Some Nahuatl Placenames

Oaxaca (Uaxacac)
This glyph represents Oaxaca (name of a state in Mexico) whose real name in Nahuatl was Uaxacac which means "Place where the "guaje" vegetables begin. Uax(in) is the word for "guaje" a type of vegetable and yáca(tl) means nose, extension, point, or beginning. The -c at the end is a location suffix which denotes a place name.
Toluca (Tollocan)
This glyph represents Toluca (capital of the state of Mexico) whose real Nahuatl name was Tollocan which means "Where the head is bowed down." Tol(oa) means to bow the head and means nose, extension, point, or beginning. This name required a suffix variant -lo used in name that ends in the letter L. The -can at the end is a location suffix which denotes a place name. This suffix is used after suffixes that end in -yo or -lo.
Tlaxcala (Tlaxcallan)
This glyph represents Tlaxcala (a state capital city and a state in Mexico) whose real Nahuatl name was Tlaxcallan which means "Where there is an abundance of tortillas." Tlaxcal(li) means tortilla and it can also mean food. -lan is location suffix (variant of -tlan) and denotes an abundance of.
Tenochtitlan
This glyph represents Tenochtitlan (what is now Mexico City) which means "Where cactus grows from the rocks." Tetl means rock and Nochitli means nopal or cactus. -lan is location suffix (variant of -tlan) and denotes an abundance of.


Certain suffixes are very common in placenames of Mexican Native or of Nahuatl origin. Some of them are: -tlan (place near an abundance of...), -co or -c (place), -tepe-c (hill-place), -yan (place), -pa(n) (on), and -can (place). A few examples follow, with the stems of the Nahuatl words and their English meanings.

-TLAN (place near an abundance of ...)

     
    Placename        Stem             English Gloss           
                                                                            
    Acatlan          acatl            reed                                    
    Acaxochitlan     acatl-xochitl    reed-flower                             
    Ajuchitlan       atl-xochitl      water-flower                            
    Camotlan         camotli          sweet potato                            
    Cihuatlan        cihuatl          woman                                   
    Coatlan          coatl            snake                                   
    Colotlan         colotl           scorpion                                
    Epatlan          epatl            skunk                                   
    Huehuetlan       huehue (teotl)   old (god)                               
    Mazatlan         mazatl           deer                                    
    Ocotlan          ocotl            pine tree                               
    Tecolotlan       tecolotl         owl                                     
    Teocuitlatlan    teotl-cuitlatl   god-excrement                           
    Tepoztlan        tepoztli         iron or metal                           
    Tototlan         tototl           bird    

-CO or -C (place)

    Placename        Stem             English Gloss                         
                                                                                                                                                  
    Acapulco         acatl-pol        reed-thick                              
    Atotonilco       atl-totonil      water-heated                            
    Jalisco          xalli-ixtli      sand-face                               
    Mexico           metl-xictli      maguey cactus-navel                     
    Teotlalco        teotl-tlalli     god-earth                               
    Zacualco         tzacual          closed       

-TEPE-C (hill-place)

    Placename        Stem             English Gloss                         

    Acaltepec        atl-calli        water-house (canoe)                     
    Coatepec         coatl            snake                                   
    Chapultepec      chapulin         grasshopper                             
    Ecatepec         ecatl            wind                                    
    Jocotepec        xocotl           sour, fruit                             
    Ocotepec         ocotl            pine tree                               
                                                           
     In the following  examples, if  the suffixes  are given  in the     
short list above, they are not repeated.  Otherwise, all elements of     
the placenames are enumerated.                                           
                                                                                                                                                  
    Placename        Analysis         English Gloss                    
                                                                                                                                                  
    Acapulco         acatl-pol-co     reed-thick                         
    Cuernavaca       cuahuitl-nahuac  tree-near                          
    Hueyapan         huei-atl         big-water                          
    Iztaccihuatl     iztac-cihuatl    white-woman                        
    Michoacan        michin-hua-can   fish-haver-place
    Popocatepetl     popoca-tepetl    smoke-hill                         
    Tuxpan           tochtli          rabbit                             
    Xochimilco       xochitl-milli    flower-field                       

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