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Home / Blog / Egypt Encyclopedia blog category / Egyptian language

Egyptian language



Egyptian language

We spoke a lot about the ancient Egypt, its culture, myths, ideals and current events (including Covid-19). But there is one thing intertwining and thus connecting it all. Egyptian language. The language, that gives the sound to their expressed ideas. Among all the things, this is the most mysterious and the most difficult to examine. The god Thoth appeared with the first word. And this myth varies in many many religions. The word is mystical itself, it is spoken once and disappears. Throughout the history you can track the life of the alphabets and other writing systems simply by looking if they were being used in certain era or not. How many people were literate? How difficult was it to write in general? And did they feel the need to write something anyway? But the language is a living thing. Egyptian language especially. It develops with every new generation a bit, with every cultural clash or assimilation and the different pronunciation is very difficult to recognize especially in the writing system with no vowels.

We know that the ancient Egyptians used hieroglyphs, but this writing system was used exclusively for sacral purposes. Those who can read it can enjoy the Book of Dead or the texts inside the pyramids. More common, curved writing was hieratic or later demotic. This was simplified version of hieroglyphs used for legal documents and correspondence. Little do many people know that there is a direct lineage from the ancient Egyptian language to today‘s Coptic language. This language has developed over time under the influence of Christianization after 200 AD, when it got a new writing system derived from the Greek alphabet. In the Islamic period the Arabic started to replace Coptic as the Egyptian language used for administration, but in private possession it survived much longer than till the 13th century. There is still some portion of people today that claim Coptic as their mother tongue. Moreover, there are several attempts to revive it from the 19th century onwards. There are some research institutes, published several grammar works and comprehensive dictionaries.

Egyptian language | Papyrus

Egyptian language | Papyrus

Regarding Egyptian language and dialects- several dialects have developed. Sahidic, Fayumic and Bohairic which is the most used nowadays. The Greek influence begun with the attempt to bring Christianity to Egypt, therefore it seems a bit ironic that today it is used mainly and nearly only for sacral purposes (like the hieroglyphs – coincidence!?). Of course, there is poetry and other texts written like in every language (mostly in Sahidic dialect), but this seems to be ignored. Under the influence of Greek, the Coptic borrowed about 2000 words.

Today the Coptic literates will cite the Bible as it was translated in the third and fourth century. But we would like to introduce you some common words and phrases. These will be from the Sahidic dialect, so if you‘ll learn them, you can visit Egypt and try to „Walk like an Egyptian“!

"Hello" - Khere!

"Goodbye" - Uchay!

"What‘s your name (adressing a male)" - Nim pe pek-ran?

"What‘s your name (adressing a female)" - Nim pe pu-ran?

"My name is XXX." - XXX pe pu-ran.

"Where are you from?" - U-rəmən-ton pe əntok?

"I am…" - Anəg-u…

"Do you speak...?" - Nek-sowən əm…?

If you are interested in any extra information regarding Egyptian language don’t hesitate to contact us. Your Egypt Tours and our egyptologists are always here for you.

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