ma (Mdz29r)

Glyph or Iconographic Image Description: 

This element for the verb to grab, take, or capture (ma) has been carved from the place name, Xomeyocan. A hand (maitl) comes reaching from the viewer's left, providing the phonetic indication for the syllable "ma" (or "me" in the original compound). It is terracotta colored. Judging by the location of the thumb, it is a right hand.

Description, Credit: 

Stephanie Wood

Added Analysis: 

According to Gordon Whittaker, we should pay attention to the upright hand without an arm attached versus the more horizontal or diagonal arm, which can have readings other than maitl), such as the "ma" of capture, "ana" of grab, or "poloa" of destroy. (Deciphering Aztec Hieroglyphs, 2021, 104) In the original compound hieroglyph from which this hand was carved, the hand is holding onto a leaf of a plant, as though it is going to take the leaf, so the reading could be ma, a verb, for "to take" or "to capture." But the hand itself brings the same reading—"ma"—as the stem of maitl, so the two readings reinforce each other. It is not very unusual to see "a" for "e" in various Nahuatl words.

Added 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


taking, grabbing, capturing, tomando, agarrando, cautivando

Glyph or Iconographic Image: 
Relevant Nahuatl Dictionary Word(s): 
Image Source: 

Codex Mendoza, folio 29 recto,, image 68 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).