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Nahuatl, a Rich Source of Mexican Spanish Words, Many Which Live on in English, Too

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Cathy from San Antonio, Texas, notes that many Spanish words come from the Nahuatl language, including the words for “tomato,” “sweet potato,” and “avocado,” which are tomate, camote, and aguacate, respectively. The Nahuatl élotl, meaning “a cob of tender corn,” is the source of the Spanish word elote, which means “corn,” and appears in menos burros, más elotes. This playful Spanish dicho means “fewer donkeys, more corn,” and is said when someone at the dinner table refuses a helping of food, leaving more for everyone else. Words in English that ultimately come from Nahuatl include chocolate, cocoa, jicama, zapote, tamales, chili, and chilaquiles. Another Spanish word from Nahuatl is mecate, which means “rope,” and is part of the idiom cada chango en su mecate — literally, “every monkey on his rope,” meaning “to each his own.” This is part of a complete episode.

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