I have yet to find a Nahuatl place name that Mexicans pronounce the original way. Examples:

  • Mexico
    • Spanish pronunciation: [ˈmexiko]
    • Nahuatl pronunciation: [meːˈʃiʔko]
  • Xochimilco
    • Spanish pronunciation: [sotʃiˈmilko]
    • Nahuatl pronunciation: [ʃoːtʃiˈmiːlko]

The Nahuatl word "Huaxyacac" [waːʃ.ˈja.kak] was transliterated as "Oaxaca" using Medieval Spanish orthography, in which the x represented the voiceless postalveolar fricative ([ʃ], the equivalent of English sh in "shop"), making "Oaxaca" pronounced as [waˈʃaka]. However, during the sixteenth century the voiceless fricative sound evolved into a voiceless velar fricative ([x], like the ch in Scottish "loch"), and Oaxaca began to be pronounced [waˈxaka]. Source: wikipedia.

Are there any exceptions to this?

  • I don't know anything about Nahuatl but I'm not sure if you are confused with some pronunciations. In Spanish México is pronounced mejico and we do not use the "x" [ks] sound as English speaking people do. Same with Oaxaca that it is pronounced Uajaka. As far as I know Xochimilco is indeed pronounced starting with the [s] sound as you said. – DGaleano Dec 19 '17 at 19:36
  • Listen to the Spanish pronunciation Check the map at the bottom and see how the Mexicans call their own country. – DGaleano Dec 19 '17 at 19:46
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    @DGaleano the [x] in IPA refers to the sound produced by the average Latin American when speaking Spanish (or the average Caribbean or Andalusian for the aspirated S's. Spaniards use [χ] quite frequently (both phones are written as either /x/ or /j/ for phonemic transcriptions, depending on style). – user0721090601 Dec 19 '17 at 23:56

Below is a list of Spanish words of Nahuatl origin which have x's in their current/historic forms, along with their pronunciations in Modern Spanish and Classical Nahuatl (according to Wiktionary):

x > /x/

  • Chauixtle ?? ?

  • jacal /xa.ˈkal/xahcalli /ʃaʔkalli/; xacalli [ʃaˈká.lːi]

  • ejote /eˈxo.te/exōtl [ˈe.ʃoːt͡ɬ]

  • jícara /ˈxikaɾa/xīcalli ?

  • jilote /xi.ˈlo.te/xīlōtl /ʃiːloːtɬ/

  • Jalisco /xaˈlisko/? ?

  • jocote /xo.ˈko.te/xocotl /ʃoːkot͡ɬ/

  • Oaxaca [waˈxa.ka]Huāxyacac ?
    Oaxaca [o.aˈxa.ka]

  • ajolote /a.xoˈlo.te/āxōlōtl /aːʃoːloːtɬ/

  • jocoque /xo.ˈko.ke/xococ /ʃokok/; xocoqui ?

  • jitomate /xito̞ˈmate̞/xitomātl /ʃiː.ˈto.matɬ/

  • guaje, huaje [ˈgwa.xe]uaxin, huāxin ?

  • molcajete /mo̞lkaˈxe̞t̪e̞/mōlcaxitl /moːlˈkaʃit͡ɬ/

  • tejocote /te.xo.ˈko.te/texocotl ?

  • Méjico, México /ˈmexiko/Mēxihco [meːˈʃíʔ.ko]

  • guajolote /ɡwa.xo.ˈlo.te/huehxōlōtl [weʔˈʃoː.loːt͡ɬ]

  • joconostle /xo.koˈnos.tɬe/xoconōchtli [ʃo.koˈnoːt͡ʃ.t͡ɬi]

x > /ks/ /gs/

  • nixtamal /niks.taˈmal/nextamalli /neʃˈtamalli/

  • Tlaxcala [tlaksˈka.la]Tlaxcallān /t͡ɬaʃˈkal.laːn/
    Tlaxcala [tlaɡsˈka.la]

x > /s/

  • socoyote /so.koˈʝo.te/xōcōyotl /ʃoːkojoːtɬ/

  • xocoyote /so.koˈʝo.te/xōcōyotl /ʃoːkojoːtɬ/
    xocoyote /xo.koˈʝo.te/

  • xoconostle [so.koˈnos.tle]xoconōchtli [ʃo.koˈnoːt͡ʃ.t͡ɬi]
    xoconostle /ʃo.koˈnos.tɬe/1
    xoconostle /xo.koˈnos.tɬe/

  • soconostle [so.koˈnos.tle]xoconōchtli [ʃo.koˈnoːt͡ʃ.t͡ɬi]

  • Xochimilco /so.tʃi.ˈmil.ko/xochimilco /ʃoː.t͡ʃi.ˈmiːl.ko/
    Xochimilck /ʃo.tʃi.ˈmil.ko/

  • cempasúchil /sem.paˈsu.tʃil/cempōhualxōchitl /sempoːwalˈʃoːtʃit͡ɬ/

x > /ʃ/ /t͡ʃ/

  • Chalmichi ?xalmichin ?

  • mixiote [miˈʃo.te]mexiotl ?
    mixiote \mi'ʃiote\4

  • chocolate /tʃo.ko.ˈla.te/xocolātl, chocolātl /tʃokolaːtɬ/ 2

  • xoloitzcuintle /t͡ʃo.losˈkwiŋ.kle/xoloitzcuintli [ʃo.lot͡sˈkʷin.t͡ɬi]
    xoloitzcuintle /ʃo.loi̯t͡sˈkwin.t͡ɬe/3

As you can see, some words have multiple different pronunciations in Spanish, some more conservative (i.e. closer to the Nahuatl) than others.


 1. https://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Opuntia#Fruto
 2. (uncertainty about which form is the origin)
 3. 'Careful' pronunciation
 4. https://fr.wiktionary.org/wiki/mixiote
  • Alt. mexiote


 • Why is the "X" in México and Texas pronunced as the letter "J"?
 • https://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anexo:Nahuatlismos_en_el_idioma_español
 • https://es.wiktionary.org
 • https://en.wiktionary.org
 • https://nh.wiktionary.org
 • https://fr.wiktionary.org

  • Very comprehensive, thanks for taking the time to do the write-up. // But for nixtamal, my experience has been that I have always heard /s/. – aparente001 Dec 21 '17 at 13:51
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    Interestingly, the German name Axel when used in Mexico is often pronounced Atsel, which I've always taken to be a leftover from Nahuatl. – aparente001 Dec 21 '17 at 13:53
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    I have heard 3 versions in the order of how close the people is to native communities: Nicstamal - from all people not close to natives; nismal - from people descendant of natives or natives but not nahuas; nichtamal - from Native nahuas – Mike Dec 21 '17 at 19:08

It's not about Mexicans, it's about Spanish.

The "x" letter is the hardest letter to know how to pronounce it in Spanish, it basically doesn't have rules about its sound, so you have to know the word to pronounce it correctly. The origin of its use was for sounds unknown to the Spaniards or didn't have a letter to represent it.

so x can have the following sounds :

  • j /x/ like in México /ˈmexiko/

  • s /s/ like in Xochimilco [sotʃiˈmilko]

  • sh /ʃ/ like in xoconostle /ʃo.koˈnos.tɬe/

  • ch /t͡ʃ/ like in xoloitzcuintle /t͡ʃo.losˈkwiŋ.kle/

  • ks /ks/ like in examen /ekˈsa.men/

Here are some examples of how to pronounce the x: - http://www.rae.es/diccionario-panhispanico-de-dudas/representacion-de-sonidos

  • x-

    • /s/
  • x + consonante

    • /ks/ o /gs/ (en pron. general americana y culta enfática de España)
    • /s/ (en pron. general de España)
  • -x-

    • /ks/ o /gs/
    • (/j/ en algunos topónimos y antropónimos, como México, Texas, Mexía, etc.)

So, answering your question :

Mexico pronunciation has never been and will never be "Mecsico" in Spanish

In the past a lot of people have tried to change the word México to Méjico, but we Mexicans like that "x" in our name, so we keep it.

Also, remember that in the past it was pronounced as "Mechico" and the natives where the "Mechicas" and not "aztecas" like a lot of people think.

So if you want to know if we pronounce it the way the Nahuatl does... we don't. We speak Spanish, not Nahuatl, with a different accent and a lot of regionalisms, but our language is still Spanish.

  • Are you sure it was pronounced "Mechico" in the past? According to Wikipedia it was pronounced [meːˈʃiʔko] ("Meshico") in Nahuatl, not [me:'tʃiʔko]. I think the fact that ʃ is rare in Spanish adds to the confusion... – Andy Nov 12 '18 at 17:59

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