Definition of Olmec in English:



  • 1A member of a prehistoric people inhabiting the coast of Veracruz and western Tabasco on the Gulf of Mexico (c.1200–400 BC), who established what was probably the first developed civilization of Meso-America.

    • ‘The Olmecs believed Coatl to be a ‘sacred… refuge, the creative womb from which all things were born and to which all things returned… The destiny of humankind is to be devoured by the Serpent’.’
    • ‘The painting is figured with masted boats, an Uruguayan flag, a pyramid, a village hut and an Olmec head, an icon of South American native cultures.’
    • ‘The approach also helps suggest links across time and place - between bog peoples of Europe or of New Guinea, the Olmecs practising agriculture in swampy Mesoamerica and those enjoined by Mussolini to drain the Pripet Marshes.’
    • ‘Raised by my grandmother, I received the benefit of learning her spiritual path, which she had learned from her own Bruja mother, and this spirituality traced back through the Yaquis to the Aztecs and Olmecs of northern and central Mexico.’
    • ‘I studied a little pre-Columbian art and architecture (Central / South America before Columbus invaded, basically Atzecs, Incas, Olmecs etc).’
    • ‘Highly developed cultures, including those of the Olmecs, Mayas, Toltecs, and Aztecs existed long before the Spanish conquest.’
    • ‘As Rivard writes: ‘Many of Mexico's ancient peoples, such as the Olmecs and the Aztecs, have disappeared, declined or assimilated.’’
    • ‘Most of the artifacts date to around 1200 to 900 B.C., when the Olmecs were at the height of their influence.’
    • ‘In fact, these prehistoric Olmec Indians prized chocolate so much that they buried a pot of it with dead dignitaries, to get them through the arduous journey to the next life.’
    • ‘Archaeologists have split sharply over how much influence the Olmecs had on contemporary and subsequent Mesoamerican cultures.’
    • ‘Anderson's study is not confined to contemporary cultures; the Aztecs, for example, admired and collected the art of their predecessors, the Toltecs and Olmecs.’
    • ‘The Olmecs were the first people known to use cocoa, which grew wild in Central America as far back as 2000 BC.’
    • ‘The archaeological evidence suggested that rather than developing slowly and painfully, as is normal with human societies, the civilization of Ancient Egypt, like that of the Olmecs, emerged all at once and fully formed.’
    • ‘Somehow they are connecting these West Africans to the Olmecs, and are saying there is linguistic, archaeological and other evidence to support the connection.’
    • ‘We think the writing was developed by the Olmecs and then adopted later by the Mayans.’
    • ‘Highlights of the exhibit include tiny jade carvings depicting Olmec ballplayer kings, stone monuments depicting ballgame sacrifice and ring-shaped stone goals that once stood in Aztec courts.’
    • ‘The Maya, Olmecs, Toltecs, and Aztecs built cities and pyramids.’
    • ‘Besides the key Olmec settlements at San Lorenzo and La Venta, evidence of ‘Olmec-style’ imagery and design is reflected in pottery at other contemporary sites.’
    • ‘He writes, ‘Engineers, farmers, artisans, and traders, the Olmecs had a remarkable civilization.’’
    • ‘In addition, they passed some of their mathematical/calendrical traditions down to the Olmecs, who passed them to the Mayans, who passed them to the Aztecs - becoming further diluted on each link.’
  • 2A people living in the same general area as the prehistoric Olmec during the 15th and 16th centuries.

    • ‘The students began by researching, through books and slides, the ‘big head’ sculptures of the Olmec people of ancient Mexico.’
    • ‘I wonder if this means that the Olmec likely developed proto-writing that would precede the writing that has been found?’
    • ‘Most likely, the Olmec people, who once lived along the Gulf of Mexico, created the tablet, the researchers say.’
    • ‘She also provides a critique of why Olmec and Maya art have been so readily accepted by Western collectors an d art patrons while Teotihuacan leaves them cold.’
    • ‘Archaeological evidence indicates that the jicama was grown by all the major early Mesoamerican civilizations, including the Olmec, Maya, Toltec, and Aztec.’


From Nahuatl Olmecatl, (plural) Olmeca, literally ‘inhabitants of the rubber country’.