Nahuatl Numbers

Nahuatl Numbers

This is a brief introduction into learning Nahuatl numbers. Without getting too involved in academic explanations at the moment, my first suggestion is to just practice and memorize the names of the Nahuatl numbers. Mastering the numbers 1-20 are the essential foundation for counting into higher quantities. As you become familiar with the Nahuatl number names you start to notice how elements of certain name numbers are utilized by other numbers. Remember that different Nahua communities have variations in how they write and pronounce Nahuatl. In other literature you may find different spellings or pronunciations of the words but you will see that they are not far off from what is presented here.

Please keep in mind that the words for the numbers, like all Nahuatl or Indigenous words, have symbolic and deeper association than simply being a name for a number. For example:

The number 5,  Macuilli, and the number 10, Matlactli, both the have the word “Ma.”  MA is associated with the hand (five fingers.) In Nahuatl speak, MA is roughly translated as “may you have” or “may you go,” as in: Ma Cualli Yohualli (Have a good night) or Ma Xipactinemi (be well/may you go well.) 

Another example is the number 20, Cempohualli.  Cempohualli does not merely mean twenty. More accurately it means: “A complete count.” It is from this peak of 20 that numbers are counted. For further illustration Ome Cempohualli would be “two complete counts” (aka 40), Yei Cempohualli would be “3 complete counts” (aka 60), and so on. 

ce

Ce

ome

Ome

yei

Yei

nahui

Nahui

macuilli

Macuilli

chicuace

Chicuace

chicome

Chicome

chicuey

Chicyei

chicnahui

Chicnahui

matlactli

Matlactli

matlac-ce

Matlacce

matlac-ome

Matlacome

matlac-yei

Matlacyei

matlac-nahui

Matlacnahui

caxtolli

Caxtolli

caxtol-ce

Caxtolce

caxtol-ome

Caxtolome

caxtol-yei

Caxtolyei

caxtol-nahui

Caxtolnahui

cempoalli

Cempohualli
“a complete count”