Ancient Egyptian Language

As some Egyptians are fond of saying, Egypt is very beautiful. There is not much that can compare to the feeling of looking up at the Sphinx and the Pyramids for the first time, while comtemplating the fact that they are nearly 5,000 years old . . .


As best we know, Egyptian writing began about 5,400 years ago, although you may find those who contend that writing actually started in Egypt. On that subject and more, one of my favorite books on Egypt is The Anvil of Civilization by Leonard Cottrell, where he hypothesizes that writing started in Lower Egypt. If you have not heard the terms "Upper Egypt" and Lower Egypt, picture it this way . . . turn the map that you normally see of Egypt upside down, and what you see on the top will be Upper Egypt, and what is on the bottom, namely, the Nile Delta area, is Lower Egypt. You can find an excellent documentary on recent new discoveries in Egypt here:

First Egyptian King - The Scorpion King

If you watched the posted video, you discovered that they found evidence of a phonetic language dating back to the pre-dynastic period, which they claim is older than any other phonetic-style writing. This is what is meant by "Ancient Egyptian" langauge. Linguists categorize Ancient Egyptian into five subgroups.

     1. Old Egyptian - circa 3,400 BCE to 2,100 BC
  2. Middle Egyptian - 2,100 BCE to 1,600 BC
3. Late Egyptian - 1,600 BCE to 600 BC
   4. Demotic Egyptian - 800 BCE to 500 BC
   5. Coptic Egyptian - 300 BCE to 1,300 AD

Ancient Egyptian originates from the Semito-Hamitic language family, and was written in four different scripts: Hieroglyphs, Hieratic, Demotic, and Coptic. It has been said that Egyptian writing started out with symbols, but if you watched the above-mentioned video, you discovered that there is evidence that Ancient Egyptian was phonetic from what it likely the very beginning of writing.

Hieroglyphs - From the Greek words ἱερός - hieros (sacred) and γλυφικός - glyphos (carving, engraving).
Hieratic - From the Greek word ἱερατικός - hieratikos, meaning “priestly”.
Demotic - From the Greek δημοτικός - demotikos, meaning “popular”.

You can find an excellent source for learning more about learning to read Egyptian Hieroglyphs here -

Hieroglyphs Step by Step


You can find video tutorials for Ancient Egyptian here - Learning the Ancient Egyptian Language Lecture 1

Granted, this is best estimate on the sounds of the language, as the writing did not include vowels! Yet it is not uncommon to learn an ancient language were we do not know exactly what it sounded like, Ancient Greek is similar in that sense.

You can find some excellent reconstructions of Ancient Egyptian Temples here - Discovering Ancient Egypt

This same site also hosts an Egyptian Hieroglyphic Typewriter

And there is a Hieroglyphic Phonetic Translator at: Hieroglyphic Phonetic Translator

Google Arts and Culture now has Fabricius - A tool using the power of AI to help decode ancient languages!