Egyptian language was spoken in ancient
Egypt and was a branch of
the Afro-Asiatic languages. Its attestation stretches over an
extraordinarily long time, from the
Old Egyptian stage (mid-3rd
millennium BC, Old Kingdom of Egypt). Its earliest known complete
written sentence has been dated to about 2690 BC, which makes it one
of the oldest recorded languages known, along with Sumerian.
Its classical form is known as Middle Egyptian, the vernacular of the
Middle Kingdom of Egypt
Middle Kingdom of Egypt which remained the literary language of Egypt
until the Roman period. The spoken language evolved into Demotic by
the time of Classical Antiquity, and finally into Coptic by the time
of Christianisation. Spoken Coptic was almost extinct by the 17th
century, but it remains in use as the liturgical language of the
Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria.
2.1 Old Egyptian
2.2 Middle Egyptian
2.3 Late Egyptian
2.4 Demotic and Coptic
5.5 Egyptological pronunciation
9 See also
13.4 Online dictionaries
14 External links
Egyptian language belongs to the
Afroasiatic language family.
Among the typological features of Egyptian that are typically
Afroasiatic are its fusional morphology, nonconcatenative morphology,
a series of emphatic consonants, a three-vowel system /a i u/, nominal
feminine suffix *-at, nominal m-, adjectival *-ī and characteristic
personal verbal affixes. Of the other
Egyptian shows its greatest affinities with Semitic and, to a lesser
In Egyptian, the Proto-
Afroasiatic voiced consonants */d z ð/
developed into pharyngeal ⟨ꜥ⟩ /ʕ/: ꜥr.t 'portal', Semitic
Afroasiatic */l/ merged with Egyptian ⟨n⟩,
⟨r⟩, ⟨ꜣ⟩, and ⟨j⟩ in the dialect on which the written
language was based, but it was preserved in other Egyptian
varieties. Original */k g ḳ/ palatalise to ⟨ṯ j ḏ⟩ in
some environments and are preserved as ⟨k g q⟩ in others.
Egyptian language has many biradical and perhaps monoradical
roots, in contrast to the Semitic preference for triradical roots.
Egyptian is probably more conservative, and Semitic likely underwent
later regularizations converting roots into the triradical pattern.
Although Egyptian is the oldest
Afroasiatic language documented in
written form, its morphological repertoire is very different from that
of the rest of the Afroasiatic, in general, and Semitic, in
particular. There are multiple possibilities: Egyptian had already
undergone radical changes from Proto-
Afroasiatic before it was
Afroasiatic family has so far been studied with an
excessively Semito-centric approach, or, as G. W. Tsereteli suggests,
Afroasiatic is an allogenetic rather than a genetic group of
Egyptian language is conventionally grouped into six major
Archaic Egyptian (before 2600 BC), the reconstructed language of the
Early Dynastic Period,
Old Egyptian (c. 2600 – 2000 BC), the language of the Old Kingdom,
Middle Egyptian (c. 2000 – 1350 BC), the language of the Middle
Kingdom to early New Kingdom) and continuing on as a literary language
into the 4th century,
Late Egyptian (c. 1350 – 700 BC),
Amarna period to Third
Demotic (c. 700 BC – AD 400), the vernacular of the Late Period,
Ptolemaic and early Roman Egypt,
Coptic (after c. 200 CE), the vernacular at the time of
Christianisation, and liturgical language of Egyptian Christianity.
Old, Middle, and
Late Egyptian were all written using both the
hieroglyphic and hieratic scripts. Demotic is the name of the script
derived from hieratic beginning in the 7th century BC. The Coptic
alphabet is the use of the
Greek alphabet adapted for Egyptian
phonology, first developed in the Ptolemaic period, and gradually
replacing the use of the
Demotic script in about the 4th to 5th
Diagram showing the use of the various lects of Egyptian by time
period and linguistic register.
Seal impression from the tomb of Seth-Peribsen, containing the oldest
known complete sentence in Egyptian
The term "Archaic Egyptian" is sometimes reserved for the earliest use
of hieroglyphs, during the late 4th to early 3rd millennia BC. At the
earliest stage, around 3300 BC; hieroglyphs were not a fully
developed writing system, being at a transitional stage of
proto-writing; over time the time leading up to the 27th century BC,
grammatical features such as nisba formation can be seen to
Old Egyptian is dated from the oldest known complete sentence,
including a finite verb, found in the tomb of
Seth-Peribsen (dated c.
2690 BC). It reads:
"He has united the Two Lands for his son, Dual King Peribsen."
Extensive texts appear from about 2600 BC. The
Pyramid Texts are
the largest body of literature written in this phase of the language.
One of its distinguishing characteristics is the tripling of
ideograms, phonograms, and determinatives to indicate the plural.
Overall, it does not differ significantly from Middle Egyptian, the
classical stage of the language, though it is based on a different
Middle Egyptian was spoken from about 2000 BC for a further 700 years,
Late Egyptian made its appearance. In writing, it makes use of
around 900 hieroglyphs.
Middle Egyptian is not descended directly from
Old Egyptian, which was based on a different dialect.
Middle Egyptian stage is taken to have ended around the 14th
century BC, giving rise to Late Egyptian. This transition was taking
place in the later period of the
Eighteenth Dynasty of Egypt
Eighteenth Dynasty of Egypt (known as
the Amarna Period).
Middle Egyptian was retained as a literary
standard language, and in this usage survived until the
Roman Egypt in the 4th century CE.
As the classical variant of Egyptian,
Middle Egyptian is the
best-documented variety of the language, and has attracted the most
attention by far from Egyptology. Whilst most
Middle Egyptian is seen
written on monuments by hieroglyphs, it is also written using a
cursive variant, and the related hieratic.
Middle Egyptian first became available to modern scholarship with the
decipherment of hieroglyphs in the early 19th century. The first
Middle Egyptian was published by
Adolf Erman 1894,
surpassed in 1927 by Alan Gardiner's work.
Middle Egyptian has been
well-understood since then, although certain points of the verbal
inflection remained open to revision until the mid-20th century,
notably due to the contributions of Hans Jakob Polotsky.
Late Egyptian is represented by a large body of religious and secular
literature, comprising such examples as the Story of Wenamun, the love
poems of the Chester–Beatty I papyrus, and the Instruction of Any.
Instructions became a popular literary genre of the New Kingdom, which
took the form of advice on proper behavior.
Late Egyptian was also the
language of New Kingdom administration.
The Bible contains some words, terms and names that are thought by
scholars to be Egyptian in origin. An example of this is
Zaphnath-Paaneah, the Egyptian name given to Joseph.
Demotic and Coptic
Third-century Coptic inscription
Demotic is the name given to the Egyptian vernacular of the Late and
Ptolemaic periods. It was written in the Demotic script, derived from
a northern variety of hieratic writing.
Coptic is the name given to the stage of the language at the time of
Christianisation. It survived into the medieval period, but by the
16th century was dwindling rapidly due to the persecution of Coptic
Christians under the Mamluks. It probably survived in the Egyptian
countryside as a spoken language for several centuries after that.
Coptic survives as the liturgical language of the Coptic Orthodox
Church of Alexandria and the Coptic Catholic Church.
Pre-Coptic Egyptian does not show great dialectal differences in the
written language because of the centralised nature of Egyptian
society. However, differences must have existed in speech
because a letter from c. 1200 BC complains that the language of a
correspondent is as unintelligible as the speech of a northern
Egyptian to a southerner.
Recently, some evidence of internal dialects has been found in pairs
of similar words in Egyptian that, based on similarities with later
dialects of Coptic, may be derived from northern and southern dialects
of Egyptian. Written Coptic has five major dialects, which differ
mainly in graphic conventions, most notably the southern Saidic
dialect, the main classical dialect, and the northern Bohairic
dialect, currently used in Coptic Church services.
Main article: Egyptian hieroglyphs
Most surviving texts in the
Egyptian language are written on stone in
hieroglyphs. The native name for Egyptian hieroglyphic writing is
zẖꜣ n mdw-nṯr ("writing of the gods' words").
However, in antiquity, most texts were written on perishable papyrus
in hieratic and (later) demotic, which are now lost. There was also a
form of cursive hieroglyphs, used for religious documents on papyrus,
such as the
Book of the Dead
Book of the Dead of the Twentieth Dynasty; it was simpler
to write than the hieroglyphs in stone inscriptions, but it was not as
cursive as hieratic and lacked the wide use of ligatures.
Additionally, there was a variety of stone-cut hieratic, known as
"lapidary hieratic". In the language's final stage of development, the
Coptic alphabet replaced the older writing system.
Hieroglyphs are employed in two ways in Egyptian texts: as ideograms
to represent the idea depicted by the pictures and, more commonly, as
phonograms to represent their phonetic value.
As the phonetic realisation of Egyptian cannot be known with
certainty, Egyptologists use a system of transliteration to denote
each sound that could be represented by a uniliteral hieroglyph.
Further information: Transliteration of Ancient Egyptian
While the consonantal phonology of the
Egyptian language may be
reconstructed, the exact phonetics are unknown, and there are varying
opinions on how to classify the individual phonemes. In addition,
because Egyptian is recorded over a full 2000 years, the Archaic and
Late stages being separated by the amount of time that separates Old
Latin from Modern Italian, significant phonetic changes must have
occurred during that lengthy time frame.
Phonologically, Egyptian contrasted labial, alveolar, palatal, velar,
uvular, pharyngeal, and glottal consonants in a distribution rather
similar to that of Arabic. Egyptian also contrasted voiceless and
emphatic consonants,[clarification needed] as with other Afroasiatic
languages, but exactly how the emphatic consonants were realised is
unknown. Early research had assumed that the opposition in stops was
one of voicing, but it is now thought to be either one of tenuis and
emphatic consonants, as in many Semitic languages, or one of aspirated
and ejective consonants, as in many Cushitic languages.
Since vowels were not written until Coptic, reconstructions of the
Egyptian vowel system are much more uncertain and rely mainly on
evidence from Coptic and records of Egyptian words, especially proper
nouns, in other languages/writing systems. Also, scribal errors
provide evidence of changes in pronunciation over time.
The actual pronunciations reconstructed by such means are used only by
a few specialists in the language. For all other purposes, the
Egyptological pronunciation is used, but it often bears little
resemblance to what is known of how Egyptian was pronounced.
The following consonants are reconstructed for Archaic (before 2600
Old Egyptian (2686–2181 BC), with IPA equivalents in square
brackets if they differ from the usual transcription scheme:
Early Egyptian consonants
ꜣ (ȝ) [ʁ]
ꜥ (ʿ) [ʕ]
*Possibly unvoiced ejectives.
/l/ has no independent representation in the hieroglyphic orthography,
and it is frequently written as if it were /n/ or /r/. That is
probably because the standard for written Egyptian is based on a
dialect in which /l/ had merged with other sonorants. Also, the
rare cases of /ʔ/ occurring are not represented. The phoneme /j/
is written as ⟨j⟩ in initial position (⟨jt⟩ = */ˈjaːtVj/
'father') and immediately after a stressed vowel (⟨bjn⟩ =
*/ˈbaːjin/ 'bad') and as ⟨jj⟩ word-medially immediately before a
stressed vowel (⟨ḫꜥjjk⟩ = */χaʕˈjak/ 'you will appear') and
are unmarked word-finally (⟨jt⟩ = /ˈjaːtVj/ 'father').
Middle Egyptian (2055–1650 BC), a number of consonantal shifts
take place. By the beginning of the Middle Kingdom period, /z/ and /s/
had merged, and the graphemes ⟨s⟩ and ⟨z⟩ are used
interchangeably. In addition, /j/ had become /ʔ/ word-initially
in an unstressed syllable (⟨jwn⟩ /jaˈwin/ > */ʔaˈwin/
"colour") and after a stressed vowel (⟨ḥjpw⟩ */ˈħujpvw/ >
/ˈħeʔp(vw)/ '[the god] Apis').
Late Egyptian (1069–700 BC), the phonemes d ḏ g gradually merge
with their counterparts t ṯ k (⟨dbn⟩ */ˈdiːban/ > Akkadian
transcription ti-ba-an 'dbn-weight'). Also, ṯ ḏ often become /t
d/, but they are retained in many lexemes; ꜣ becomes /ʔ/; and /t r
j w/ become /ʔ/ at the end of a stressed syllable and eventually null
word-finally: ⟨pḏ.t⟩ */ˈpiːɟat/ >
More changes occur in the 1st millennium BC and the first centuries
CE, leading to Coptic (1st–17th centuries CE). In Sahidic ẖ ḫ
ḥ had merged into ϣ š (most often from ḫ) and ϩ /h/ (most often
ẖ ḥ). Bohairic and Akhmimic are more conservative and have a
velar fricative /x/ (ϧ in Bohairic, ⳉ in Akhmimic). Pharyngeal
*ꜥ had merged into glottal /ʔ/ after it had affected the quality of
the surrounding vowels. /ʔ/ is not indicated orthographically
unless it follows a stressed vowel; then, it is marked by doubling the
vowel letter (except in Bohairic): Akhmimic ⳉⲟⲟⲡ /xoʔp/,
Sahidic and Lycopolitan ϣⲟⲟⲡ šoʔp, Bohairic ϣⲟⲡ šoʔp
'to be' < ḫpr.w */ˈχapraw/ 'has become'.[nb 1] The phoneme
ⲃ /b/ was probably pronounced as a fricative [β], becoming ⲡ /p/
after a stressed vowel in syllables that had been closed in earlier
Egyptian (compare ⲛⲟⲩⲃ < */ˈnaːbaw/ 'gold' and ⲧⲁⲡ
< */dib/ 'horn'). The phonemes /d g z/ occur only in Greek
loanwords, with rare exceptions triggered by a nearby /n/:
ⲁⲛⲍⲏⲃⲉ/ⲁⲛⲥⲏⲃⲉ < ꜥ.t n.t sbꜣ.w
This article contains Coptic text. Without proper rendering support,
you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Coptic
Earlier *d ḏ g q are preserved as ejective t' c' k' k' before vowels
in Coptic. Although the same graphemes are used for the pulmonic
stops (⟨ⲧ ϫ ⲕ⟩), the existence of the former may be inferred
because the stops ⟨ⲡ ⲧ ϫ ⲕ⟩ /p t c k/ are allophonically
aspirated [pʰ tʰ cʰ kʰ] before stressed vowels and sonorant
consonants. In Bohairic, the allophones are written with the
special graphemes ⟨ⲫ ⲑ ϭ ⲭ⟩, but other dialects did not
mark aspiration: Sahidic ⲡⲣⲏ, Bohairic ⲫⲣⲏ 'the
Thus, Bohairic does not mark aspiration for reflexes of older *d ḏ g
q: Sahidic and Bohairic ⲧⲁⲡ */dib/ 'horn'. Also, the
definite article ⲡ is unaspirated when the next word begins with a
glottal stop: Bohairic ⲡ + ⲱⲡ > ⲡⲱⲡ 'the account'.
The consonant system of Coptic is as follows:
*Various orthographic representations; see above.
Here is the vowel system reconstructed for earlier Egyptian:
Earlier Egyptian vowel system
Vowels are always short in unstressed syllables (⟨tpj⟩ =
*/taˈpij/ 'first') and long in open stressed syllables (⟨rmṯ⟩ =
*/ˈraːmac/ 'man'), they but can be either short or long in closed
stressed syllables (⟨jnn⟩ = */jaˈnan/ 'we', ⟨mn⟩ = */maːn/
In the Late New Kingdom, after Ramses II, around 1200 BC, */ˈaː/
changes to */ˈoː/ (like the Canaanite shift), ⟨ḥrw⟩ '(the god)
Horus' */ħaːra/ > */ħoːrə/ (
-ḫuru). */uː/, therefore, changes to */eː/: ⟨šnj⟩
'tree' */ʃuːn(?)j/ > */ʃeːnə/ (
In the Early New Kingdom, short stressed */ˈi/ changes to */ˈe/:
⟨mnj⟩ "Menes" */maˈnij/ > */maˈneʔ/ (
ma-né-e). Later, probably 1000–800 BC, a short stressed */ˈu/
changes to */ˈe/: ⟨ḏꜥn.t⟩ "Tanis" */ˈɟuʕnat/ was borrowed
into Hebrew as *ṣuʕn but would become transcribed as
⟨ṣe-e'-nu/ṣa-a'-nu⟩ during the Neo-Assyrian Empire.
Unstressed vowels, especially after a stress, become */ə/: ⟨nfr⟩
'good' */ˈnaːfir/ > */ˈnaːfə/ (
-na-a-pa). */iː/ changes to */eː/ next to /ʕ/ and /j/:
⟨wꜥw⟩ 'soldier' */wiːʕiw/ > */weːʕə/ (earlier Akkadian
transcription: ú-i-ú, later: ú-e-eḫ).
Egyptian vowel system c. 1000 BC
In Sahidic and Bohairic Coptic,
Late Egyptian stressed */ˈa/ becomes
*/ˈo/ and */ˈe/ becomes /ˈa/, but are unchanged in the other
dialects: ⟨sn⟩ */san/ 'brother' > Sahaidic and Bohairic
⟨son⟩, Akhminic, Lycopolitan and Fayyumic ⟨san⟩; ⟨rn⟩
'name' */rin/ > */ren/ > Sahaidic and Bohairic ⟨ran⟩,
Akhminic, Lycopolitan and Fayyumic ⟨ren⟩. However, Sahaidic
and Bohairic preserve */ˈa/, and Fayyumic renders it as ⟨e⟩ in
the presence of guttural fricatives: ⟨ḏbꜥ⟩ 'ten thousand'
*/ˈbaʕ/ > Sahaidic, Akhmimic and Lycopolitan ⟨tba⟩, Bohairic
⟨tʰba⟩, Fayyumic ⟨tbe⟩. In Akhmimic and Lycopolitan,
*/ˈa/ becomes /ˈo/ before etymological /ʕ, ʔ/: ⟨jtrw⟩ 'river'
*/ˈjatraw/ > */jaʔr(ə)/ > Sahaidic ⟨eioor(e)⟩, Bohairic
⟨ior⟩, Akhminic ⟨ioore, iôôre⟩, Fayyumic ⟨iaal,
iaar⟩. Similarly, the diphthongs */ˈaj/, */ˈaw/, which
normally have reflexes /ˈoj/, /ˈow/ in Sahidic and are preserved in
other dialects, are in Bohairic ⟨ôi⟩ (in non-final position) and
⟨ôou⟩ respectively: "to me, to them" Sahidic ⟨eroi, eroou⟩,
Akhminic and Lycopolitan ⟨arai, arau⟩, Fayyumic ⟨elai, elau⟩,
Bohairic ⟨eroi, erôou⟩. Sahidic and Bohairic preserve */ˈe/
before /ʔ/ (etymological or from lenited /t r j/ or tonic-syllable
coda /w/),: Sahidic and Bohairic ⟨ne⟩ /neʔ/ 'to you (fem.)' <
*/ˈnet/ < */ˈnic/. */e/ may also have different reflexes
before sonants, near sibilants and in diphthongs.
Old */aː/ surfaces as /uː/ after nasals and occasionally other
consonants: ⟨nṯr⟩ 'god' */ˈnaːcar/ > /ˈnuːte/ ⟨noute⟩
 /uː/ has acquired phonemic status, as is evidenced by minimal
pairs like 'to approach' ⟨hôn⟩ /hoːn/ < */ˈçaːnan/ ẖnn
vs. 'inside' ⟨houn⟩ /huːn/ < */ˈçaːnaw/ ẖnw. An
etymological */uː/ > */eː/ often surfaces as /iː/ next to /r/
and after etymological pharyngeals: ⟨hir⟩ < */χuːr/ 'street'
Most Coptic dialects have two phonemic vowels in unstressed
position. Unstressed vowels generally became /ə/, written as
⟨e⟩ or null (⟨i⟩ in Bohairic and Fayyumic word-finally), but
pretonic unstressed /a/ occurs as a reflex of earlier unstressed */e/
near an etymological pharyngeal, velar or sonorant ('to become many'
⟨ašai⟩ < ꜥšꜣ */ʕiˈʃiʀ/) or an unstressed */a/.
Pretonic [i] is underlyingly /əj/: Sahidic 'ibis' ⟨hibôi⟩ <
Thus, the following is the Sahidic vowel system c. 400 CE:
Sahidic vowel system circa 400 AD
Earlier Egyptian has the syllable structure CV(:)(C) in which V is
long in open stressed syllables and short elsewhere. In addition,
CV:C or CVCC can occur in word-final, stressed position. However,
CV:C occurs only in the infinitive of biconsonantal verbal roots, CVCC
only in some plurals.
In later Egyptian, stressed CV:C, CVCC, and CV become much more common
because of the loss of final dentals and glides.
Earlier Egyptian stresses one of the last two syllables. According
to some scholars, that is a development from a stage in Proto-Egyptian
in which the third-last syllable could be stressed, which was lost as
open posttonic syllables lost their vowels: */ˈχupiraw/ >
This article may require cleanup to meet's quality
standards. The specific problem is: By the text, translitered Egyptian
Rꜥ-ms-sw would give English transcription Rɑmɛssu or put simplier
Ramessu and not Ramesses. Ramesses (probably) isn't an English
transcription of the Egyptian, but a name borrowed from Latin and
Greek. Thus "transcribed as "Ramesses"" doesn't fit. Please help
improve this article if you can. (January 2018) (Learn how and when to
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As a convention, Egyptologists make use of an "Egyptological
pronunciation" in English: the consonants are given fixed values, and
vowels are inserted according to essentially arbitrary rules. Two
consonants, alef and ayin, are generally pronounced /ɑː/. Yodh is
pronounced /iː/, w /uː/. Between other consonants, /ɛ/ is then
inserted. Thus, for example, the name of an Egyptian king is most
accurately transliterated as Rꜥ-ms-sw and transcribed as "Ramesses";
it means "Ra has Fashioned (literally, "Borne") Him".
In transcription, ⟨a⟩, ⟨i⟩, and ⟨u⟩ all represent
consonants; for example, the name
Tutankhamun (1341–1323 BC) was
written in Egyptian as twt-ꜥnḫ-ı͗mn.
Experts have assigned generic sounds to these values as a matter of
convenience, which is an artificial pronunciation and should not be
mistaken for how Egyptian was ever pronounced at any time.
For example, the name twt-ꜥnḫ-ı͗mn is conventionally pronounced
/tuːtənˈkɑːmən/ in English, but, in his lifetime, it was likely
to be pronounced something like *[taˈwaːt ˈʕaːnxu
Egyptian is fairly typical for an
Afroasiatic language in that at the
heart of its vocabulary is most commonly a root of three consonants,
but there are sometimes only two consonants in the root: rꜥ(w)
[riːʕa] "sun" (the [ʕ] is thought to have been something like a
voiced pharyngeal fricative). Larger roots are also common and can
have up to five consonants: sḫdḫd "be upside-down".
Vowels and other consonants are added to the root to derive different
meanings, as Arabic, Hebrew, and other
Afroasiatic languages still do.
However, because vowels and sometimes glides are not written in any
Egyptian script except Coptic, it can be difficult to reconstruct the
actual forms of words. Thus, orthographic ⟨stp⟩ "to choose", for
example, can represent the stative (whose endings can be left
unexpressed), the imperfective forms or even a verbal noun ("a
Egyptian nouns can be masculine or feminine (the latter is indicated,
as with other
Afroasiatic languages, by adding a -t) and singular or
plural (-w / -wt), or dual (-wy / -ty).
Articles, both definite and indefinite, do not occur until Late
Egyptian but are used widely thereafter.
Egyptian has three different types of personal pronouns: suffix,
enclitic (called "dependent" by Egyptologists) and independent
pronouns. There are also a number of verbal endings added to the
infinitive to form the stative and are regarded by some linguists
as a "fourth" set of personal pronouns. They bear close resemblance to
their Semitic counterparts. The three main sets of personal pronouns
are as follows:
2nd sg. m.
2nd sg. f.
3rd sg. m.
3rd sg. f.
Demonstrative pronouns have separate masculine and feminine singular
forms and common plural forms for both genders:
this, that, these, those
this, that, these, those (archaic)
this, that, these, those (colloquial [earlier] & Late Egyptian)
Finally are interrogative pronouns.They bear a close resemblance to
their Semitic and Berber counterparts:
who / what
who / what
Independent & Dependent
Egyptian verbs have finite and non-finite forms.
Finite verbs convey person, tense/aspect, mood and voice. Each is
indicated by a set of affixal morphemes attached to the verb: the
basic conjugation is sḏm.f "he hears".
Non-finite verbs occur without a subject and are the infinitive, the
participles and the negative infinitive, which Egyptian Grammar: Being
an Introduction to the Study of Hieroglyphs calls "negatival
complement". There are two main tenses/aspects in Egyptian: past and
temporally-unmarked imperfective and aorist forms. The latter are
determined from their syntactic context.
Adjectives agree in gender and number with the nouns they modify: s
nfr "(the) good man" and st nfrt "(the) good woman".
Attributive adjectives in phrases are after the nouns they modify:
"(the) great god" (nṯr ꜥꜣ).
However, when they are used independently as a predicate in an
adjectival phrase, as "(the) god (is) great" (ꜥꜣ nṯr)
(literally, "great (is the) god"), adjectives precede the nouns they
Egyptian uses prepositions which, like in many Indo-European
languages, but unlike in English and other Germanic languages, always
come before the noun, never after.
"in, as, with, from"
Adverbs, in Egyptian, are at the end of a sentence: in zı͗.n nṯr
ı͗m "the god went there", "there" (ı͗m) is the adverb. Here are
some other common Egyptian adverbs:
"when" (lit. "what moment")
"how" (lit. "like-what")
"why" (lit. "for what")
Old Egyptian, Classical Egyptian and
Middle Egyptian have
verb-subject-object as the basic word order. However, that had changed
in the later stages of the language, including Late Egyptian, Demotic
The equivalent to "the man opens the door" would be a sentence that
would correspond, in the language's earlier stages, to "opens the man
the door" (wn s ꜥꜣ). The so-called status constructus combines two
or more nouns to express the genitive, like in Semitic and Berber
The early stages of Egyptian have no articles, but the later forms use
pꜣ, tꜣ and nꜣ. Like in other
Afroasiatic languages, Egyptian
uses two grammatical genders: masculine and feminine. It also uses
three grammatical numbers: singular, dual and plural. However, later
Egyptian has a tendency to lose the dual as a productive form.
Coptic language § Influence on other
Look up Category:English terms derived from Egyptian in Wiktionary,
the free dictionary.
Egyptian language survived into the early modern period in the
form of the Coptic language. The
Copts were heavily persecuted under
Islamic rule, especially under the Mamluk Sultanate, and Coptic
survived past the 16th century only as an isolated vernacular.
However, in antiquity, Egyptian exerted some influence on Classical
Greek, so that a number of Egyptian loanwords into Greek survive into
modern usage. Examples include ebony (Egyptian 𓍁𓈖𓏭𓆱 hbny,
via Greek and then Latin), ivory (Egyptian ꜣbw, literally 'ivory,
elephant'), natron (via Greek), lily (via Greek, from Coptic hlēri),
ibis (via Greek, from Egyptian hbj), oasis (via Greek, from Demotic
wḥj), perhaps barge (possibly from Greek baris "Egyptian boat", from
Coptic bari "small boat"), and possibly cat; and of course a
number of terms and proper names directly associated with Ancient
Egypt, such as pharaoh (Egyptian 𓉐𓉻 pr-ꜥꜣ, literally "great
house", transmitted via Hebrew and Greek). The name
Egypt itself is
etymologically identical to that of the Copts, ultimately from the
Late Egyptian name of Memphis, Hikuptah, a continuation of Middle
Egyptian ḥwt-kȝ-ptḥ "home of the ka (soul) of Ptah".
A number of words in
Biblical Hebrew are also traced to Egyptian;
apart from "Pharaoh", most of these have not entered Greek, Latin or
Ancient Egyptian literature
Transliteration of ancient Egyptian
^ There is evidence of Bohairic having a phonemic glottal stop:
^ In other dialects, the graphemes are used only for clusters of a
stop followed by /h/ and were not used for aspirates: see Loprieno
^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds.
(2017). "Egyptian (Ancient)".
Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck
Institute for the Science of Human History.
^ Allen, James Peter (2013). The Ancient Egyptian Language: An
Historical Study. Cambridge University Press. p. 2.
^ The language may have survived in isolated pockets in
Upper Egypt as
late as the 19th century, according to James Edward Quibell, "When did
Coptic become extinct?" in Zeitschrift für ägyptische Sprache und
Altertumskunde, 39 (1901), p. 87.
^ "Coptic language's last survivors". Daily Star Egypt, December 10,
^ a b Loprieno (1995:1)
^ Loprieno (1995:5)
^ a b c d Loprieno (1995:31)
^ a b Loprieno (1995:52)
^ a b Loprieno (1995:51)
^ Bard, Kathryn A.; Steven Blake Shubert (1999). Encyclopedia of the
Archaeology of Ancient Egypt. Routledge. p. 325.
^ Richard Mattessich, "Oldest writings, and inventory tags of Egypt",
Accounting Historians Journal, 2002, Vol. 29, no. 1, 195–208.
Richard Mattessich (2002). "The oldest writings, and inventory tags
of Egypt". Accounting Historians Journal. 29 (1): 195–208.
^ a b Allen, James P. (2003). The Ancient Egyptian Language. Cambridge
University Press. pp. 2–3. ISBN 978-1-107-66467-8.
^ Werning, Daniel A. (2008) “Aspect vs. Relative Tense, and the
Typological Classification of the Ancient Egyptian sḏm.n⸗f” in
Lingua Aegyptia 16, p. 289.
^ Allen, James Peter (2013). The Ancient Egyptian Language: An
Historical Study. Cambridge University Press. p. 2.
ISBN 978-1-107-03246-0. citing Jochem Kahl, Markus
Bretschneider, Frühägyptisches Wörterbuch, Part 1 (2002), p. 229.
^ H. J. Polotsky, Études de syntaxe copte Société d'Archéologie
Copte, Le Caire (1944); H. J. Polotsky, Egyptian Tenses, Israel
Academy of Sciences and Humanities. Vol. II, No. 5 (1965).
^ Loprieno, op.cit., p.7
^ Meyers, op.cit., p. 209
^ a b c Allen (2000:2)
^ a b c Loprieno (1995:8)
^ Satzinger (2008:10)
^ Allen (2000:13)
^ See Egyptian Phonology, by Carsten Peust, for a review of the
history of thinking on the subject; his reconstructions of words are
^ a b c d Loprieno (1995:33)
^ Loprieno (1995:34)
^ a b Loprieno (1995:35)
^ a b c d Loprieno (1995:38)
^ a b c d e Loprieno (1995:41)
^ a b c Loprieno (1995:46)
^ a b c d Loprieno (1995:42)
^ Loprieno (1995:43)
^ Loprieno (1995:40–42)
^ a b c d Loprieno (1995:36)
^ a b Allen, J. The Ancient Egyptian Language: An Historical Study,
^ a b c d e f Loprieno (1995:39)
^ a b c d e Loprieno (1995:47)
^ Loprieno (1995:47–48)
^ a b c d e Loprieno (1995:48)
^ a b Loprieno (1995:37)
^ Vycichl, W. Dictionnaire Étymologique de la Langue Copte, Leuven
1983, pp. 10, 224, 250
^ Vycichl, W. La vocalisation de la langue égyptienne, IFAO, Le Caire
(Cairo) (1990), p. 215
^ Fecht, G. Wortakzent und Silbenstruktur - Untersuchungen zur
Geschichte der ägyptischen Sprache, Glückstadt-Hamburg-New York
(1960), §§ 112 A. 194, 254 A. 395
^ Osing, J. Die Nominalbildung des Ägyptischen. Deutsches
archäologisches Institut, Abteilung Kairo (1976)
^ Schenkel, W. "Zur Rekonstruktion deverbalen Nominalbildung des
Ägyptischen", Harrasowitz, Wiesbaden. 1983, pp. 212, 214,247
^ Vergote, Jozef. "Grammaire Copte". Louvain : Peters, 1973-1983
^ Loprieno, A. Ancient Egyptian - A Linguistic Introduction, Cambridge
University Press (1995)
^ Loprieno 1995, p. 65
^ Often assumed to represent the precursor of Coptic ϣⲁⲩ (šau
"tomcat") suffixed with feminine -t, but some authorities dispute
this, e.g. John Huehnergard, "Qitta:
Arabic Cats", in: Classical
Arabic Humanities in Their Own Terms (2007).
^ Hoffmeier, James K (1 October 2007). "Rameses of the Exodus
narratives is the 13th B.C. Royal Ramesside Residence". Trinity
^ Benjamin J. Noonan, Egyptian Loanwords as Evidence for the
Authenticity of the Exodus and Wilderness Traditions
^ A possible exception is behemoth (of uncertain etymology, possibly
from a presumed *pꜣ-jḥ-mw "hippopotamus", but it may also be a
native Semitic word).
Allen, James P. (2000). Middle Egyptian: An Introduction to the
Language and Culture of Hieroglyphs. Cambridge University press.
Callender, John B. (1975). Middle Egyptian. Undena Publications.
Loprieno, Antonio (1995). Ancient Egyptian: A linguistic introduction.
Cambridge University press. ISBN 0-521-44384-9.
Satzinger, Helmut (2008). "What happened to the voiced consonants of
Egyptian?" (PDF). 2. Acts of the X International Congress of
Egyptologists. pp. 1537–1546.
Loprieno, Antonio, Ancient Egyptian: A Linguistic Introduction,
Cambridge University Press, 1995. ISBN 0-521-44384-9 (hbk)
ISBN 0-521-44849-2 (pbk)
Peust, Carsten, Egyptian phonology : an introduction to the
phonology of a dead language, Peust & Gutschmidt, 1999.
ISBN 3-933043-02-6 PDF
Vycichl, Werner, La vocalisation de la langue égyptienne, IFAO, Le
Caire (Cairo), 1990. ISBN 9782-7247-0096-1
Vergote, Jozef, "Problèmes de la «Nominalbildung» en égyptien",
Chronique d'Égypte 51 (1976), 261-285
Allen, James P., Middle Egyptian: An Introduction to the Language and
Culture of Hieroglyphs, first edition, Cambridge University Press,
1999. ISBN 0-521-65312-6 (hbk) ISBN 0-521-77483-7 (pbk)
Borghouts, Joris F., Egyptian: An Introduction to the Writing and
Language of the Middle Kingdom (2 vols.), Peeters, 2010.
ISBN 978-9-042-92294-5 (pbk, 2 vol. set)
Collier, Mark, and Manley, Bill, How to Read Egyptian
Hieroglyphs : A Step-by-Step Guide to Teach Yourself, British
Museum Press (ISBN 0-7141-1910-5) and University of California
Press (ISBN 0-520-21597-4), both in 1998.
Gardiner, Sir Alan H., Egyptian Grammar: Being an Introduction to the
Study of Hieroglyphs, Griffith Institute, Oxford, 3rd ed. 1957.
Hoch, James E.,
Middle Egyptian Grammar, Benben Publications,
Mississauga, 1997. ISBN 0-920168-12-4
Selden, Daniel L., Hieroglyphic Egyptian: An Introduction to the
Language and Literature of the Middle Kingdom, Univ. of California
Press, 2013. ISBN 978-0-520-27546-1 (hbk)
Adolf Erman, Hermann Grapow: Das Wörterbuch der ägyptischen Sprache,
Wiley-VCH Verlag GmbH, Berlin, 1992. ISBN 978-3050022642
(paperback), ISBN 978-3050022666 (reference vols 1-5)
Raymond O. Faulkner: A Concise Dictionary of Middle Egyptian, Griffith
Institute, Oxford, 1962. ISBN 0-900416-32-7 (hardback)
Leonard H. Lesko: A Dictionary of Late Egyptian, 2nd ed., 2 Vols.,
B.C. Scribe Publications, Providence, 2002 et 2004.
ISBN 0-930548-14-0 (vol.1), ISBN 0-930548-15-9 (vol. 2).
Shennum, *, English-Egyptian Index of Faulkner's Concise Dictionary of
Middle Egyptian, Undena Publications, 1977. ISBN 0-89003-054-5
Yvonne Bonnamy and Ashraf-Alexandre Sadek: Dictionnaire des
Hiérogriphes, Actes-sud:fr(www.actes-sud.fr), Arles, 2010.
Werner Vycichl: Dictionnaire Étymologique de la Langue Copte,
Peeters, Leuven, 1984. ISBN 2-8017-0197-1
The Beinlich Wordlist, an online searchable dictionary of ancient
Egyptian words (translations are in German)
Thesaurus Linguae Aegyptiae, an online service available from October
2004 which is associated with various German Egyptological projects,
including the monumental
Altägyptisches Wörterbuch of the
Berlin-Brandenburgische Akademie der Wissenschaften (Brandenburg
Academy of Sciences, Berlin, Germany).
Important Note: the old grammars and dictionaries of E. A. Wallis
Budge have long been considered obsolete by Egyptologists, even though
these books are still available for purchase.
More book information is available at Glyphs and Grammars
Egyptian language repository of Wikisource, the free library
Thesaurus Linguae Aegyptiae: Dictionary of the Egyptian language
The Pronunciation of Ancient Egyptian by Kelley L. Ross
The Egyptian connection: Egyptian and the
Semitic languages by Helmut
Ancient Egyptian Language Discussion List
Dictionnaire Étymologique de la Langue Copte by Werner Vycichl
Site containing direct translations from English to Egyptian
Ancient Egyptian in the wiki Glossing Ancient Languages
(recommendations for the Interlinear Morphemic Glossing of Ancient
Arabic (Varieties of Arabic)
Aramaic (Assyrian Neo-Aramaic)
Italics indicate extinct languages
Ancient Egypt topics
Glossary of artifacts
Architecture (Egyptian Revival architecture)
Great Royal Wives
Ancient Egypt portal
Ancient Egypt portal
Languages of Egypt
Siwi and others
Egyptian Sign Language
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