Word of the Month: Cenote

David Zapatka

Reading in the Quest magazine recently, I came across the word cenote.

Cenote—si-ˈnō-tē noun: a natural pit or deep sinkhole in limestone resulting from the collapse of limestone bedrock that exposes groundwater underneath with a pool at the bottom that is found especially in the Yucatán Peninsula.

Origin and Etymology—Mexican Spanish, from Yucatec ts’onot

First Known Use—1841, in the meaning defined above.

Cenote used in a sentence.

There are at least 6,000 cenotes in the Yucatán Peninsula of Mexico. Cenote water is often very clear, as the water comes from rain water filtering slowly through the ground and therefore contains very little suspended particulate matter. The groundwater flow rate within a cenote may be very slow.

Cenote in the news.

In the first photo, the actress is seen standing inside a cenote, with clear blue water up to her thighs.—Rosa Sanchez, Harper’s BAZAAR, 5 Apr. 2023

Geologically speaking, Mexico’s cenotes are entry points to the Yucatán Peninsula’s uniquely shallow and vital aquifer.—Tree Meinch, Discover Magazine, 15 Feb. 2023

Gran Cenote Elijah-Lovkoff No trip to Tulum is complete without visiting one of its many cenotes.—Leah Romero, ELLE, 10 Mar. 2023

As recently as 2015, a previously unknown cenote was discovered underneath the famous Maya temple pyramid at Chichén Itzá.—Tree Meinch, Discover Magazine, 15 Feb. 2023

Expect cooking classes, a private Temazcal (sweat lodge) ceremony, dinner for you and your sweetheart at a cenote and more.—Perri Ormont Blumberg, Travel + Leisure, 27 Jan. 2023

Cenotes have been in the news of late as those searching for self-awareness and inner peace are finding these locations to have significant value in their quest. Here is an excerpt from a story I recently read.

“An underwater photographer has found five fresh water cenotes, or natural sinkholes, in the depths of the Caribbean Sea off the coast of Quintana Roo.

Cenotes are common on the Yucatán Peninsula but before Friscione’s discoveries none had been discovered beneath the surface of the sea.

‘It was an infinite hollow,’ he said, adding that the colder temperature of the water made him realize that he was diving in a mix of fresh water and salt water.

It is possible that the limestone structures were dry caves thousands of years ago before becoming water-filled cenotes, said Guillermo de Anda, an underwater archaeologist currently working to obtain the necessary equipment to carry out a more extensive exploration of the first of the five cenotes discovered by Friscione.

News of the discovery of the five marine cenotes comes six weeks after a sinkhole that opened up on the highway between Playa del Carmen and Tulum exposed a large water-flooded cave with conduits that allow water from the Caribbean Sea to flow into it.” (Courtesy News Agency EFE)

Is there a visit to a cenote in your future? Please submit your experiences or any word you may like to share, along with your insights and comments, to [email protected].