Nahuatl Lesson: Abstract Nouns — the -liztli and -iztli suffixes

Nahuatl Lesson: Abstract Nouns — the -liztli and -iztli suffixes

Abstract nouns – -liztli, and -iztli suffixes

This lesson will only cover abstract nouns in Early Modern Nahuatl, not contemporary dialects.

An abstract noun is a noun that cannot be seen or touched. It can be a quality (beauty), a state (hope and death), or an idea (freedom and education). The English language, like many others, offers speakers and writers the ability to create abstract nouns from verbs. For example:

Obedience from obey

Judgment from Judge

Death from Die

Knowledge from Know

Growth from grow

Pleasure from please

In Nahuatl, like English, you can turn a verb into an abstract noun. We can achieve this by adding the pervasive -liztli or -iztli suffix to a verb. The -liztli suffix is important because it allows a verb, to be possessed, something that is not possible when a verb is in its normal state.

For example:

Nemi – To live.

You can say, ninemi (ni-nemi) I live.

You could also say, tinemi (ti-nemi), you live.

You are not soundly capable of saying nonemi (no-nemi) my live.


This changes when we add the -liztli suffix to nemi. Giving us Nemiliztli, living or life. The savy reader will notice that close connection to the root verb- Nemi, but also that there is now an absolutive suffix on the word, in fact making it a noun.


Nonemiliz (no-nemiliz(tli)) is now a viable option. Which means, “my life.” Monemiliz (mo-nemiliz(tli)) is also possible, which means, “your life.”

Here are some examples, with answers all the way at the bottom so you can see how well you are doing.

  1. Chololiztli
  2. Nochololiz
  3. Tlacualiztli (Tlaqualiztli)
  4. Monepohualiztli
  5. Nezahualiztli


Some things to be aware of. Be sure to recognize that if you see a word that ends with in -liz or -iz, and it has a possessive prefix, that word is a verb turned noun that is possessed. The missing absolutive suffix gives it away.





  1. Chololiztli
    • Cholo(a)-liztli
    • To flee – abstract suffix
    • Flight
  2. Nochololiz
    • No-cholo(a)-liz(tli)
    • My-to flee- abstract suffix
    • My flight, My escape
  3. Tlacualiztli (Tlaqualiztli)
    • Tlacua-liztli
    • To eat – abstract suffix
    • Eat, as in, something to eat, or food
  4. Monepohualiztli
    • mo-ne-pohua-liztli
    • Your-indef reflex – to be arrogant – abstracting suffix
    • Your arrogance
  5. Nezahualiztli
    • Ne-zahua-liztli
    • Indefinite reflexive – to fast- abstracting noun
    • Fast
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