Quetzals – Guatemala’s resplendent national bird and one of the top scoring words going!

Last update: 3/3/2023

Signification of the word quetzals

Sometimes lady luck can shine upon us, delivering those precious tiles that you know can win any game. One of the greatest joys of Words With Friends® or Scrabble® is increasing not only your effectiveness but also your vocabulary and general knowledge. Our handy Word Generator may help you get the winning hand in a game, but it’s always nice to improve our understanding of the world at the same time. Enter ‘Pharomachrus mocinno’, or the Resplendent Quetzal.

This national bird of Guatemala is also one of this Latin American country's monetary units. A beautiful creature with vivid green plumage, the correct placement of its name on a board can be truly devastating. Building on one letter, use all seven letters on your rack for a 50-point bingo, with words with Q and S on triple word score squares and Z on a double letter score space. Points gained? An insane 374. Yes 374, an epic score for a bird with a particularly epic history.

Pretty as it may be, this member of the trogon family was long associated with the snake god Quetzalcoatl, a deity for the Pre-Columbian Mesoamerican. Its striking feathers caused the Mayan’s and Aztecs to view the quetzal as a “god of the air”, its coloring symbolizing plant growth and springtime. Despite using their feathers for ornate headdresses, such was their respect for this flying idol that it was a crime to kill a quetzal, instead opting to simply capture, pluck and release the bird.

During the Spanish conquest of the region, legend has it that the quetzal acted as a spirit guide for Tecún Umán, one of the last rulers of the K’iche’ Maya people. Fighting the forces of Pedro de Alvarado, it is said that after killing his foes’ horse, Tecun Uman returned for a second attacked but was mortally wounded when Alvarado’s himself thrust his spear into his opponent’s heart. The story goes that Tecún Umán’s nahual (animal spirit guide) landed on the fallen hero’s chest, staining its breast feathers red with blood. From this day on, all male quetzals have had a vivid rouge breast and no longer the ability to sing (more ing words) their song.

The quetzal remains a very important part of Guatemalan culture, and stands as a powerful symbol… not to mention a crushingly effective word to use when possible!