Was reading The Snow Leopard by Peter Matthiessen and there was a map that showed a mountain named “Machhapuchare”. So close to Machu Picchu that it made me stop and think. I have found that Andean and Tibetan peoples have similar physical features but had not, until seeing this notation, thought of linguistic connections. Where can I find more information. Thank you

  • 4
    Postulating anything based on a single sample is hard to take seriously.
    – tripleee
    Commented Apr 23, 2018 at 5:14
  • 1
    Same with the Chilean volcano Corcovado and the Romanian mountain Cucurbata. Corcovado means "hunchback", I don't know what Cucurbata means but I'll bet is unrelated, though in this case they both come from Romance languages.
    – betelgeuse
    Commented Apr 28, 2018 at 0:51
  • I don't know what Cucurbata means in Romanian either, but cucurbita is Latin for 'gourd'.
    – jlawler
    Commented May 17, 2018 at 2:04

2 Answers 2


Machu Picchu, from machu pikchu, means "old peak" in Quechua, whereas Macha-puchare from Nepali माछापुच्छ्रे (माछा "fish" + पुच्छर "tail") means "fishtail" (describing the double peak at the summit). Coincidentally, both words are applied to mountains. There is no evidence of genetic relationship between Tibetan and Quechua (or Aymara, which would however be irrelevant to Machu Picchu). Tibetan is one branch of the Sino-Tibetan phylum, and Quechua is a completely separate language group. The standard disclaimer is that we can't know that the languages are unrelated, we can just fail to have evidence that they are related. Moreover, the name of Machapuchare is Nepali, not Tibetan, and Nepali is an Indo-European language (as are Hindi, Greek and English). There is also no evidence for a linguistic connection between Indo-European and Quechua.

The morphological feature I think you're referring to regarding Tibetans and Andeans is the nose (long and narrow), which is actually environmentally influenced, in that cold dry climates encourage such noses. The relevant genes seem to be DCHS2, RUNX2, GLI3 and PAX1, but it's more complicated. This article has some discussion of facial morphology.


Superficial similarity is a very lousy index of etymological relation.

For intance, take these two pairs of English/Portuguese words:

Have / haver

Knee / joelho

Obviously the former two must be related, while the latter two must bear no kinship at all, right?

Wrong. Have/haver is a coincidence; words that begin by an "h" in germanic languages correspond to words that begin by /k/ in Latin and its descent (horn/cornu-, for instance). The Portuguese cognate of "have" is quite probably "caber".

On the other hand, "joelho" is from the Latin diminutive for knee, "genuculum" (with the initial /g/ becoming "soft", as usual in Romance languages (because most descend from vulgar Latin, in which that had already happened - /ʒenukulu/, probably later /ʒenuklu/ instead of Classic /genukulum/), the final "culum" becoming "lho" (/ʒenuʎu/, perhaps later /ʒenoʎo/), as in "pediculum" -> "piolho" in Iberic Romance (contrast Italian "pidocchio", where the /k/ sound is kept), the "n" going away in Galician-Portuguese/Old Portuguese (perhaps /ʒeuʎo/, later certainly /ʒeoʎo/) as in "general" -> "geral" (contrast Spanish "general", where the /n/ is preserved), and for some reason "jeolho" morphing into "joelho" (/ʒoeʎo/, later /ʒoeʎu/ or /ʒueʎu/ in Modern Portuguese)). If you look at the non-diminutive Latin word, "genu", and bear in mind that in Classic Latin "g" always sounded as /g/ (and that that "k" in "knee" must have been pronounced at some point in history - probably up to early Modern English), you will notice the similarity.


Indeed, it could be said that Machhapuchare is too close to Machu Picchu for any actual relation to be possible. Portuguese and Latin are separated by 1,500 years, during which /genukulum/ became /ʒueʎu/ in Modern Portuguese (and only morphing into /ʒenukulum/ into Ecclesiastic Latin, because it is practically a congealed, written-only language). Tibetan and Andean languages are separated by at least a tenfold lapse of time, during which both, being non-written languages for the most part of the time, must have changed much more wildly. There is no way that any word would be recognisable after so long. It must be a coincidence, or either a loan - but then we would have to demonstrate that there was contact via Bhering or via Polinesian islands, which is contrary to known facts (and is unlikely since there are several unrelated languages geographically in-between, such as Eskimo-Aleut and Uto-Aztecan, or Polinesian).

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