altepetl.

Headword: 
altepetl.
Principal English Translation: 

community; town, pueblo; ethnic state; sovereign sociopolitical unit; literally, contains the elements atl, water, and tepetl, hill, natural features that might once have been appealing for choosing where to settle, e.g. the site of a natural mountain spring

Orthographic Variants: 
atl tepetl, yn atl yn tepetl, altepetli, altebet, altebetl
IPAspelling: 
ɑːltepeːtɬ
Alonso de Molina: 

Altepetl. pueblo, o rey.
Altepecalacoayan. puerta o entrada de ciudad.
Altepeyolloco. el riñon o medio de la ciudad.
Altepeitta. n. visitar los pueblos, villas, o ciudades. Pre. onaltepeittac.
Altepemaitl. aldea, o aldeano.
Altepemame. aldeas o aldeanos.
Altepemilli. tierras o eredad es del comun.
Altepenayotl. principal ciudad, que es cabeça de reyno.
Altepenauac. comarca de pueblo.
Altepenauatilli. ordenanças de pueblo.
Altepepaleuiani. procurador o fauorecedor de pueblo.
Altepepan. por las villas, y ciudades, o de pueblo en pueblo.
Altepepeualtiliztli. fundacion de pueblo.
Altepequaxochquetza. n. amojonar los terminos del pueblo. Preterito. onaltepequaxochquetz.
Altepequaxochtli. terminos o mojones de pueblo o ciudad.
Altepequixoayan. puerta de ciudad.
Altepetenametica. ciudad cercada de muro.
Altepetenancoyoctli. portillo de muro de ciudad.
Altepetenanquetza. n. poner terminos o mojones ala ciudad. Preterito. onaltepetenanquetz.
Altepetenan xitictli. portillo de muro, o de cerca de ciudad.
Altepetepantli. terminos, o mojones dela ciudad.
Altepetequipanoliztli. obra publica, o oficio publico.
Altepetlianca. subjecto o comarca de ciudad o pueblo, o aldea de ciudad.
Altepetlipapana. de pueblo en pueblo, o por los pueblos y ciudades.
Altepetlacatl. hombre del pueblo. s. lego no ordenado, de orden sacra.
Altepetlalia. nin. reuelarse cõtra lacabecera. Prete. oninaltepetlali.
Altepetlalia. n. poblar o fundar villa o pueblo. Pre. onaltepetlali.
Altepetlaliani. fundador de pueblo o villa.
Altepetlalilli. pueblo ya fundado.
Altepetlalli. tierras del comun.
Altepetlatlalilli. ordenanças de pueblo.
Altepetlauiztli. armas de la ciudad.
Altepetzintia. n. fundar pueblo. Preterito. onaltepetzinti.
Altepetzintiani. fundador de pueblo.
Altepetzintiliztli. fundacion de pueblo.
Altepeua. vezino de ciudad.
Alonso de Molina, Vocabulario en lengua mexicana y castellana, 1571, (www.idiez.org.mx), f. 4r.

Frances Karttunen: 

ĀLTEPĒ-TL pl: -MEH town / pueblo, o rey (M) The literal sense of this is ´water-hill,´ those two elements being fundamental necessities for a community. When possessed, the elements of the compound generally separate, with the possessive prefix attaching to each one, -ĀUH –TEPĒUH. See Ā-TL, TEPĒ-TL.
Frances Karttunen, An Analytical Dictionary of Nahuatl (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1992), 9.

Horacio Carochi / English: 

āltepētl = sovereign sociopolitical unit
Horacio Carochi, S.J., Grammar of the Mexican language with an explanation of its adverbs (1645), translated and edited with commentary by James Lockhart, UCLA Latin American Studies Volume 89 (Stanford: Stanford University Press, UCLA Latin American Center Publications, 2001), 78–79, 81 n2, 214–15 especially n5, 497.

Lockhart’s Nahuatl as Written: 

āltepē-tl = local ethnic state, sovereign sociopolitical unit, pueblo, altepetl. normal possessed form -āltepēuh. is actually a noun doublet, ātl and tepētl, in which the first is weakened but still bears a vestige of the absolutive ending. still occurs at times with the same meaning as ātl tepētl or in ātl in tepētl and even as possessed -āuh -tepēuh
James Lockhart, Nahuatl as Written: Lessons in Older Written Nahuatl, with Copious Examples and Texts (Stanford: Stanford University Press and UCLA Latin American Studies, 2001), 210.

Attestations from sources in English: 

"In Chimalpahin's usage here, it will be seen that he can mean any individual sociopolitical entity of the traditional type, including the indigenous corporation of Mexico Tenochtitlan as it existed under the Spaniards, but it seems at times to indicate the total complex formation of the capital city, including Spaniards, and their corporation as well as the indigenous component. When the word is used with a plural sense (not always easy to detect because Chimalpahin like most Nahuatl speakers did not make any external distinction between singular and plural), it usually refers to the various altepetl surrounding Tenochtitlan throughout the Valley of Mexico, or perhaps at times in an even wider area. The term will also be found occasionally as a description of entities in Europe, Asia, and South America, sometimes seeming to refer to vast realms and sometimes to individual cities; such instances are hard to assess because it is not always certain that Chimalpahin himself understood the nature of the foreign entity."
Annals of His Time: Don Domingo de San Antón Muñón Chimalpahin Quauhtlehuanitzin, James Lockhart, Susan Schroeder, and Doris Namala, eds. and transl. (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2006), 18.

ca yehuatl yn intequiuh tlahtoque yn ohui ypan mochihua altepetl, yn huel yez quiyeecoa yn canpa ye huel quimaquixtizque macehuali ynic huel yez ymaltepeuh, yn ma yuhqui hotli camo ye in qui[to]tocti yn macehuali = For it is the task of rulers when dangers befall the altepetl to try to determine where indeed they may save the commoners, so that it may be well with the altepetl and so that the commoners do not, as it were, flee along the roads. (central Mexico, early seventeenth century)
Codex Chimalpahin: Society and Politics in Mexico Tenochtitlan, Tlatelolco, Culhuacan, and Other Nahuatl Altepetl in Central Mexico; The Nahuatl and Spanish Annals and Accounts Collected and Recorded by don Domingo de San Antón Muñón Chimalpahin Quauhtlehuanitzin, eds. and transl. Arthur J. O. Anderson and Susan Schroeder (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1997), vol. 2, 192–193.

Barry D. Sell speaks of the use of "pueblo" to translate altepetl, which he would prefer we translate to English as "'town, settlement, people' or even (with some reservations) 'nation' than '[tiny Indian] village.'"
See Sell's comments in Bartolomé de Alva, A Guide to Confession Large and Small in the Mexican Language, 1634, eds. Barry D. Sell and John Frederick Schwaller, with Lu Ann Homza (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1999), 28, 29.

ypan altepemaytl ytocayocan Gudiña. yn ipan tlahtocayotl Galicia. = in the village named Gudiña in the kingdom of Galicia (early seventeenth century, central New Spain)
Annals of His Time: Don Domingo de San Antón Muñón Chimalpahin Quauhtlehuanitzin, James Lockhart, Susan Schroeder, and Doris Namala, eds. and transl. (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2006), 68–69.

noviyan altepetl ypan Ompa Castilla y noviyan Omonextitzino Oquimonexilili yvan miyecpa Oquinmoyolalilico ȳ nelli ytetlayecolticavan y nican tlalticapac = everywhere in the altepetls and over there in Spain. She revealed herself everywhere, showed herself to them, and many times she came to console her true servants here on earth
Fray Alonso de Molina, Nahua Confraternities in Early Colonial Mexico: The 1552 Nahuatl Ordinances of fray Alonso de Molina, OFM, ed. and trans., Barry D. Sell (Berkeley: Academy of American Franciscan History, 2002), 134–135.

ȏmozetililique ynoccequintin tlati la naltín. ye-híco, âltepemá taque nohuíanpa. tlaltecpá = o:moce:tiliqueh in oc cequi:ntin tlatila:naltin ye i:c o:a:ltepe:mataqueh no:huiya:npa tla:ltecpan = they united themselves with the rest of the provinces when they established cities everywhere as royal lands
Anónimo mexicano, ed. Richley H. Crapo and Bonnie Glass-Coffin (Logan, UT: Utah State University Press, 2005), 43.

Ca oniquitlanili AltepehuacCatzitzinti = that I requested from the altepetl authorities (San Pedro Calimaya, Toluca Valley, 1763)
Caterina Pizzigoni, ed., Testaments of Toluca (Stanford: Stanford University Press and UCLA Latin American Center Publications, 2007), 200.

a sovereign state; in central Mexico conditions, usually on the order of size of a city state
The Tlaxcalan Actas: A Compendium of the Records of the Cabildo of Tlaxcala (1545–1627), eds. James Lockhart, Frances Berdan, and Arthur J.O. Anderson (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1986); 153.

town, realm, city-state, socio-political unit
Robert Haskett and Stephanie Wood's notes from Nahuatl sessions with James Lockhart and subsequent research.

Sometimes written as: atl tepetl; or: yn atl yn tepetl (which refers metaphorically to water and hill/mountain).
Robert Haskett and Stephanie Wood's notes from Nahuatl sessions with James Lockhart and subsequent research.

yhuan yn amixquichtin yn āmexica yn antenocha nican anquimatizque yn iuh peuhticatqui yn iuh tzintiticatque = and all of you Mexica, you Tenochca here will know that such was the beginning, such was the origin of what we have called the great altepetl, the altepetl of Mexico Tenochtitlan (central Mexico, early seventeenth century)
Codex Chimalpahin: Society and Politics in Mexico Tenochtitlan, Tlatelolco, Culhuacan, and Other Nahuatl Altepetl in Central Mexico; The Nahuatl and Spanish Annals and Accounts Collected and Recorded by don Domingo de San Antón Muñón Chimalpahin Quauhtlehuanitzin, eds. and transl. Arthur J. O. Anderson and Susan Schroeder (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1997), vol. 1, 62–63.

ynic tiquimittazque yn ixquich yn techyahuallotoc yxquich tiquinpehuazque tiquimaçizque. yc maniz yn taltepeuh mexico. tenochtitlan. quauhtli ypipitzcayan ynetomayan. quauhtli ytlaquayan. yhuan michin ypatlanian. yhuan cohuatl yçomocayan = Thus shall we find all who lie surrounding us, all whom we shall conquer, whom we shall capture. Thus will our altepetl of Mexico Tenochtitlan be, the place where the eagle screeches and stretches itself; where the eagle eats and the fish fly and the serpent hisses.... (central Mexico, early seventeenth century)
Codex Chimalpahin: Society and Politics in Mexico Tenochtitlan, Tlatelolco, Culhuacan, and Other Nahuatl Altepetl in Central Mexico; The Nahuatl and Spanish Annals and Accounts Collected and Recorded by don Domingo de San Antón Muñón Chimalpahin Quauhtlehuanitzin, eds. and transl. Arthur J. O. Anderson and Susan Schroeder (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1997), vol. 1, 102–103.

altepetlaca = townsmen
Byron McAfee translation of the Tepotzotlan Techialoyan, published in Donald Robertson, "The Techialoyan Codex of Tepotztotlan: Codex X (Rylands Mexican Ms. 1)," Bulletin of the John Rylands Library 43:1 (Sept. 1960), 125.

altepeme = plural of altepetl
This is found in the Techialoyan manuscript of Ocoyacac. James Lockhart finds it a form that is late in the evolution of the use of the term. See our entry for -me. Also, doing a search for altepeme or altepemeh shows very few occurrences in Nahuatl alphabetic texts of the colonial era.

camo altepetlalli = it is not altepetl land
Rebecca Horn, Postconquest Coyoacan: Nahua-Spanish Relations in Central Mexico, 1519–1650 (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1997), 159.

yn ipan altepetl motenehua de arcos = in the altepetl called Arcos (central Mexico, 1608-1609?)
Annals of His Time: Don Domingo de San Antón Muñón Chimalpahin Quauhtlehuanitzin, James Lockhart, Susan Schroeder, and Doris Namala, eds. and transl. (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2006), 146–7.

ompa ychan yn ipan altepetl de Exija = He was from the altepetl of Ecija (central Mexico, 1608–1609?)
Annals of His Time: Don Domingo de San Antón Muñón Chimalpahin Quauhtlehuanitzin, James Lockhart, Susan Schroeder, and Doris Namala, eds. and transl. (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2006), 146–7.

altepetl iyollo = "the agentive heart of the settlement" and "the prime mover of all life it contained (López Austin 1973:61)"
Isabel Laack, Aztec Religion and Art of Writing (Leiden: Brill, 2019), 117.

Attestations from sources in Spanish: 

in oncan quiҫaz yn intlaqual teopixque yvan in tlein monequi yglesia yvan in ilhuitlipan in tlein monequi anoҫo altepetl ytech monequi ca nel yc mitova altepetl i yaxca = de ahí saldrá la comida de los padres; lo que se necesita en la iglesia y en las fiestas; lo que sea necesario o se requiera para el pueblo; ya que de verdad por esto se le nombra propiedad del pueblo. (Cuauhtinchan, Puebla, s. XVI)
Luis Reyes García, "Ordenanzas para el gobierno de Cuauhtinchan, año de 1559," Estudios de Cultura Náhuatl 10 (1972), 294–295.

Niquinpia macuili altepetl yca tlali yhuan terrasgueros onechnemactili arzobispo don Pedro Moya de Contreras ycuac bisorrey omochiuh yca nicacica nican ypan altepetl yntoca San Antonino Huexoapa Santa Maria Natibitas Cuauhtenpa Santo Tomas Atlyhuetza Santa Catalina Tehuiztla San Lucas Tetelzingo = También digo que tengo 5 pueblos con tierras y terrazgueros que me hizo de merced el arzobispo don Pedro de Moya y Contreras en el tiempo que fue visorrey de esta Nueva España, y este ca[c]icazgo empieza el primer pueblo es Santa María Natibitas Quautenpan, el tercer pueblo es Santo Thomás, donde cae un chorro de agua en un despeñadero; el cuarto pueblo es Santa Cathalina Thehuistla, el quinto pueblo es San Lucaz [Tetelzingo], en donde está un tetele grande (Tepexi de la Seda, 1621)
Vidas y bienes olvidados: Testamentos en náhuatl y castellano del siglo XVII, vol. 3, Teresa Rojas Rabiela, et al, eds. (México: CIESAS, 2002), 118–119.

Yhua niccanhuilia notatzin onnechmocanhuililitia neltiliz titollo ytla nemiz Pedro ayc aqui quixtinliz huel quipiez ypanlehuilocan = También le dejo, que mi padre me lo dejó, mi verdadero título si viviere Pedro, nunca alguno se lo ha de quitar, lo ha de tener bien guardado, que es defensa del pueblo
Vidas y bienes olvidados: Testamentos indígenas novohispanos, vol. 2, Testamentos en náhuatl y castellano del siglo XVI, eds., Teresa Rojas Rabiela, Elsa Leticia Rea López, Constantino Medina Lima (Mexico: Consejo Nacional de Ciencias Tecnología, 1999), 120–121.

ycguac oaci ytic altebet = cuando llegó al pueblo
Nuestro pesar, nuestra aflicción / tunetuliniliz, tucucuca; Memorias en lengua náhuatl enviadas a Felipe II por indígenas del Valle de Guatemala hacia 1572, introduction by Cristopher H. Lutz, paleography and translation by Karen Dakin (México: UNAM and Centro de Investigaciones Regionales de Mesoamérica, 1996, 66–67.

señorío étnico; Altepetl es un difrasismo que significa 'agua-cerro' y se refiere al territorio y sus recursos naturales. También se aplica para designar a la población y/o a sus gobernantes. Equivale al concepto de 'señorío étnico' o al de 'ciudad estado.' Véase la discusión de este concepto en Lockhart (1992:14–58). (ca. 1582, México)
Luis Reyes García, ¿Como te confundes? ¿Acaso no somos conquistados? Anales de Juan Bautista (Mexico: Centro de Investigaciones y Estudios Superiores en Antropología Social, Biblioteca Lorenzo Boturini Insigne y Nacional Basílica de Guadalupe, 2001), 14, note 1.

tu altepet = nuestro pueblo (Chenalhó, Chiapas; 1714; pueblo tzotzil)
Karen Dakin, "Algunos documentos nahuas del sur de Mesoamérica," Visiones del encuentro de dos mundos en América: lengua, cultura, traducción y transculturación , eds. Karen Dakin, Mercedes Montes de Oca, y Claudia Parodi(México: UNAM, 2009), 255.

tualtebetl (con el -tl al final aunque poseído) (Santiago de Guatemala, n.d.)
Karen Dakin, "Algunos documentos nahuas del sur de Mesoamérica," Visiones del encuentro de dos mundos en América: lengua, cultura, traducción y transculturación , eds. Karen Dakin, Mercedes Montes de Oca, y Claudia Parodi (México: UNAM, 2009), 257.

IDIEZ morfema: 
āltepētl.
IDIEZ traduc. inglés: 
city or large town
IDIEZ def. náhuatl: 
Canahya campa itztoqueh macehualmeh tlen mochantihtoqueh huan tlahuel tlayehyectzin; coyomeh mohmoztla nopayoh nemih huan axtlen quimpoloa pampa tequitih huan quintlaxtlahuiah. “Angelica yahqui pan ce altepetl tequitito; naman mocauhquiya ne pampa tlaahcic huanya ce tlacatl tlen ne euhquetl.”
IDIEZ morfología: 
ātl, tepētl.
IDIEZ gramática: 
tlat.