Hieroglyphs Tutorial

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Hieroglyphics, Egyptology, Language,Ancient Egyptian,Neter

Text of Hieroglyphs Tutorial

Hieroglyphs tutorial; The basics - part oneThere are three main types of hieroglyph. The hieroglyphic language is based on the phonetic value(s) of the hieroglyph, with extra information conveyed by hieroglyphs acting as logograms and determinatives. However, one hieroglyphic sign may act as a logogram, a phonogram or a determinative depending on the situation. The convention in translation is to "transliterate" (turn the hieroglyph into their phonetic values) and then confirm the meaning with reference to the non-phonetic elements of the word (determinatives and logograms). This sounds really complicated, but you will quickly get the hang of it if you persevere, and it makes vocabulary much easier to remember.Books on Hieroglyphs

Phonograms Logograms Determinatives

PhonogramsA phonogram indicates one or more sounds (or syllables). Phonograms are uni-consonantal, bi-consonantal or tri-consonantal. The uni-consonontal signs (below) are commonly used in personal names. The Pharaohs names tended to be made up of more complex signs and often featured the name of a god, but during the Old Kingdom and Ptolemaic period the Pharaohs spelt their names phonetically using single consonant signs.for example;thfp

single consonant signs, page one single consonant signs, page two

LogogramsA logogram (or ideogram) represents an entire word. Many logograms are also determinatives and phonograms. If the sign is intended to act as a logogram, there is usually a vertical line beneath it. For example, sign for the letter "r" becomes the sign for word "mouth" when written with a vertical line (indicating it is a logogram).

DeterminativesThe determinative has no phonetic value, and so is not transliterated. It indicates the end of the word and provides you with further information concerning the meaning of the word. The determinative sign can be vital for translation as there are no vowels in hieroglyphics, and so a set of consonants could have more than one meaning. For example, the sound "hD" (hedj) can represent the metal silver or the colour white.

To prevent any confusion the determinatives of a collar necklace (representing gold and used here because silver was called white gold) and three grains of sand (representing a mineral) were added when the scribe was referring to silver. Alternatively, the determinative of a sun could be added to indicate that the correct translation was "white". Likewise, the determinatives "iAw" (iahu) can represent the word "old" or the verb "to praise"(with the determinatives of an old man leaning on a stick or a man raising his arms in praise) make it clear which meaning is intended. In monumental scenes, the determinative is sometimes omitted as the context makes it clear how the word should be translated.

There are many determinatives, and it is useful to be able to recognise some of the most common ones.

Single consonant hieroglyphs; part oneSingle consonant signs were often used as phonetic complements (extra glyphs to confirm the phonetic elements of a word which also has double or triple consonant signs within it). The Ancient Egyptians also used them to write foreign names. Learning these signs is the basis for any study of Ancient Egyptian Hieroglyphs.rna or d

mdbh(kh or x)

A (glottal stop)mmm

w or ufD (j or dj)j or i

yq or knS (sh)

S (sh)hsp

Single consonant hieroglyphs; part twoSingle consonant signs were often used as phonetic complements (extra glyphs to confirm the phonetic elements of a word which also has double or triple consonant signs within it). The Ancient Egyptians also used them to write foreign names. Learning these signs is the basis for any study of Ancient Egyptian Hieroglyphs.nn (rare)st or T

T(tj) or tT(tj) or tH (emphatic h)k

g (rare)g (rare)g (rare)s

ggtd (rare)

j or ywh(kh or x)m


Hieroglyphs tutorial; The basics - part two Nouns Prepositions Adjectives

Books on Hieroglyphs

NounsAll nouns are male or female in gender. Male nouns dont have any specific suffixes to indicate their gender, while female words almost always end with a "t". When the word is transliterated, this "t" is separated from the rest of the word (the word stem) to indicate that it is not just a phonetic component but a mark of gender. It is also important to note that the "t" is written before the determinative sign.s



There was no specific word for "the" or "a" in Egyptian. So, the word "bAk" could be translated as the "servant" or "a servant".

Plural NounsThe Egyptians employed a number of methods to indicate that a word was plural. The most common is the plural determinative (three strokes). However, it is also common to find the determinative or logogram repeated three times. The single consonant sounds "w" and "u" also indicate that a noun is plural in hieroglyphs (while in english "boy" becomes "boys", in hieroglyphs "sn" becomes "sn-w"). However, the sign is often omitted to save space. When you transliterate, the letter "w" or "u" should also be separated from the word stem.

DualityThe Ancient Egyptians were fascinated by the concept of duality. In hieroglyphs, this concept is indicated by the use of a double logogram or determinative, and by the addition of the single consonant sign for the sound "y" ("wy" for a male noun and "ty" for a female noun). Again, these sounds are separated from the word stem. This form was common with items which tended to come in pairs (arms, legs etc) but was also used frequently with the words "sn" (brother) and "snt" (sister).

PrepositionsLike English, Egyptian hieroglyphs often employed prepositions (words placed before the noun which link it to a verb or another noun). They were commonly used to indicate location (ie "in" or "under"), time ("during" or "after"), direction (ie "towards") and accompaniement (ie "with"). Some of the most common examples are listed below.m

in, with, from, asn

for, to(wards)(people)r

at, to(wards)(place)




AdjectivesThe Egyptians also used adjectives to describe nouns. Unlike English, the adjective follows the noun it described, and it agrees with the noun (ie an adjective for a female noun also has the ending "t", and adjectives for plural nouns are plural).bin - evil

s bin

("a" or "the") evil mans bint

("a" or "the") evil woman

ThisThe word this also acts like an adjective and so it follows the noun and agrees with it in gender and number.pn

this (masc)tn

this (fem)

nb: "every" or "lord"The word "nb" can act like an adjective (following and agreeing with the noun). In this case, it is translated as "all", "every" or "any". However, if the word "nb" appears before the noun, it has a completely different meaning, and is translated as "lord" or "master".


all, every, anyorlord, master

ndjs nb

every individualnb AbDw

Lord of Abydos (AbDw)

Hieroglyphs tutorial; Verb classes and infinitivesTranslating verbs can be a little tricky. It is necessary to distinguish the stem of the verb and then check the ending to find out whether the verb is; past, present or future tense; masculine or feminine; and singular or plural. Verb classes Infinitives

Verb classesThere are four classes of verb; strong verbs, doubled or doubling verbs, weak verbs and extra weak verbs.Strong verbs are named as such because the stem of the verb often remains unchanged for different tenses. This can make them rather hard to translate correctly. Although doubled verbs classically end with two idential consonants. In some tenses only one of these consonants is used, which can help with translation.Weak verbs end in a "weak consonant" ("i" or "w") vary more noticably in each form, making translation easier. However, the last sign (the weak consonant) of the stem was not always written and so is generally not transliterated or is written in brackets. Extra weak verbs also end in a weak consonant and vary noticbly in different forms. Again, the last sign (the weak consonant) of the stem was not always written and so is generally not transliterated or is written in brackets. Extra weak verbs can also be depicted with the first consonant missing. For example, the stem of the verb "to give" can be written as "rd(i)" or "d(i)".Strong verbssDmhear

Doubled verbsmAAsee

Weak verbsmr(i)love

Extra weak verbsrd(i)give, place

InfinitivesThe infinitive is usually translated as "to ..." or "...ing" (ie "to walk", "singing"). The strong verb stem is unchanged, doubling verbs include the both final consonants and both types of weak verb stem have the added ending "t". Extra weak verbs are sometimes depicted without the first consonant.Strong verbssDmto hear, hearing

Doubled verbsmAAto see, seeing

Weak verbsmrtto love, loving

Extra weak verbsrditto give, giving, to place, placing

Alternate writingditto give, giving, to place, placing

Infinitives often appear in captions beside pictures which depict the action being described in the text. As a result, infinitives sometime appear without the determinative of the verb because the context makes the meaning clear. In the highlighted section of text below, the determinative (the two joined legs) has been retained.

shp r pr Hdconveying to the white storehouse

Hieroglyphs tutorial; Past and Present tenseThe endings of verbs are always; "y" for the singular personal verbs ("I") "k" for second person singular male verbs (you) "T" (tj) for second person singular female verbs (you) "f" for third person singular masculine verbs (he) "s" for third person singular verbs "n" for first person plural verbs (we) "Tn" (tjn) for second person plural verb