10 Secret Mexican Words to Impress Native Speakers + Fun Facts

Spanish has incorporated many words from various indigenous languages.

This adds rich cultural diversity to the language.

IMPRESS Mexicans by knowing these 10 (Secret) Spanish WORDS

Today we will explore 10 Mexican words in Spanish that have their origins in native Mexican and Mesoamerican languages.

I’m Paulísima, your Spanish teacher at Spring Spanish. Let’s begin!

Elote, MaízCorn
EsquitesCorn kernels dish
ChicleChewing Gum
MezcalMezcal (distilled spirit)

1. Elote y Maíz (Snack and corn)

Elote” comes from the Nahuatl word “elotl“.

Elote is one of the most famous, beloved and popular snacks in Mexico.

Maiz, corn is a central part of the Mexican diet. It is sacred in the worldview of our indigenous peoples. However, the word “maíz” does not find its origin in any of the 68 indigenous national languages or in the Spanish language. Surprisingly, it traces its roots to the Taíno language, which was spoken by the indigenous peoples of the Bahamas and the Antilles. Encompassing what is now Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

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Elotes are sold at small stalls where they always sell esquites, which is our next word.

2. Esquites (Corn kernels)

Esquites are a popular Mexican dish consisting of cooked tender corn kernels.

They are everywhere in Mexico. The word “esquite” has its origin in the Nahuatl language, an indigenous language of Mexico. It comes from the Nahuatl word “īzquitl“, which refers to toasted corn.

3. Chapulín (Grasshopper)

Chapulín means grasshopper.

According to Wikipedia: “From the Nahuatl chapōlin, from chapā[nia] ‘to bounce’, and ōlli ‘rubber’, ‘insect that jumps like a rubber ball’. Some species of chapulines are edible.

Chapulines can also be called “grillos” (crickets).

mexican words explained by female teacher from spring spanish

4. Aguacate (Avocado)

The word “aguacate” comes from the Nahuatl word “āhuacatl“. In some South American countries, the term “palta” is used to refer to avocados.

Fun fact: The word “āhuacatl” in Nahuatl, the language of the Aztecs and other indigenous peoples of Mesoamerica, means “testicle” or “testicular”.

Avocados, with their testicle-like shape, were given this name in Nahuatl due to their appearance.

5. Cacao (Cocoa)

The word “cacao” comes from the Mayan language, cacau. Where cac means red and cau means strength and fire.

Cacao was so valued in pre-Hispanic cultures that it was used as a form of currency.

6. Tomate/Jitomate (Tomato)

First of all, you have to know that in Mexico this fruit is called both tomate and jitomate. In central and southern Mexico, it is called “jitomate” and in the rest of Mexico, simply tomate or tomate rojo.

The term tomate has its roots in the Nahuatl language, where “tomatle” is formed from two words: “tomohuac” meaning “fruit” and “atl” meaning “water”. Therefore, it can be said to refer to a “water fruit” of a red color.

On the other hand, the word “Jitomate” also comes from Nahuatl, specifically from “xictomatl“.

This word is composed of three parts: “xictli”, meaning “navel”, “tomohuac”, meaning “fruit”, and “atl”, meaning “water”. Consequently, “jitomate” translates to “navel of water fruit”.

7. Nopal (Mexican cactus)

Nopal is a Nahuatl word “nohpalli“, used to describe a type of Mexican cactus. This versatile and nutritious ingredient can be found in various Mexican dishes, adding a unique flavor and texture.

Definitely, nopales are not for everyone.

They have an interesting texture, they are a bit slimy. Not always, it depends on how you cook them. Sure enough, they are typical, and you will see them everywhere!

8. Cacahuate (Peanut)

The word “cacahuate” has its origin in Nahuatl.

In Nahuatl, the term “tlālcacāhuatl” was used to refer to this legume, which is also known in Spanish as “maní“.

In some places in Latin America, they are called cacahuETES.

The word “tlālcacāhuatl” is composed of “tlāl” meaning earth, and “cacāhuatl” meaning cacao. Put together, we’re talking about peanuts or groundnuts.

9. Chicle (Gum)

Chicle comes from the Nahuatl word “tzictli“.

Fun fact: In 1860, the then president of Mexico, Santa Anna, brought a ton of chicle from Mexico to New York. This was to support Thomas Adams’ effort to replace rubber.

However, it did not work as a rubber substitute and instead became chewing gum. It was launched as “Adams New York Chewing Gum” in 1871.

10. Mezcal (Mezcal alcohol)

Mezcal is a distilled spirit made from the maguey plant.

In the last decade, it has gained popularity worldwide. “Mezcal” originates from the Nahuatl word “mexcalli“, which is a combination of “metl“, meaning maguey, and “xcalli” meaning cooked.

Mezcal production is highly artisanal and traditional. It is often produced in small batches by families or communities, giving it a unique and authentic character.

All this talk about mezcal made me crave a “mezcalita“, which is like a margarita but with mezcal instead of tequila.

Learn 10 secret Mexican words with Free Spanish Training

So, we explored that the Spanish language has been enriched by indigenous Mexican and Mesoamerican languages. You read about the fun facts related to Mexican words.

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