Hñähñu, Natho, Ñuhu, Ñuhmu, Yuhu, Yuhmu or Otomi?

Where does the word Otomi come from? Why is it used to appoint us as ethnicity?

The term “Otomi” usually refers to the ethnic groups of central Mexico. Perhaps it had originated from the Nahuatl word Otomitl translated directly as arrow-bird (totol – bird, mitl – arrow) with correct translation serving to designate the archer-bird or bird catcher.

Other sources say that the word Otomitl may refer to: Otli – way and Mitl – arrow, which would translate into – He who walks with arrows and would be used to refer disparagingly to a nomadic group, having a specific meaning of “a barbarian” (remember that the ancient Mexicans used the word “Chichimecatl” to refer generically to all those wild tribes of the north).

In another vein remains the theory that the word “Otomi” grew out of the legendary leader of the ethnic group, which came leading a pilgrimage of his tribe from Chicomostoc.

One source states: “The word “otomitl”, which is the name of the Otomi, they took him to their leader, whose name was Otho, and their children and their descendants and vassals who had charge of all Otomies were called, and each one in particular was said otomitl.”

But no formal source reveals that this word came from the same language Otomi-Hñähñu, but was “nahuatlized” for the convenience of Nahuatl speakers.

If the word Otho-hmi is used, then it might have a meaning of “faceless” or “without personality” from the words in Hñähñu, with Otho – nothing/no and Hmi – face, and then it would be used in a pejorative sense.
Well, this is left to the readers and researchers to judge, but most likely in this pejorative sense the word would refer to someone unskilled or with a little understanding, and Sahagun shows it the best in this passage: “They usually say you’re like otomite opprobrium that will not achieve what you say… “

Nowadays, people prefer to call themselves by the ethnicity according to their dialect.
Hñähñu – Mezquital.
Natho – Toluca Valley
Ñuhu, Nano – Querétaro.
Ñuhmu, Yuhu – Sierra Madre Oriental
Yuhmu – Ixtenco

I prefer this way because it reaffirms that the term “Otomi” is derogatory for them and their culture and traditions, and although many people used to refer to the ethnic group against Spanish speakers, people of those communities would most likely prefer to be called in their language.

It is true that we, who speak this language Hñähñu, prefer to call ourselves, but where does this word came from? The ethno-linguists of Mezquital Valley in the state of Hidalgo claim that the word “Hñähñu” comes from several words and has many possible meanings.

  • “Sister – language / speech / voice” and “Xinu – nose” = the speaker nasalizando.
  • “Sister – language / speech / voice” and “HNU – number three” = the third language / third language.
  • “Sister – language / speech / voice” and “Ñ’u – path” = the talking on the track.
  • The truth is, that the word “Hñähñu” encompasses many possible terms and meanings, every one of them valid for the speaker and for those who want to understand it. And keeping up with the modern times, it is important that the Hñähñu, Natho, Ñuhu, Ñuhmu, Yuhu, Yuhmu feel related, identified and not ashamed of their language.

    The original post by Botzanga can be read here, on Historias Prehispanicas.