ilhuitl (Mdz19r)

ilhuitl (Mdz19r)
Simplex Glyph

Glyph or Iconographic Image Description: 

This simplex glyph for the noun "day" (ilhuitl) is taken from an example where each of four day signs was actually intended to represent twenty days (hence the gloss "ochenta días"). The glyphs for day can vary in the placement of their colors. In this example, the sign is a large circle with smaller concentric circles and four tiny circles around the outside perimeter. The very center is white, with a red band around that. The next circular band contains pinwheel shapes with two turquoise-blue, one red, one green, and one yellow section. The tiny circles on the perimeter are placed in such a way to make corners on the circle. These are painted white, green, turquoise-blue, and yellow.

Description, Credit: 

Stephanie Wood

Added Analysis: 

The quincunx organization of the glyph for ilhuitl likely connects to Nahua conceptualizations of the universe, with four cardinal directions and perhaps a center axis that reaches the underworld and the heavens. The pinwheel iconography may suggest motion, probably the motion of the sun that brings the day and is also responsible for the changing times of the day. Note how the tonatiuh glyph (below) has a more complex shape and iconography, but appears connected to the glyph for day. Please see our blog post (on the left-hand navigation bar) on shimmering glyphs, which includes this one. A direction worth exploring further is the relationship between tonalli and ilhuitl, which can both stand for "day."

Added Analysis, Credit: 

Stephanie Wood

Gloss Image: 
Gloss Diplomatic Transcription: 

ochenta dias

Gloss Normalization: 

ochenta días

Gloss Analysis, Credit: 

Stephanie Wood

Source Manuscript: 
Date of Manuscript: 

c. 1541, but by 1553 at the latest

Creator's Location (and place coverage): 

Mexico City

Semantic Categories: 
Cultural Content & Iconography: 
Cultural Content, Credit: 

Stephanie Wood


days, días, suns, soles, tiempo, time, calendarios, calendars

Glyph or Iconographic Image: 
Relevant Nahuatl Dictionary Word(s): 
Glyph/Icon Name, Spanish Translation: 

el día

Spanish Translation, Credit: 

Stephanie Wood

Image Source: 

Codex Mendoza, folio 19 recto,, image 48 of 188.

Image Source, Rights: 

The Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford, hold the original manuscript, the MS. Arch. Selden. A. 1. This image is published here under the UK Creative Commons, “Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 License” (CC-BY-NC-SA 3.0).

Historical Contextualizing Image: