The etymological origin of the word chocolate

By  | 

The etymological origin of the word chocolate is a combination of the words « xocolli » (meaning sour) and « atl » (meaning « water ») creating the xord « nahuatl xocolatl ».

The Aztecs associated chocolate with « Xochiquetzal », the Goddess of fertility. The Mayans also linked chocolate to their fertility God.

The Mexican philologist Ignacio Dayila Garibi suggests that the Spaniards invented this word by linking the term chocol and replacing the Mayan word “haa” ( meaning water) with the term “nahuatl “. However, it is more likely that it was the Aztecs who invented the word as they had been referring to the cocoa bean as “ nahuatl” for some time. It is correct to say that the Spaniards had little contact with the Mayans prior to Cortés bringing “xocolate” (a chocolate drink) to the King of Spain. The Mayan verb “chokola’j” meaning “drink chocolate together” has also been suggested as a possibility.

The linguists Karen Dakin and Soren Wichmann published a controversial study stating that in a number of « nahuatl » dialects the name is “chicolatl” rather than “chocolatl”. This is enforced by the fact that in a number of dialects spoken in Mexico (such as popoluca, mixtèque, zapotèque) and even in the Philippines, it is “chicolatl” that is used. The word “chicol-li” refers to kitchen utensils. Another theory that Dakin and Wichmann published is that ceremonies using individual whips led to the term “chicolatl” meaning “beaten drinks”. It is correct that in certain regions of Mexico “chicolear” means beaten.