Shot of tequila with lime slice
The Mysterious Origins Behind The Word Tequila
By C.A. Pinkham
The word "tequila" remains an enigma, as there's no unanimous agreement on what it means. While the drink's origin is common knowledge, the meaning of the word itself is unclear.
The drink originated in Tequila, a small town in Jalisco, Mexico. It is made from the hearts of the agave plant and was first distilled in the 18th century.
Since the Nahuatl are the original natives of the Jalisco region, tequila could be a combination of the words "tequitl" (meaning "work" or a "task") and "tlan" (meaning "place").
This suggests that tequila essentially means "place of work," which is descriptive but absurd. Other sources think it means "the rock that cuts," which is still a bit confusing.
Still, others think the word translates to "the place of wild herbs," "the place of harvesting plants," or "the place where they cut" — all of which give quite distinct meanings.
Tequila is a mezcal, a Nahuatl word for all agave-distilled spirits meaning "oven-cooked agave." But not all mezcal is tequila, so even this meaning can't be associated to tequila.