Totopo may also refer to triangular fried tortillas (totopos de maiz). When the whole round tortilla is baked or fried it is generally known as a tostada.
An important feature of the baking and salting process is preservation, to prevent the decomposition of the corn and growth of mold, regular tortillas generally need to be eaten the same day as they are made (or stored cold) due to the moisture content, whereas totopos may be stored for future consumption, in the same manner as dry crackers.
In some cases, fried tortilla chips commercially made in the United States are labeled as or referred to as totopos although they are not made in the manner of the Oaxacan totopo.
The name, totopo, comes from the Aztec (or Nahuatl) tlaxcaltotopochtl. This name is a compound of the word for a tortilla, tlaxcalli, plus the word for thunder. The combination means approximately tortillas that are noisy to chew.