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). A particularly interesting suffix is -itti, indicating to a ruler or person of high social rank such as a royal official. This appears as a title in Leviticus 16 in reference to the man who is to escort the scapegoat (the azaz-el) to the wilderness.

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.

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).

As in other Semitic languages, the verb is a basic component of Egyptian verbal phrases. In verbal sentences, the normal word order is: Verb + Subject + object and/or adverb or adverbial phrase.

Many words represent a complex of related meanings (polysemy). 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). Horus is the Greek for the Egyptian HR, meaning Most-High One. Among the Nilotes, God Father and God Son are associated with the Sun. 

Ancient Egyptians designated male and female gender by pictograms of kneeling men and women. Hieroglyphs which describe something feminine have a final -t (hmt, nbt, nfrt, mwt, sit, etc.) Neb (NB) means "Lord" and Nebt (NBT) means "Lady."

Because there are no vowels, words and names can easily be confused. Consider these names: Satwesrut (daughter of a mortuary priest named Heqanakht) and Senwosret, a pharaoh who was a devotee of Wosret, a Theban goddess.

What follows is list of Egyptian words, roots, and affixes arranged alphabetically (English alphabet). Not being an expert, there are likely errors, but I hope that it will be helpful to students of Biblical Anthropology. I also suggest possible connections to African and Semitic words.


ab - heart, to purify
af - flesh
aha - to fight
akhet - the horizon
akh/ - spirit (similar to Hebrew ruach/breath)
aakh- to be useful
akhu - fire (Igbo- oku) Also may refer to the divine spark that gives life.
ankh - life
anochi - I alone, first person singular (cf. Akkadian anaku - royal first person)
An-tiu Sett - the dwellers in the Eastern Desert as far north as Canaan.
An-ti Set - a man of the Nubian Desert
anx - beetle
Ar - ancient name for the Nile River (likely related to the Sumerian ar - venerable, praiseworthy, and possibly related to the Arabic arsh, meaning throne.)
ari nefer - to perform a sacred task
ari khet - to sacrifice
ash - invocation
as - affiliation with, belonging to (As-Neith means "one belonging to Neith.)
ateb - land, region, royal holding

ba - ram; body/flesh (Horus as Khnum is the only deity shown with a ram's head and human body.)
baar - sea
baty - the north (cf: suten-baty – south and north)
bbbb (reduplication) - to pierce, to kill
beka - to shine, to illumine
beka-t - morning light
benben-t - pyramid, obelisk, pillar or mound; something rising from the ground.
bnbn - swelling
benra-t - a date palm/tamar
bes - leopard (best - female leopard)
bd - month
bdt - gourd, bed of gourds
bity - king/ king's presence in palace
brk - to bless/blessing (cf. Hebrew barak means to bless/kneel and berakah means blessing.)
bt - bee
bu - place, condition
bw - ivory

dd - say, speak, stability
deshr - red
dhwty - scribe  (cf. Tahuti - a writer of signs; another name for Thoth)
didi - red fruit
djeser - holy, sacred
djew - mountain
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 - spirit, after, behind
hakhem or hakim - keeper of received wisdom
hat - moment in time (Bantu hatua – point time/space, pace walk/step, period of time)
hb - festival
hdmw - footstool
hedj - radiant, white, silver, bright
hekau - magician/ lector priests
henâ - together with
hen - eternal
ḥeq - chief, ruler
hesy - favored
het - front (cf. akhet – horizon)
her / hr - over, above, upon
hh- hot breath
hika - evil (Yoruba ika - evil) 
hir - praise
Hr - the One on high, Most High One (Horus with Father Râ)
horiwo - head
hpr - to come into being, to become
hprr - that which comes into being
hpry - deity with a scarab beetle for a head
hpw - law
hm - servant
hm ntr - prophets
hmt - woman
hmz - sit, recline
hnn - phallus, pronounced khenen (the kh is a guttural as in Hanukkah)
ḫnrt - prison
htm - to seal
htr - horse
htrwy - horses, pair of horses
hu - the spoken word, the authoritative word that resides with the high king.
hwtw - enclosures
hy - gladness, happiness

i - to be
iaru - reeds
iban - ebony
ibw - shelter, refuge
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
iri - enact
irtiu - blue (also khesbedj - blue)
ir.t - eye (cf. Yoruba iri – to see)
ir.t rʿ - the eye of Ra (referring to the sun, the symbol of the High God)
irty - evil-doer
iru - appearance 
isw - weeds/reeds
iterw - the river, referring to the Nile River
iti - grain
ity - sovereign
iw - to come; is/are
iwnw (Iunu) - place of pillars (Heliopolis, Biblical On)
iwn - pillar
iwnn - sanctuary
iwnt - bow
iwnyt - pillared hall

jb (jib) - heart
jw wn - there is, there are

ka - spirit, life force, or deified ruler (As a Hittite suffix, ka refers to a place: Ida-ka, "forest place")
kar - shrine or temple (kar-nak - place of rituals)
kenit (khenet) - yellow
kham - cheating
khat - body
khau - sieve
khem (kem) – black
khenti - red earth, red ocher
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 end, to complete/fulfill, to carry out order (cf. Bantu koma – strength, force, power, lion)
kwa - east
ky - baboon, specifically the Papio hamadryas.

mau - to see
mds - slicher, cutter
me - unto, against
medu ntr - divine script, divine speech, hierogylphics
men - to establish
mer - love
mery/myr - beloved
mes/mose - born
m - in, with, by, at the time of
M as prefix - from 
mhn - coiled serpent (a solar image)
mhwt - clans
mm - among
mnmnt - herd
mnh - be excellent, effective
‘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
nak - ritual (such as circumcision and the removal of front teeth)
nakht - strong
nbt - lady
nbw - gold
ng - cattle
nedjem - sweet
nefer/nofir - good, pleasant, well, beautiful
netjer - God. deity, divine
 ˁnḫ - live, ankh
nhh - eternity, to become as a star
nhn - shrine, Nekhen (City of Horus on the Nile)
nhp - awake from sleep or repose of death.
niwty - belonging to a town
nmhf - green stone
Nnu - Noah
nt - watery region, basin, springs, waters
ntjw - ancestors, those who were
ntr /ntjr – deified king (tr - blood, pure)
ntr anx - deified
ns - tongue
nst - throne/seat
nsw- king
nsw bit - king of Upper and Lower Nile (Egypt)
nu - fragile
nub - gold
nut - sky, waters above
nxb - sign for Upper Egypt/sedge
nxn - Onn (Iunu - place of pillars); the Sun City of biblical On (Gen. 41:45)
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
prt - grain or seed
prw - houses (cf. O-piru - Sun House, shrine or temple)
psd- nine
pshai - prophet
pt - sky

qes - bone
qma - bulrushes
 ‘qw - rations, salaries

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
rn - calf
rnp - colt
ro - to talk (Yoruba ro – to think and Yoruba oro – word)
rsw - to make happy
rwd/rudj - ball, sphere, the Earth

sa - man/protection/son
sah - ennobled, mummified body
saakh - to illuminate, make bright
sba - star (may also mean door)
sbg - planet Mercury
sdemet - eye paint
sekhem - power
sen - granary/brother
ser - prince or chief
setep - chosen
shamsh - Sun (Arabic - shams; Hebrew - shemesh)
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 (The name Sihathor means "Son of Hathor.")
si-Re - Son of Re (also sometimes sa-Re)
sit - female, third person/she (daughter?)
srh/serekh - that which brings understanding
sr.t - proclamation/pronouncement
ssr - corn/flax
ssn - lotus plant
sm - herb, plant
smr - companion
snb/seneb - to be healthy (Bantu simba – health)
sntr - incense/to cense (This word contains the NTR word for God.)
snw - high social rank
sut - wheat, grain (grain beverage?)
sutn - the south (cf. suten-baty – south and north)
su - reed
swḥt - egg
swnw - doctors or physician
swnw nsw - physician of the king (wr swnw - chief of physicians)

ta - land of
tàkïo ra - to be drunk or to become drunk
taw - bread
tbb - crush, smash, shatter
tbw - sole of foot
tches - self
tef - father
tep - head
tesem - hunting dog
tm - universe/totality/complete (Atum)
tm - verb of negation
tn - rise up, resurrection
tr - pure, blood (Related: Hebrew thr - to be pure; Hausa/Hahm toro - clean; the Amarigna (Ethiopia) anatara - pure; Tamil tiru - holy, and proto-Dravidian tor - blood. In some Kushitic languages mtoro means rain and toro refers to God.)
trw - seasons
tst - horns, animal with horns
twn - to gore
twr - to purify
twt - done, to be complete

-un(u) - we (cf. Hebrew plural masculine we - anu)
uat neter - the sacred way/road; the processional path of the deity
uat-Heru - the path of HR/Horus
userit - woman of distinction, wealth, high status, prestige
urshu - soldiers on watch (There may be a connection to Edomite Shasu.)

wabau - healer
wab - pure
wab sxmt (wab sekhmet) - physician priest
w'b.t - purification/place of purification
wadj - green
wd.t - decree
wakhz - wound
warih - moon
was - dominion
wbn - rising sun (cf. bnbn – stone pillars, mounds, swelling)
wen - to exist, to be
wer - great
wgs - cut open, gut (as fish); pluck feathers
wi - mummy
wmt - lintel
wnm - food
wrh - to anoint
wrq - green
wryt - great ones
wti - embalmer

xmt - three, thrice
xrw - enemy
xwi - protect
xw - protection

yhy - Oho!
ym - sea (yam - sea in Hebrew)

zaw - guardian
zhn - reed boats
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 MorphologyGardiner's Transliteration; Budge's Egyptian Hieroglyphic Dictionary


  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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