Write your name in Maya hieroglyphs


One of my personal all time favourite websites was the Rabbit in the Moon site of the late Nancy McNelly, but since her death the website is no longer on the web. One of the topics of this site was a explanation how to write your name in Maya hieroglyphs. Her greatest contribution was that she made Maya-culture accessible to the larger public. To honour that contribution I decided to place her text and illustrations about Maya hieroglyphs on this page (with minor adjustments). If there are any objections that these texts are published on Mayaweb, please contact me through the contactform.

This page will lead you on a guided tour in steps to show you how you can put together your own name glyph, and finishes with an example.


Step 1

Read the Note on the Maya Writing System, paying particular attention to the Principle of Synharmony, the Example, Ah and Na, and Putting it all together sections. You'll need to use this information later.


Step 2

Next, figure out what syllables make up your name

Here's how vowels are pronounced:
A is like the a in all
E is like the e in grey
I is like the ee in see
O is like the o in no
U is like the oo in moon.

Also keep in mind that the consonant written as "X" is actually pronounced "SH".

Unfortunatly, not all names can be easily "Mayanized". English has consonants that don't exist in Maya, and vice versa. If you have a D, F, G, J, R or V in your name, you may have to substitute another sound (Malia for maria, say). You'll have to decide which combination of syllables is best for you.

Be careful about using the special Mayan consonants. For example, K and K' are pronounced differently and give totally different meanings, as in kab (earth) and k'ab (arm and hand).


Step 3

Next, visit the syllabary charts. This will show you what symbols are available for each syllable.

Part 1: A to CHU
Part 2: CH'A to K'U
Part 3: LA to PU
Part 4: SA to TZU
Part 5: TZ'A to YU

You might also check the logographs, the following are available at this site:

Part 1: Logographs
Part 2: Family relations
Part 3: Colors and non family relations
Part 4: Terms for birth, death, etc.
Part 5: Titles of the Aristocracy


Step 4

Choose the combination of syllable symbols you like best and construct a glyph block according to the rules given in the Note on the writing system. If you're female, remember that the first character in your name is always the profile of a wonma's head (OK, this might not be PC, but then neither were the classic Maya).

Symbols can overlap as long as they're in the correct order (they should read top to bottom and left to right).

Let's try it!

OK, let's try a name, say, Nancy. This is pronounced Nansih, and from the vowel chart above, we know that it would start with NA followed by a second NA. The second part of the name starts with and SI, and the principle of synharmony tells us that it should end with the same vowel as the syllable before it. So what comes last must be HI.

Next we look up these syllables in the syllabary to find out what our choices are.

And finally, we try putting the syllables together in the proper order until we find the combination we like best. Here is Nancy's name as she wrote it in hieroglyphs:

Now it's up to you to try it, good luck. Please remember that is was Nancy McNelly who made this page possible.