When it comes to spelling Peru’s most popular Inca site, we’ve seen it all – Machu Picchu with two c’s, Machu Pichu with one c, Machupicchu as one word… The list goes on. How has it come to be that a world wonder such as this one has so many misspellings and which one is actually the correct one? It’s a question we’ve been pondering for some time and one that we’ve decided to finally get to the bottom of. As you’ll likely be including a trip or trek to Machu Picchu on your Peru vacation, perhaps you’re as curious as we are about the topic.
Let’s begin with how not to spell Machu Picchu and why these misspellings have found their way into the mix.
It’s not Machupicchu
Not helping matters in the slightest, the town at the base of the citadel is confusingly titled Machupicchu Pueblo (also known as Aguas Calientes), adding yet another incorrect spelling to the long list of how to spell Machu Picchu, the attraction, wrong. Seriously! You can even snap a selfie in front of the “Bienvenidos a Machupicchu” sign in the town’s main square.
It’s not Machu Pitchu
Yes, this is probably how you’d want to spell Machu Picchu if you were spelling it phonetically. Nevertheless, Machu Pitchu is not the correct spelling. In fact, it’s not even technically the correct pronunciation. According to the BBC’s Pronunciation Unit, the proper way to pronounce Machu Picchu is “MATCH-oo PEEK-choo.” During your tour of Peru, you may actually hear more than a few locals, especially around Cusco, using this pronunciation. The Spanish pronunciation – “MATCH-oo PEE-choo” – has incorrectly caught on with the masses.
It is Machu Picchu. Here’s why.
As you may or may not know, the language of the Incas was Quechua, a language that is still widely spoken throughout much of the Peruvian Andes today. Many of the ancient sites that travelers frequent on their Peruvian holidays are still referred to by their Quechua and Inca-christened names. Each element of the name has a very specific meaning rooted in Quechua. Machu Picchu is no exception.
While we’ve found no records of “pitchu,” “matchu” or “macchu” in the Quechua language, “machu” and “picchu” do happen to exist. In Quechua, “machu” means old and “picchu” means peak or mountain. Bingo!
There you have it! The correct way to spell everyone’s favorite Peruvian world wonder is Machu Picchu. May you go forth correctly spelling Machu Picchu all over your Peru travel diary, Peru trip updates on social media, and throughout your email correspondence with your personal Kuoda Travel Designer.
Contact us today to being planning your custom holiday in Peru, Machu Picchu included.