The Aztecs

Which language did the Aztecs speak?

And the answer: Nahuatl.

Currently spoken by 1.5 million people in Mexico, Nahuatl was the main language of the Aztecs and dates back to the 7th century. It was originally written with pictographic script. Some Nahuatl words that have been absorbed into English include coyote, avocado, and chocolate.    

Photo credit: wikicommons. 

At its height, the Aztec Empire included speakers of over 40 languages. Nahuatl, in fact, was widespread in the region long before the rise of the Aztecs, yet was soon adopted as one of the empire's primary languages. While historians and linguists have identified several different varieties of Nahuatl, it is best known as the language of the Aztecs from their rise to prominence in the 14th century until they were conquered by Spanish conquistadors in 1521.

​Nahuatl was also the dominant language of the Toltec people. The Toltec were a Mesoamerican civilization located in central Mexico between the years 900 and 1168. In the history of Mesoamerican culture, the Toltec people served as the blueprint for craftsmanship and civilization that many later societies in the same area sought to replicate. The Aztecs, for one, based their architectural design off of much of what the Toltec had already created. And, of course, the language of the Toltec quickly became that of the Aztec Empire as well.

Listen to the language in action and learn more about its history below.


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