Saturday, December 31, 2011

Ancient Egyptian Lexicon

Alice C. Linsley

The Egyptian writing system was a combination of phonetic and ideographic signs. Over different periods signs were drawn from different cultural experiences: Nubia, Kushite, etc.

Egyptian has both biconsonantal and triconsonantal signs.

Egyptian words are built of roots and affixes (prefixes, infixes and suffixes). Where a noun is immediately followed by another noun, the first noun serves as a descriptor (as in the English: police man, baby food).

Many adjective-noun phrases are bound constructions in which the two words cannot be separated. This is often employed in the description of individuals (as in English: smooth talker). In Middle Egyptian such phrases specify either a good or bad character trait or quality an individual.

Ancient Egyptian has nisba-adjectives, some of which are derived from propositions. The term "nisba" (meaning “relative”) is taken from Arabic grammar (’ismu-nisbati). In Egyptian nisba-adjectives are identified by the −j ending. Colors often have the nisba marker: blue - khesbedj; green - wadj

In Middle Egyptian the phrase jw wn speaks of existence - there is/there are (like the word "hay" in Spanish). The phrase nn wn speaks of nonexistence  - there is not/are not ("no hay..." in Spanish).

Many words represent a complex of related meaning. The word ˁnḫ is an example. It means live and it represents the ankh with its solar handle. The Sun was the emblem of the Creator Ra (Ani in Akkadian) and his son Horus (Enki in Akkadian). The father and son are associated with the Sun. In this image from Angkor Wat Horus as a falcon is perched on the mast of the solar boat.

What follows is an alphabetically arranged list of Egyptian words, roots and affixes. Not being an expert, there are likely some errors, but I hope that it will be helpful to students of Biblical Anthropology.


akhet – the horizon
akhu - fire (oku - Igbo)
ash - invocation (in Arabic ash means throne)

ba - ram or body/flesh
baar - sea
baty - the north  (cf: suten-baty – south and north)
bbbb (reduplication) - to pierce/kill
bd - month
bdt - gourd, bed of gourds
bnbn - swelling, pillar, mound
brk - to bless/blessing (cf. Hebrew barak means to bless/kneel and berakah means blessing)
bt - bee
bu - place, condition
bw - ivory

deshr - red
dhwty - scribe  (cf. Tahuti - a writer of signs; another name for Thoth)
djrt - hand (cf. djrt-ntr – hand of God)
dmi - town
dpt - ship
dpwt - ships
dr - to sift
dwa - tomorrow

eb - I want
edjo - cobra

feh - to go away (Yoruba feh - to blow away)

h - to stand up or arise
ha - after, behind
hb - festival
hekau - magician/ lector priests
hakhem or hakim - keeper of received wisdom
hen - eternal
het - front (cf. akhet – horizon)
hat - moment in time  (Bantu hatua – point time/space, pace walk/step, period of time)
henâ - together with
her / hr - over, above, upon
Hr - the One on high (Horus is one with the Father Râ)
hika - evil  (Yoruba ika - evil) 
hir - praise
horiwo - head
hpr - to come into being, to become
hprr - that which comes into being
hpry - deity with a scarab beetle for a head
hm  ntr - prophets
htm - to seal
hnn - phallus,  perhaps pronounced khenen (the kh is a guttural as in Hanukkah)
hy - gladness, happiness

i - to be
iaru - reeds
imy-wnwt - hour/sky watcher
imn - create
imw - woe
imy - who is in, which is in
imyw - interior, inside of
imytw - in the middle, in the midst of
ink - first person singular pronoun
inw - tribute
i’nw -  it is
i’pw - it is
irtiu - blue (also khesbedj - blue)
ir.t - eye (cf. Yoruba iri – to see)
irty - evil-doer
isw - weeds
iw - to come; is/are
iwnw (Iunu) - place of pillars (Heliopolis, Biblical On)
iwn - pillar

jb (jib) - heart

ka - spirit, soul or deified ruler
kar - shrine or temple (kar-nak - place of rituals)
kenit (khenet) - yellow
kham - cheating
khau - sieve
khem (kem) – black
khenty - before, in front of
khenen (hnn) – penis/phallus
khepesh - thigh
kheper - scarab beetle
khesbedj (also irtiu) – blue
khry - master, head man, leader
km - to bring to an end, to complete/fulfill  (Bantu koma – strength, force, power, lion)
kwa - east

mau - to see
me - unto, against
medu ntr - divine script, divine speech, hierogylphics
mer - love
myr - beloved
m - in, with, by, at the time of
mhn - coiled serpent (a solar image)
mhwt - clans
mm - among
‘m - mother   (cf. Northern Arabian ‘m - mother)
mo - water
mr - chisel (cf. Hebrew mr - spoken)
mr’t - woman
mdju ntjr - words of God (cf. djrt ntr - hand of God)
mj - like, according to, as well as
mw or nwy - water (mu)

n - and
nbt - ladyng - cattle
nak - ritual (such as circumcision and the removal of front teeth)
 ˁnḫ - live, ankh
nhh - eternity, to become as a star
nhn - shrine, Nekhen (City of Horus on the Nile)
nmhf - green stone
nofir - good
ntr /ntjr – deity/deified king (tr - blood, pure)
ntr anx - deified
ns - tongue
nu - fragile
nub - gold
nut - sky, waters above
nxb - sign for Upper Egypt/sedge
nxn - Onn (Iunu - place of pillars) or Heliopolis (Falcon-City of Horus of the South)
nwh - to intoxicate or be drunk
nwy - water

osa - tide

pd - duck, bird
phty - strength, power
pr - house or temple
pr-nfr - good house or house of rejuvenation
pr pn - this house
prw - houses  (cf. O-piru - Sun House, shrine or temple)
pshai - prophet
pt - sky

qma - bull rushes

R - Eye of Horus
Râ pw - It is Râ (Ra it is); or He is Râ
rahbo - vast
re - father of
rmt - person, human
rmy.t - tear
ro - to talk  (Yoruba ro – to think and Yoruba oro – word)
rsw - to make happy
rwd/rudj - ball, sphere, the Earth

sa - man
sah - ennobled
saakh - to illuminate, make bright
sba - star (may also mean door)
sbg - planet Mercury
sen - granary
shamsh - Sun
shesep (also hedj) – white
sheut (šwt) – shadow (origins of Hebrew "sheol")
s-shr, ssr, scr – linen
shni - to dwell
shu - wind
shwr - insult, reproach, disgrace
si - son
si-Re - Son of Re (also sometimes sa-Re)
sr.t - proclamation/pronouncement
ssr - corn/flax
ssn -  lotus plant
sm -  herb, plant
smr -  companion
snb -  to be healthy (Bantu simba – health)
snw - high social rank
sut/sutn - the south (cf. suten-baty – south and north)
su - reed
swnw - doctors

tà-k-ïo ra - to be drunk or to become drunk
taw - bread
tbb - crush, mash, shatter
tbw - sole of foot
tm - universe/totality/complete (Atum)
tm - verb of negation
tn - rise up, resurrection
tr - pure, blood  (Related: the Hebrew root thr = to be pure; the Hausa/Hahm toro = clean; the Amarigna (Ethiopia) anatara = pure; the Tamil tiru = holy, and the proto-Dravidian tor = blood. In some Kushitic languages mtoro means rain and toro refers to God.)
twn - to gore
twt - done

urshu - soldiers on watch (There may be a connection to Edomite Shasu.)

wabau - healer
wab sxmt (wab sekhmet) - physician priest
w'b.t - purification/place of purification
wadj - green
wakhz - wound
warih - moon
wbn - rising sun   (cf. bnbn – stone pillars, mounds, swelling)
wgs - cut open, gut (as fish); pluck feathers
wi - mummy
wmt - lintel
wnm - food
wrh - to anoint
wrq - green

zaw - guardian
zw - be harmful, dangerous
znbw - battlements
znt - hostile


E.A. Wallis Budge, An Egyptian Hieroglyphic Dictionary
Rainer Hannig, Grosses Handworterbuch Agyptisch-Deutsch
Raymond O. Faulkner, Middle Egyptian
Raymond O Faulkner, The Ancient Egyptian Pyramid Texts
Daniel L. Selden, Hieroglyphic Egyptian: An Introduction to the Language and Literature of the Middle Kingdom

Related reading: The Pronunciation of Ancient Egyptian; An Outline of Comparative Egypto-Semitic Morphology


  1. Hello, Alice!
    You might help me for a word I'm trying to translate. There is a place, on the east coast of the Sinai Peninsula called Nuweiba. It would come from Nuwayba' al Muzayyinah. Some say it is of Arabic origin, and would mean 'The opening of the waters of Moses'. But I have seen that 'nwy' is from Egyptian origin and means water. We can see these three letters n-w-y in certain known forms of the name Nuweiba, which are: Nuwaybi` al Muzayyinah, Nuwaybi` el-Muzayyinah, Nuwaybi‘ al Muzayyinah, Nuwaybi‘ el-Muzayyinah, Nuweiba` al Muzeina, Nuweiba` el-Muzeina, Nuweiba‘ al Muzeina, Nuweiba‘ el-Muzeina. If 'nwy' is from Egyptian origin and means water, was the name of Nuweiba al Muzayyinah (or Nuwaibi...) an Egyptian name which along the generations was then used by Arabs, even if we know that Muza means Moses in Arabic? And how would you divide this name for a translation?
    Thank you much for your answer. It's much puzzling to me.

  2. Nuweiba is sometimes claimed to be where the waters parted for Moses. However, there are several places about which that claim has been made.

    The Egyptian place name would also be in Arabic. The Egyptians have spoken Arabic since before Islam. The oldest Arabic texts are called "Dedanite" and Dedan was a Kushite from the Nile Valley.

    The highest concentration of Old Arabic texts has been found in the region of Dedan in Arabia. Genesis 10:7 tell us that Dedan the Elder was a grandson of Kush by his son Raamah. Raamah was Nimrod's brother. Raamah settled in the region to the southeast of Dedan while Nimrod built a kingdom in the Tigris-Euphrates Valley. The Afro-Arabian Dedanites and the Afro-Asiatic Arameans were kin. The separation of the two groups took place in the time of Peleg, though the separation was territorial only, as their ruling lines continued to intermarry.


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