Ancient Egyptian Language Dictionary

It is well known that the ancient Egyptian writing has two systems: ideographic and phonetic system. This means that the Egyptian word could be written either ideographically (purely ideographic i.e. just with the sign that depicts the meaning, such as the sign of the house , the lake , the face etc.) or phonetically (i.e. with the phonogram(s) referring to the pronunciation of the word).

One of the most remarkable features of ancient Egyptian writing is the use of the so-called meaning sign , which is usually used at the end of the word to refer to the general meaning of it. This meaning sign plays a very important role to make the word comprehensible, as through it we can design the meaning frame of the word. For instance, words ending with the sign  (man with hand to mouth) refer to meanings implying action accomplished by the mouth such as eating, drinking, thinking etc. Therefore, this element is highly considered when scholars need to decipher or understand an Egyptian word in both hieroglyphic script (the one which is used generally on monument's walls like temples and tomb)  or hieratic script (the handwriting of the daily life usages which is usually written by a brush and ink whether on stones or on papyri and Ostraca.


There are many dictionaries of the ancient Egyptian language available, in which the lemmas order is according to the alphabet. Nevertheless, there are no complete lists or dictionaries for the ancient Egyptian language, in which the sign form is considered as the main criterion; Egyptology is still in need to a dictionary, in which the word should be classified according to this sign not its phonetic value.

Suggestion, Methodology and Duration of the Project

To accomplish such a project all the Egyptian meaning signs have to be collected and classified according to : 1) Nature of the sign, 2) the period, in which the sign appeared, 3) the meaning of the words, in which the meaning sign occurs. Then the work will begin, and should be achieved partially, which means in stages. After each stages or steps, the work must be re-evaluated in order to be sure that the last step have been appropriately completed and then the next step should be defined.

This project should take at least 3 years time with the possibility of an extension of one or two years.



Related Links

The Sixth International Forum of Writings and Inscriptions

The 11th International Congress of Egyptologists


Bulaq Press Website

The Digital Library of Inscriptions and Calligraphies