin Nopaltzin
Ocelopan Ocuitecatl Olintecke
Ometochtl Opochtli Opochtzin
Oquitzin Panitzin Pimotl
Pizotzin Pochotl Popopoyotl
Quahcoatl Quahtlatoa Qualpopoca
Quauhpopoca Quauhtlehuanitzin Quauhtlehuantzin
Quetzalmantzin Quilaztli Quimichetl
Quinatzin Tangaxoan Tayauh
Techolatlallatzin Tecocoitzin Temictzin
Temilotecatl Temilotzin Tenoch
Tenzacatetl Teoctlamazqui Teputzitoloc
Tetlahuehuequititzin Tetlapanquetzatzin Tetlepanquetzatzin
Tetzauhpilzintli Teuch Teudile
Texcoyo Tezozomoc Tezozomoctzin
Thlohtzin Tianquizlatoatzin Tilicuetzpal
Tilmatzin Timas Tizoc
Tlacaelel Tlacahuepan Tlacateotl
Tlacochcalcatl Tlacoteotzin Tlacotzin
Tlacyelel Tlahuicoli Tlalchiac
Tlaltececatzin Tlapaltecatl Tlapanecatzin
Tlaquiach Tlilpopoctazin Tlilpotonqui
Tlotzin Tochel Tochintecuhtli
Topiltzin Totoquihatzin Totoquihuatzin
Totoquihuaztli Totoquilhuatztli Tziuacpopocatzin
Tzompan Tzompantli Tzontecochatzin
Tzotzomatzin Tzuitecatl Xiconocatzin
Xicotencatl Xilotzin Xiucaque
Xiucozcatl Xiuhcozcatl Xochipanitzin
Xocoyol Xolotl Xomimitl
Xoxopehualoc Yaomahuitzin Yaztachimal
Zincicha Zoanacochtzin Zolton


Acaxochitl Anacaona Atototl
Atotoztli Ayauhcihuatl Azcalxochizin
Cacamacihuatzin Cacauaxochitl Chalchiutinenetzin
Chimalman Cuetlaxochitl Cuitlaxaochitzin
Eloxochitl Huitzilxochtzin Iczoxochitl
Ilancueitl Izquixochitl Malinal
Malinche Malintzin Matlacihuatl
Miahuaxiuitl Miyahuaxiuhtzin Nopalxochitl
Omixochitl Papantzin Quauhxochitl
Quiauhxochitl Tacapantzin Tecuelhuatzin
Tecuichpo Teotalco Tiacapan
Tiacapantzin Tlacahuepan Tlacoxochitl
Tlillocapantin Uacalxochitl Xiloxochitl

Name Elements

ato water azcal ant chalchiuh jade
chimal shield citla star citli hare
coatl serpent cocoza necklaces copil crown
coyotl coyote cuauh eagle cuetzpal lizard
cuhtli lord huatl lady hue old
itz obsidian man hand mix cloud
nezahual hungry pan flag petl mountain
pilli prince poca smoking quah eagle
quetzal feathered tiacapan first born tlac man
totl bird toztli parakeet tzin honorific ending
xiuh turquoise xochitl flower xocoyol ankle bell


In Nahuatl words, the penultimate syllable is always stressed.

c + a/o c as in can
c + i/e as in cease
ch as in church
chu like ckw in backward
cu before vowels like qu in quick
hu like w in walk
tl like tl in settler
tz like ts in cats
u + a,e,i,o, like w
uh like wh in wheel
x sh as in sheep
z + a/o like s in sock



Name Translation Attributes
Atlan-Tonnan   harvest
Ehecatl wind wind/storm
Centzonuitnaua   400 starbrothers
Chalchiahtlicue   water
Chicomecoatl   fruits of the earth
Huehueteotl old, old deity fire
Chantico in the house hearth
Huitzilopochtli hummingbird on the left sun, war, hunting
Ipalnemoani   The Unknown God
Xochipilli flower prince plants, song, dance
Yacatecuhtli lord of the nose traders
Ometecuhtl Two Lord Lord of Duality
Ometeotl   father/mother
Quetzlcoatl 'feathered serpent' wind, rain
Mixcoatl cloud serpent hunting
Camaxtli lord of the chase hunting
Tepoztecal   alcohol
Tepeyollotl mountain heart earth's regeneration
Tezcatlipoca 'smoking mirror' fate/mischief
Tlaloc lies on surface of the earth rain
Tlaloque little Tlalocs rain
Tepictoton little old hills rain
Tlazoltectl   carnal love
Macuilxochitl five flower plants, song, dance, games
Mictlantecuhtli lord of Mictlan death, darkness
Tonacecuhtli lord of sustenance sun (Ometecuhtli)
Tecuiciztecatl   moon
Tonatiuh 'he who makes the day' sun
Tlahuizcalpantecuhtli 'dawn lord' Venus/morning star
Mextli moon moon
Xipe-Topec flayed lord spring, fertility, seeds
Xiuhtecuhtli turquoise lord fire, solar heat


Tonacacihuatl lady of sustenance moon (Omecihuatl)
Michtlantecahuatl lady of michtlan death, darkness
Malinalxochitl Maguey flower plant deity (H's sister)
Mayahuel Maguey cactus  
Chantico   (H's sister)
Coatlicue serpent skirt earth (H's mother)
Chalchiuhtlicue jade skirt springs, rivers, lakes, sea (sister of Tlaloc)
Coyolxauhqui   moon (C's daughter)
Omecihuatl   ancestors
Teteoinnan mother of deities fertility, earth
Tonantzin honoured mother fertility, earth
Toci our grandmother fertility, earth
Itzpapalotl obsidian butterfly fertility, earth
Tlaltecuhtli earth lord/lady fertility, earth
Tlazolteotl sacred filth eater fertility, earth
Xilonen young maize ear early maize crop
Centeotl divine maize later maize crop
Centocihuatl   maize goddess
Chicomecoatl seven serpent seed corn
Huixtocihuatl Huixtotin lady salt
Xochiquetzal flower quetzal flowers, love, weaving


Tehalpohualli (Count Of Days)

This was a 260 day calendar. Each day had a name consisting of a figure from 1 - 13 and one of 20 words. When they were used up, the numbers began again with a different sign. The calendar was recorded in a book called a Tonalamatl. These dates also formed part of most Aztec's names (the leader Quetzlcoatl was known as Ce Acatl after the year of his birth before gaining power).

Alligator Cipactli 1 8 2 9 3 10 4 11 5 12 6 13 7
Wind Ehecatl 2 9 3 10 4 11 5 12 6 13 7 1 8
House Calli 3 10 4 11 5 12 6 13 7 1 8 2 9
Lizard Cuetzpallin 4 11 5 12 6 13 7 1 8 2 9 3 10
Snake Coatl 5 12 6 13 7 1 8 2 9 3 10 4 11
Death Miquiztli 6 13 7 1 8 2 9 3 10 4 11 5 12
Deer Mazatl 7 1 8 2 9 3 10 4 11 5 12 6 13
Rabbit Tochtli 8 2 9 3 10 4 11 5 12 6 13 7 1
Water Atl 9 3 10 4 11 5 12 6 13 7 1 8 2
Dog Itcuintli 10 4 11 5 12 6 13 7 1 8 2 9 3
Monkey Ozomatli 11 5 12 6 13 7 1 8 2 9 3 10 4
Grass Malinalli 12 6 13 7 1 8 2 9 3 10 4 11 5
Reed Acatl 13 7 1 8 2 9 3 10 4 11 5 12 6
Jaguar Ocelot 1 8 2 9 3 10 4 11 5 12 6 13 7
Eagle Cuauhtli 2 9 3 10 4 11 5 12 6 13 7 1 8
Buzzard Cozcacuauhtli 3 10 4 11 5 12 6 13 7 1 8 2 9
Movement Ollin 4 11 5 12 6 13 7 1 8 2 9 3 10
Flint Tecpatl 5 12 6 13 7 1 8 2 9 3 10 4 11
Rain Quiahuitl 6 13 7 1 8 2 9 3 10 4 11 5 12
Flower Xochitl 7 1 8 2 9 3 10 4 11 5 12 6 13



These did not always begin on the same day and there were variations within central Mexico as to which one began the year. There were 18, each containing 20 days, in a year with 5 extra days called 'nemomteni' at the end.


These were indicated by 4 day signs : Reed, Flint, House, Rabbit

Every 52 (4 x 13) years there was a renewal ceremony.

1511 6 reed 1512 7 flint 1513 8 house
1514 9 rabbit 1515 10 reed 1516 11 flint
1517 12 house 1518 13 rabbit 1519 1 reed
1520 2 flint 1521 3 house 1522 4 rabbit
1523 5 reed        


Date Festivals Translation Rites
Month 1: 14 Feb - 5 Mar Atlcaualo
leaving / ceasing of water
raising of trees
maize deities, child sacrifice
Month 2: 6-25 Mar Tlacaxipe-hualiztli flaying of men sacrifice and flaying, war, agriculture
Month 3
26 Mar - 14 Apr
small vigil/watch
offering of flowers
planting ceremony, flower offerings
Month 4
15 Apr - 4 May
Huey Tozoztli great vigil/watch blessing of seed corn,
child sacrifice
Month 5
5 May - 22 May
Toxcatl dryness renewal, sacrifice of
Huitzilopochtli + Tezcatlipoca incarnations
Month 6
23 May - 13 June
Etzalcualiztli eating of maize and beans priests fast for rain
offerings to farming
Month 7
14 June - 3 July
Tecuilhuitontli small feast of the lords lords feast commons
ruler gives gifts
Month 8
4-23 July
Huey Tecuilhuitl great feast of the lords lords feast commons
gifts, dancing
Month 9
24 July - 12 Aug
small feast of dead
birth/giving of flowers
feasts, sacrifces to dead
Month 10
13 Aug - 1 Sept
Huey Miccailhuitl
great feast of dead
great fall of Xocotl fruit
sacrifices to fire
ancestors honoured
Month 11
2-21 Sept
Ochpaniztli sweeping harvest begins, earth goddess honoured
Month 12
22 Sept -11 Oct
Pachtontli/Teotleco little Spanish moss/ arrival of the deities harvest festival, gods return to take part
Month 13
12-31 Oct
great Spanish moss/ feast of the mountains offerings on rain mountains
Month 14
1-20 Nov
Quecholli precious feather
(Roseate spoonbill)
warriors fast, weapons made, prisoners sacrificed
Month 15
21 Nov - 10 Dec
Panquetzaliztli raising of flags or banners military rites, sacrifice of prisoners
Month 16
11-30 Dec
Atemoztli descent of water some rains, mountains honoured
Month 17
31 Dec - 19 Jan
Tititl shrunk/wrinkled, stretching great feast, ritual dances slaves sacrificed by traders
Month 18
20 Jan - 8 Feb
eating of stuffed Tamales
sacrifice to fire, children given godparents
9-13 Feb
  useless days,
considered unlucky
no rituals or business,
general abstinence
Every 52 years Toxiuhmolpilia binding of the years, new fire rituals fires put out, quiet observedrenewal of clothes, fire, utensils
Every 8 years in Tecpatl Atamacualiztli eating of water Tamales 7 day fast, dancing,
swallowing of frogs


Nopaltzin   son of Xolotl lady from Chalco
Tlohtzin   son of Nopaltzin  
Quinatzin c 1420s son of Tlohtzin  

Aztec Emperors (Tlatoani)

Name Meaning Reign    
Acamapichtli 'reed-fist' 1372-91 elected founder of royal line  
Huitzilihuitl 'hummingbird feather' 1391-1416 son of Acamapichtli gd of Tezozomoc
Chimalpopoca 'smokes like a shield' 1416-27 son of Huitzilihuitl  
Itzcoatl 'obsidian serpent' 1427-40 son of Acamapichtli  
Montezuma I Ilhuicamina 'he frowned like a lord-pierces the sky with an arrow' 1440-68 son of Huitzilihuitl  
Axayacatl 'water-mask' 1468-81 son of Montezuma I  
Tizoc 'he has bled people' 1481-6 brother of Axayacatl  
Ahuitzotl 'otter' 1486-1502 brother of Tizoc  
Montezuma II Xocototzin 'he frowned like a lord-the younger' 1502-20 son of Axayacatl  
Cuitlahuac 'excrement owner' 1520 brother of Montezuma  
Cuauhtemoc 'descends like an eagle' 1520-1 son of Ahuitzotl  


Tetzotzomoc 'Fractured stone' 1367-1426  
Maxtla 'breechcloth' 1426-8 conq by Itzcoatl son of Tetzotzomoc


Ixtlilxochitl 'black-eyed flower'   desc from Nopaltzin dau of Chimalpopoca
Netzahualcoyotl hungry coyote -1472 son of Ixtlilxochitl  
Nezahualpilli hungry prince 1472-1515 son Netzahualcoyotl  
Cacama 2nd ear of maize 1515-20 neph of M. II son of Nezahualpilli  
Coanacoch 'serpent earpendant' 1520 fled Cortes son of Nezahualpilli  
Tecocol 'someone's anger' 1520-1 Spanish ally son of Nezahualpilli  
Cocoza 'necklaces' 1520 (by Spain) son of Nezahualpilli  
Ixtlilxochitl   1521- son of Nezahualpilli  


Mayehua 'glove'   on Aztec side v Spain

This collection of names was compiled by Kate Monk and is ©1997, Kate Monk.

Copies may be made for personal use only.

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