Maya or Mayan?

Many people misuse these three terms, assuming that “Maya” is a singular noun, “Mayas” a plural noun, and “Mayan” an adjective. We at Yucatan Today have been guilty of this mistake more than once over time, but have done our proper research, and can now take an informed decision on how to present these terms to our readers.

The word Maya

The fact is, the word “Maya” should be used in all three of the above situations when referring to the people and culture. Here are some specific examples showing correct usage:

  • As a singular noun: He is (a) Maya.

  • As a plural noun: They are Maya.

  • As an adjective: Maya astronomy, Maya calendar, Maya civilization, Maya clothing, Maya culture, Maya folklore, Maya food, Maya glyphs, Maya hairstyle, Maya heritage, Maya hieroglyphs, Maya pyramids, Maya religion, Maya ritual, Maya warfare.

The name of the spoken language… that’s a little bit more complicated. “Mayan” refers to the family of at least 30 distinct languages spoken by the Maya. The specific language names, however, revert to being called Maya. That means that the Mayan family encompasses languages such as the K’iche’ Maya, Chontal Maya, and, of course, Yucatec Maya—the one spoken throughout the Yucatán Península.

Yucatán Today will use Maya

When referring to the people, the culture, and the language in the Mexican state of Yucatán, Yucatán Today will use “Maya.”

For more information, you can visit The Open School Of Ethnography And Anthropology at their website,


Editorial by Yucatán Today
Photography by Oscar Góngora for use in Yucatán Today

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