If reading "Place of Mirrors" is your first experience with the study of the Maya, you are going to come across a lot of new words. I've been asked by readers to provide a glossary for the book, with a guide to pronunciation and meanings. Here is a listing of all of the words in "Place of Mirrors" which may be unfamilar to you. If you come across any others that are not listed here, or if you feel my pronuncuations or meanings are incorrect, please send me an e-mail at jeeni@criscenzo.com.


A few notes about spelling and pronunciation:
Recently, epigraphers have revised the "spelling" of Maya words to more closely reflect English phonetics. For a while this is going to be confusing because so many place names and names of historical persons have always been written using the attempts of the Spanish clergy to orignially converted the unfamiliar Maya sounds into their own phonetics with some improvisions for consonants not used in Spanish. Since "Place of Mirrors" was written prior to the spelling revisions, I have used the old system here in this glossary.

A few tips:
  a sounds like the short a, such as in "what"
  e sounds like a long a, such as in "hey"
  i  sounds like a long e, such as in "we"
  o  sounds like a long o, such as in "only"
  u  at the end of a word, or with another vowel:
sounds like the letter w, as in "why"
 by itself:
sounds like a double o, such as in "soon"
  x  sounds like sh, such as in "ship"
  c  always is a hard c, such as the k in "kitten"
  j  always sounds like h as in "home"
  Mayan consonants can be regular or glottalized. The difference is hard for the newcomer to hear, but is somewhat more emphatic and harder sounding on the glottalized. A glottalized consonant is indicated with the accent mark (') after the consonant.
    Accents in Mayan words are usually on the last syllable
    Plurals in Mayan are formed by adding the suffix -ob

Is it "Maya" or "Mayan"?
References to people (noun) or of the people (adjective) is "Maya"
--as in "The Maya had many rituals." or "This map shows the Maya region."
The language spoken by the Maya people is "Mayan"
--as in "The Mayan word for "sun" is "k'in".

WORD PRONUNCIATION MEANING
achioté ah chee Oh tay a bark ground for red pigment
acoté ah CO tay a pine that is used as a torch
Agua Azul AH gwah ah ZOOL Waterfalls and pools near Palenque that are a blue/green color
agua mineral AH gwah MEEN er al Spanish - purified spring water - safe to drink
Ahow ah HOW also Ahau, and Ahaw, Lord, day name, that person responsible for protecting and nurturing a god/s
Ahowob ah HOW ob plural of Ahow, the suffix -ob forms the plural
Ahpo Hel Ah poe HEL wife of Pacal of Palenque - see Cast of Characters
Bacab bah KOB title of the spiritual and political leader
baktun bock TOON period of twenty katuns - 400 years of 360 days, used in the Long Count - see Calendar
balché bol CHAY alcoholic drink made from the fermented bark of the balché tree
Bol Bowl common male name of Lacandon Maya - see Cast of Characters
Bolom Tzacab BAH lahm zah KOB Maya diety - see Gods
cacao Kah COW these seeds were used as currency and also are crushed to make chocolate, a drink of the Maya royalty
Casa de Cambio KA sa dae COM bee oh Spanish - place wher you can exchange foreign currency to Mexican and back
ceiba SEE bah giant tropical tree, also known as the silk-cotton tree and the kapok. Revered by the Maya as the "Tree of Life"
cenoté say NOTE tay water hole in limestone depression, only source of water in Yucatan
Chac chahk Maya rain gods - see Gods
Chac Xib Chac choc sheeb choc Maya Diety - see Gods
Chakal chah KAL name of a descendant of Pacal recorded at Palenque - see Lineage Chart
Chan Bahlum CHON bah LOOM first son of Pacal - see Cast of Characters
Chiapas chee ah PAS region of Mexico on Western border of Guatemala, where San Cristobal Las Casas is located - see San Cristobal/Chipas
Chichen Itza chee CHEN eet ZAH ancient Maya site in Yucatan
Cholula choe LU lah 5 miles west of Puebla, site of ancient pyramids & colonial churches
ciudades perdidas SEE oo dahz per DEE dahz slums on the outskirts of Mexico City, translates as "Lost City"
curasow cure ah SOW turkey native to Mexico
Danzantes dah ZON tayes the "dancers" - carvings on stone slabs in Monte Albán of grotesque humanoid figures who appear to be dancing, swimming or hallucinating, possibly of Olmec origin.
Ek Chuan Eck choo AH Maya diety - see Gods
gacaranda tree gah kah RON da tree with lavender flowers
hacha ha CHAH or palma - stones inserted in the yokes worn by ball players, presumed to act a deflector
hetzmek hetz MEK Maya ceremony where a child is given a name
holcan hole CON warrior
huipil wee PEEL a Maya woman's blouse, usually hand woven and/or embroidered
Hun Batz hon BATZ also Hun Chuen, the two first twin bothers - Father and Uncle of the Hero Twins in the Popol Vuh - see Popol Vuh
Hunab Ku hoo NAHB koo Maya diety - see Gods
Ik eek Maya diety - see Gods
Its'at EETZ ot learned one, the wise man
Itzamná eet zahm Nah Maya diety - see Gods
Ix Chel eesh CHEL Maya goddess - see Gods
Ixtab EESH tob Maya moon goddess - see Gods
Ixtaccihuatl eesh tash chi WHAT tl one of two snowcapped volcanoes southeast of Mexico City - looks like a reclining woman, called "sleeping beauty"
k'in k' EEN the sun, one day
Kahwil kah WHEEL Maya diety - see Gods
Kan CON several meanings - a day sign, maize, yellow and precious
Kan Xul con SHOOL second son of Pacal - see Cast of Characters
katun kah TOON period of twenty years of 360 days used in the Long Count - see Calendar
kaxtlan chem kosh TLON chem a great canoe
Kayam kah YOM common name of Lacandon males, means monkey
Koh KOE common name of Lacandon Maya women - see Characters
Kukulkan koo kool Kahn Maya diety - Feathered Serpent - see Gods
Lacandon lah con DOEN believed to be descendants of ancient Maya of Palenque or Yaxchilan, these people live in the Lacandon forest of Chiapas - - see San Cristobal/Chipas
madronios tree mah droe NEE oes red barked tree that appears to be dead, then bursts into bloom in the rainy season
Mah K'ina mah K-EE nah Divine Sun, title used by Pacal of Palenque to afirm his divinity
Merida mer EE dah colonial city in Mexico
milpa mill PAH Maya family farm, consists mostly of maize, beans and squash
Mitla MEET lah ancient site just outside Oaxaca, of Mixtec origin. Buildings are covered with friezes of geometric patterns.
Monte Albán MON tae AL bon Ancient site on a mountaintop above Oaxaca dates from 400 B.C.
nah NAH thatched Maya house
Nuk nook common name of Lacandon women - see Cast of Characters
Oaxaca wah HAH kah Colonial city in Mexico
Olmecs OL mekz mesoamerican civilization that predated the Maya. The Maya calendar is based on their calendar.
onen oh NEN the companion animal spirit the Maya believe each person has
Pacal pah KAL also Pakal, great ruler of Palenque who was buried beneath Temple of the Inscriptions - see Cast of Characters
Palenque pah len KAY ancient Maya site where tomb of Pacal was discovered in 1952. - see Palenque and Jaguar Sun
pati pah TEE cloak
pih peeh uncertain of it's meaning, used in "Place of Mirrors" as the word for idols or representations of the gods
Popacatepetl poh poh kah TEH petl one of two snowcapped volcanoes southeast of Mexico City
Popol Vun poh POL vooh Maya creation myth - see Popol Vuh
posol poe SOUL drink made with corn paste mixed with water
Puebla pu WAY blah colonial city 1 1/2 hours southeast of Mexico City
recordar ray CORE dar Spanish, to remember
sahal sah HOL Maya dignitary, not the ruler, but possibly a dipolmat or clan leader
San Cristobal Las Casas san crees toe BAL city in state of Chiapas - see San Cristobal/Chipas
San Juan Chamula SAN WHAN chah MOO lah A Maya village near San Cristobal- see San Cristobal/Chipas
sopa SO pah Spanish - soup
t'o'ohil t 'oh oh HEEL spiritual leader of Lacandon Maya - see San Cristobal/Chipas
Te' nab tay NOB a place mentioned in ancient Maya writing at Palenque, at or near the site. means "tree place"- see Jaguar Sun
Tehuacan tae whah KON colonial city southeast of Mexico City
Teotihuacán tay oh TEE wah kon ancient site near Mexico City that was abandoned before the time of the Aztec, who called it the City of the Gods.
Tikal TEE kal ancient Maya site in Guatemala - see Tikal
Toctan tok TAN a place near Palenque mentioned in inscriptions - see Jaguar Sun
Tonina toe nee NAH ancient Maya site near Palenque where Kan Xul, Pacal's second son was taken captive and eventually sacrificed.
tumpline TUMP line a method of carrying items on the back in a sling that is supported by a cloth band across the forehead
tun TOON period of one year of 360 days or 18 uinals, used in the Long Count - see Calendar
tzolkin zol KEEN sacred Maya calendar of 260 days - see Calendar
U Kix Chan woo KEESH chon Palenque ancestor - see Lineage Chart
uinal wee NAL period of 20 days used in the Long Count - see Calendar
Uxmal oosh MAHL ancient Maya site in Yucatan
Xibalba shee BAL bah the underworld, a terrible place where one goes at death and only those of great wit can ever escape.
Xoc SHOCK means "shark", name of a descendant of Pacal recorded at Palenque - see Lineage Chart
Xocal Ha shah COL hah Maya name for Usumacinta River
yerbero year BER ro herbalist, vendor of herbs
Yum Kaax yum KOSH Maya god - see Gods
Zapotec ZAH po tek indigenous people of the Oaxaca/Monte Albán region
zocalo ZO cah low town square, usually surrounded with public buildings, church and market and often has a bandstand

READ MORE ABOUT IT
Place of Mirrors
by Jeeni Criscenzo
$21.95, Hardcover, July 1996
E-Mail to:jeeni@criscenzo.com
©Copyright 1997-2000 Jeeni Criscenzo