Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Mayan Hieroglyphs, Part V

It's been a few months, now, since I played around with Mayan hieroglyphs [1], but now that we have a new addition to our family [2] it's time to do another. With Lillian's early arrival and the class I've been teaching this term, it's taken me a while to find enough time to complete this. But it's finally here.

The name Lillian is actually a nickname for someone named Elizabeth [3], though the association with the flower, lily (genus Lilium), is inescapable. The name Elizabeth comes from Ἐλισάβετ (Elisabet), the Greek transliteration of the Hebrew name אֱלִישֶׁבַע ('Eliysheba`).[4] In the Bible there are two women named Elisheba/Elizabeth: the wife of Moses' brother Aaron (Ex. 6:23) and the mother of John the Baptist (Luke 1:5). The first part of the name, 'eliy-, means "of God", "to God" or "my God" in Hebrew.[5] The meaning of the second half, -sheba`, is a little less clear. Most likely it comes from the Hebrew word שָׁבַע (shaba` "to swear an oath") which is, itself derived from the Hebrew word שֶׁבַע (sheba` "seven").[6] With this in mind, the name Elizabeth would mean something along the lines of "God Is My Oath", "Oath of God", "Sworn to God", "My God Has Sworn", etc. Another less likely possibility comes from the word בַּת (bath) which means "daughter".[7] If that were the case, then the name Elizabeth could mean "Daughter of God" (which Lillian certainly is [8]). I've tried to capture as many of those ideas as I could for Lillian's Mayan hieroglyphs.

To draw Lillian's name in Mayan hieroglyphs, I started with the Mayan phrase for daughter: ixik ch'ok ('i-xi-ki ch'o-ko), which literally translated means "Female Youngster" or "Female Emergent One".[9] Because Lillian is a girl she must have T1000b at the beginning of her name. And, as a bonus, that gives us the syllables i- and -xi-. For the -ki I chose T102 (and for fun I embedded the Mayan flyph for the number 7, TVII). For the second part I found a glyph that combined T287 (ch'o-) and T110 (-ko): T287:nn. That gave us the first glyph of Lillian's name.

For the second glyph I incorporated two words: "lily" and the closest I could come up with for "oath". The Mayan word for "(water) lily" is nab' (spelled na-b'a or na-b'i).[10] I used T4 for the na syllable. For the b'a syllable I chose T501 because 1. it actually depicts a water lily and 2. because the syllable b'a by itself also means "first", which is appropriate since Lillian is our first child. The result is similar to T23:585a. The Mayan–English dictionary didn't have a translation for the word "oath", so I chose the word tzik- (tzi-ka), which means "to honor", "to sanctify", or "to venerate". For tzi- I chose T507b and for -ka I chose T203. Since the T501 in nab' and the T507b in tzik- are really similar, I decided to combine the two glyphs into one.

That left a glyph for the Mayan word for God: kuh (k'u-hu) (T604v:T740v) Since that glyph didn't fill up a square nicely by itself, I went ahead and threw in two copies of T83 since that syllable (li-) appears twice in Lillian's name.[11] As far as her Mayan name goes, though, these will be "silent".

And this is the final result:

The meaning would be "Flower-like Daughter Who Honors God"—my sweet baby girl!


[1] Others can be seen at Part I, Part II, Part III, and Part IV.

[2] See my post Unexpected Delivery.

[3] See Interestingly, Lillian has a cousin (who we expected to be born before her) named Lizzie, another nickname for Elizabeth.

[4] See Note that the two symbols ' and ` represent Hebrew sounds, not quotation marks, and recall that Hebrew is read from right to left.

[5] See

[6] See and This has to do with the fact that the number seven was a sacred number to the ancient Hebrews, so an oath (shaba`) was confirmed by  seven (sheba`) sacrifices (e.g. as in Gen. 21:27–31). The number seven is also where we get the word שַׁבָּת (shabbath), which means "Sabbath Day" or "rest".

[7] See

[8] In fact, every human being that has ever lived, is living, or ever will live is a son or daughter of God. To learn more, see here and here.

[9] The Mayan–English dictionary I'm using is available at Note that it's a .pdf.

[10] nab' can also mean "pool" or "lake".
       Remember that I'm using John Montgomery's drawings, which are available here. This link includes both a syllabary (where you can see the different syllable hieroglyphs) and a dictionary (where you can see actual words constructed using hieroglyphs).
       You can also find overlapping, but non-identical sets of Mayan hieroglyphi in this .pdf, in this .pdf, or at this website (scroll down to Step 3 and follow the links).

[11] That symbol also appears in Leann's hieroglyph and in mine.

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