Definition of Olmec in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈälˌmek/ Pronunciation: /ˈōl-/

noun (plural same or Olmecs)

1A member of a prehistoric people inhabiting the coast of Veracruz and western Tabasco on the Gulf of Mexico (circa 1200–400 bc), who established what was probably the first Meso-American civilization.
Example sentences
  • He writes, ‘Engineers, farmers, artisans, and traders, the Olmecs had a remarkable civilization.’
  • 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.
2A people living in the same general area as the prehistoric Olmec during the 15th and 16th centuries.
Example sentences
  • Archaeological evidence indicates that the jicama was grown by all the major early Mesoamerican civilizations, including the Olmec, Maya, Toltec, and Aztec.
  • 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?


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

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: Ol·mec

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