General Aztecs Maya Tocuaro Kids Contact 19 Oct 2017/12 House
Text Size:

Search the Site (type in white box):

HOT TIP
Aztec Names
A study of names from 16th century documents gives a list of the top ten Aztec boys’ and girls’ names...!
Common Náhuatl Names
Illustration of an Aztec girl by Felipe Davalos

What’s your nickname?

In Aztec times, your ‘proper name’ came directly from the day you were born ‘under’ in the sacred calendar and was a combination of a number from 1-13 and a sign from the cycle of 20 (see these in all their glory on our Kids site!): an instant example (today’s date) is shown in the top right-hand corner of all our website pages. (Written/compiled by Ian Mursell/Mexicolore)

Picture 1:  ‘Jaguar-quechquémitl’ in the Codex Bodley (original in the Bodleian Library, Oxford)
Picture 1: ‘Jaguar-quechquémitl’ in the Codex Bodley (original in the Bodleian Library, Oxford) (Click on image to enlarge)

But 260 (13x20) different names don’t go far in a population of tens of thousands, so everyone was given a personal name as well, very similar to our ‘nicknames’. Often these were linked (just like among North American Indian tribes - think of ‘Sitting Bull’) to animals, birds, flowers and personal qualities, such as ‘Fire Coyote’, ‘Obsidian Snake’, ‘Turquoise Maize Flower’ or ‘Water Bird’.

Picture 2: Chalchiuhtlicue wearing a quechquémitl, British Museum
Picture 2: Chalchiuhtlicue wearing a quechquémitl, British Museum (Click on image to enlarge)

They were also commonly linked to CLOTHING STYLES. In the example left (Pic1), you can see both proper (‘calendrical’) name (One-Flower) and nickname (‘Jaguar-Quechquémitl’) joined directly to the figure concerned from behind. We all know what a jaguar is, but what on earth is a ‘quechquémitl’?

Picture 3: A woman wears a quechquémitl, Codex Laud (original in the Bodleian Library, Oxford)
Picture 3: A woman wears a quechquémitl, Codex Laud (original in the Bodleian Library, Oxford) (Click on image to enlarge)

It’s a beautifully simple triangular ‘neck cape’ worn by women throughout Mesoamerica both long before and long after the Spanish Conquest. It’s unique - nothing like it exists in other parts of the world! Whilst the Aztecs kept it mainly for noble women and goddesses (usually related to fertility), in other parts it was also used for every-day. Compare the two examples in the Codex Laud (Pics 3 and 4)!

Picture 4: A goddess wears a quechquémitl, Codex Laud (original in the Bodleian Library, Oxford)
Picture 4: A goddess wears a quechquémitl, Codex Laud (original in the Bodleian Library, Oxford) (Click on image to enlarge)

The British Museum has a beautiful stone sculpture of the goddess Chalchiuhtlicue (‘Lady Jade Skirt’) - wearing a quechquémitl (Pic 2). There are many examples in the codices of quechquémitls being worn. We have shown one (Pic 5) from the Codex Magliabecchiano to thousands of children throughout England in our Aztec workshops. And hundreds of girls (Pic 6) have tried wearing them...!

Picture 5: The goddess Mayahuel, Codex Magliabecchiano
Picture 5: The goddess Mayahuel, Codex Magliabecchiano (Click on image to enlarge)

So, nice to meet you, ’Jaguar-Quechquémitl’... ‘Tiger Top’ for short!

Picture 6: Graciela explains the background to the quechquémitl in a Mexicolore Aztecs workshop
Picture 6: Graciela explains the background to the quechquémitl in a Mexicolore Aztecs workshop (Click on image to enlarge)

And now, why not meet the goddess ‘Lady Jade Skirt’? You’ll find she’s wearing the same nose plug as the goddesses on this page, AND she’s wearing a quechquémitl! Find out more by following the link below...

Meet ‘Lady Jade Skirt’

Feedback button