Aztec society was a complex mixture of people from different ethnicities and tribes. The centre of the Aztec Empire was Tenochtitlan which was the capital of the empire and the most powerful city-state in the region.
While it had people from different ethnicities, it was dominated by the Mexica people who spoke the Nahuatl language.
Aztec names had religious inspiration and often referred to different things of the natural world. A variety of Aztec names are given even today by the Nahuatl speaking people in the region of Central Mexico.
Aztecs used names related to nature, common everyday objects, animals, fruits, plants, natural phenomenon and astral bodies in naming their boys. Read more about the Aztec Boys Names >>
The Aztecs used pictorial images to communicate as there was no written language. Aztec Pictorial representations are preserved in the Aztec Codices. Read more about the Aztec Codices >>
The Aztec people developed a system that relied on images called pictograms and logograms to communicate which was very effective. Read more about the Aztec Language >>
Among the most eminent Aztec warrior units were the Eagle and Jaguar warriors. The Shorn Ones were also considered a fierce unit of Aztec warriors. Read more about the Aztec Warrior Names >>
The history of Aztec names drew its inspiration from the empire itself and the religious concepts of the Aztecs. For instance, with the establishment of the empire and a system of nobility, common people could not use the names of the emperors. Nonetheless, they gave a variety of names to their children based on their religious concepts. With the establishment of the Aztec Empire, more emphasis was given on military virtues and religion and thus such names became more important.
The Aztec empire was a military empire and the people were deeply religious. Both these facts influenced the Aztec names. Thus boys in the Aztec Empire had such names as Achcauhtli which means “leader”, Amoxtli which means “protection” or “shelter”, Atl which means “water”, Chimalli which means “shield”, Coaxoch which means “serpent flower”, Cuixtli which means “kite”, Eztli which means “blood”, and so on.
There were some Aztec names which could be given to both boys and girls. Examples of such Aztec names are Achcauhtli meaning “leader” or Atl meaning “water”. The names which were reserved for girls included Chalchiuhticue which means “jade skirt”, Cihuaton which means “little woman”, Ixchel which means “rainbow lady”, Nenetl which means “doll”, and so on. The names were often inspired by the names of goddesses. For instance, Ixchel was also name of the goddess of earth, moon, and medicine.
Just like the name of boys, Aztec men name also drew inspiration from the names of gods, religious concepts, and a variety of things of nature. Some examples of Aztec names for men include Etalpalli which means “wing”, Iccauhtli which means “younger brother”, Mahuizoh which means “glorious person”, Namacuix which means “king”, Milintica which means “fire”, Nopaltzin which means “cactus”, Quauhtli which means “eagle”, and so on. Thus other than using the names of various gods as inspiration, the Aztec names could simply be the names of different objects of nature or a simple praise.
Aztec names for women were also along the same lines, inspired by the names of various Aztec goddesses in addition to other concepts. Thus some common Aztec names for women include Meztli which means “moon”, Moyolehuani which means “enamoured one”, Noxochicoztli which means “my necklace of flowers”, Patli which means “medicine”, Teicuih which means “younger sister”, Teoxihuitl which means “precious and divine”, tlalli which means “earth”, Xiuhtonal which means “precious light”, and so on.
Aztecs spoke Nahuatl language and the Aztec names, of course, had definite meaning in the Nahuatl language. It is impossible to find an Aztec name which did not have any meaning at all. Whether it was the name of the emperor or a common person, it had specific meaning attached to it. Sometimes, it was the name of some Aztec god and other times the name could refer to some valuable object or an important aspect of nature in the Nahuatl language.
Not just the names of the ordinary people but the names of the Aztec gods and goddesses also had specific meanings attached to them. For instance, the names and meanings of some of the most important Aztec gods included the shaman god Tezcatlipoca which means “smoking mirror”, the god of life and wind Quetzalcoatl which means “feathered serpent”, the god of rain and water Tlaloc which means “of the earth”, the tribal god of many of the Nahua people Mixcoatl which means “cloud serpent”, and the tribal god of the Mexica people Huitzilopochtli which means “left-handed hummingbird”. Aztec names and meanings of some other Aztec gods include the goddess of earth Tlaltecuhtli which means “earth lord”, the goddess of springs Chalchiuhtlicue which means “jade her skirt”, god of fertility and patron god of the goldsmiths Xipe Totec which means “our flayed lord”, the god of happiness and flowers Xochipilli which means “flower prince” and so on.
The first emperor of the Aztec Empire was Itzcoatl who laid down the foundations of the empire along with important laws and customs. His name meant “obsidian serpent” and he ruled from 1427 to 1440. After him, Moctezuma I ascended to the throne and ruled from 1440 till his death in 1469. The name Moctezuma is a compound of a noun meaning “lord” and a verb meaning “to frown in anger”. Thus the entire name means “he is one who frowns like a lord”. The name could also mean “he who is angry in a noble manner”. After Moctezuma, Axayacatl became the emperor of the Aztec Empire and reigned from 1469 till 1481. His main contribution was subjugation of the sister city of Tenochtitlan, Tlatelolco in 1473. The name Axayacatl means “water mask” or “water face”. The next Aztec ruler was Tizoc who ruled the empire for a relatively brief period from 1481 to 1486. The meaning of his name is “leg of chalk”. Similarly, the name of other Aztec Emperors had specific meanings attached to them which reflected their status and powers.
Aztec society was a multi-ethnic society composed of people from different tribes. However, Nahuatl language was the most widely spoken language in the region. Aztec names drew their inspiration from religion and nature. Thus it was common to name the Aztec children after some god or goddess in addition to being named after some precious or useful object of nature. Some Aztec names could be given to both males and females but most of them were separated based on gender.