Ancient Egyptian Lives (AEL)


(AEL) Dictionary of Ancient Egypt


Below you should find a Dictionary Listing of helpful words when studing Egyptology or the AEL website. If you see that something could be added plese give the dictionary format you see listed below in an email, and send to webmaster@aelives.com.


Quick Index: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

A
akh
A dead person's blessed spirit, capable of manifestation as a ghost.
amulet
A lucky charm, worn or carried to ward off evil or negative forces.
ankh
"Life", a sacred emblem also frequently employed as a decorative motif.
B
ba
The winged spirit of a blessed dead person. Depicted with the body of a bird and head of the deceased, the ba was able to fly from the underworld to visit, unseen, the world of the living.
Book of the Dead,The
Term used by Egyptologists to describe a type of funerary text comprising around two hundred spells that were intended to guide to deceased safely into the afterlife. It was usually written on papyrus and succeeded the earlier Pyramid Texts and Coffin Texts in the Second Intermediate Period.
C
canopic (or Canopic)
Of or pertaining to the port of Canopus in the Delta. In particular, the term refers to pottery or stone jars, often with a stopper in the likeness of the head of the deceased, in which a person's viscera were stored in a tomb. "Canopic jars" were named from their similarity to vessels from Canopus bearing the head of Osiris, which were venerated as manifestations of the god. The four jars were used to hold the embalmed stomach, liver, lungs, and intestines.
carnelian
A red semiprecious gemstone.
cartouche
A hieroglyphic symbol representing an oval-shaped loop. A pharaoh's name was written inside the cartouche.
cataract
A stretch of rapids that interrupt the Nile's flow.
causeway
A raised road or path.
Coffin Texts,The
Term used by Egyptologists to describe a type of funerary text popular in the Middle Kingdom. Inscribed or painted on coffins, the texts were drawn from more than eleven hundread spells that in turn derived from the earlier Pyramid Texts.
colossus
A larger than life-size statue, usually of a king. They are often found outside temples.
D
Delta
The flat area at the mouth of a river, where the mainstream splits into marshy branches, which was located in Lower Egypt. The Nile river from this point empties into the Mediterranean Sea.
Demotic
Developed from hieratic writing, this cursive form is found on Egyptian monuments and papyri.
dynasty
A succession of rulers from related families. Egypt's pharaohs formed 31 dynasties.
E
F
faience
A glazed earthenware.
false door
A symbolic gateway carved or painted on tombs and coffins, through which a dead person's spirit was thought to of passed. This was the gateway between that of the Underworld and the Living.
G
H
Hieratic
A form of writing adapted from hieroglyphs. It was written on papyrus using red or black ink and with a brush or reed pen.
Horus-king
Any one of the early Egyptian rulers whose name is written in a serekh surmounted by a figure of a falcon representing the god Horus. The nomenclature so written is known as the "Horus-name".
Hyksos
The name given to the Asiatic rulers who became kings in Egypt in the late 17th century BCE and ruled for just over a century as the Fifteenth Dynasty (ca. 1630-1523BCE). The word represents a Greek rendering of the Egyptian Heka Khaswt "Rulers of Foreign Lands".
I
J
K
ka
The "vital force" or "creative life energy" of a person or a god. The ka of a mortal was created at birth abd remained with the body for life as a "spiritual double:, sometimes depicted in art as a smaller version of the individual. When the body died, it was the ka that remained in existence and (an Egyptian hoped) successfully entered the afterlife, where it was sustained by grave goods and the votive offerings of the living.
Karnak,The Temple of
The largest religious complex in the world. The temple is located a little northeast of Thebes(Luxor), on the east bank of the Nile.
Kem (Khem,Kemet)
Is the Ancient Egyptian name for the land that we now call, Egypt.
khed
Was the hieroglyph to travel north, with the sails of the boat down.
khenti
Was the hieroglyph to travel south, with the sails of the boat up.
kohl
Black eye makeup worn by Egyptian men, women, and children. The kohl came from a substance known as galena, also known to protect against eye infections. As well as helping to cut down the glare of the Egyptian sun. Another color used was green which came from malachite.
Kush
A kingdom in Nubia whose rulers occupied the throne of Egypt for several decades in the eighth century BCE as the Twenty-Fifth, or Kushite, Dunasty (ca. 760-756BCE).
L
Lower Egypt
The northern part of Egypt around the Nile Delta. The main city was Memphis.
M
ma'at
"Truth", or "right", a cosmic principle which, it was believed, should govern all human and divine actions; it was personified and revered in the form of the goddess Ma'at, daughter of the sun god Re and guardian of truth, justice and harmony.
mastaba
(Arabic: "bench") A type of rectangular tomb common for wealthy private burials from the Old Kingdom onward, and so called from the similarity of their shape to the squat stone or mudbrick benches commonly found outside Egyptian rural houses.
Memphite
Of or pertaining to the city of Memphis.
mummy
When an Egyptian died, the body was turned into a mummy. To do this, it was dried, preserved, and wrapped in linen. Many mummies are now studied using modern medical techniques sucj as X rays and CT scans.
N
Narmer's Palette
A ceremonial slate palette of the Late Protodynastic period, depicting the "Horus-King" King Narmer as the first ruler of a unified Upper and Lower Egypt. He is often identified with Menes. On the Narmer Palette he wears the crown of Upper Egypt, crushing a person of the Delta(Lower Egypt). On the other side of the slate he is shown wearing the Lower Egyptian crown.
natron
A naturally occurring compound of sodium carbonate and sodium bicarbonate, used in mummification (for desiccation) and also for a variety of everyday purposes, such as washing and cleaning the teeth. The main source of natron was the Wadi Natrun, northwest of the Delta.
necropolis
A Greek word taht means "city of the dead." It is used to describe Egyptian cemeteries.
Nile River,The
The great river of Africa. The longest river in the world, it flows generally north c.4,160 mi (6,695 km) from its remotest head-stream, the Luvironza River (in modern day Burundi), to enter enter the Mediterranean Sea through a vast, triangelar delta in Lower Egypt. Its trunk stream is formed at Khartoum (modern day Sudan) by the convergence of the Blue Nile (c.1,000 mi/1,610 km) and the White Nile (c.2,300 mi/3,700 km). The Blue Nile, rising in Lake Tana in a region of summer rains, which was the source of Egypt's soil-replenishing annual floods. Also it is said that Egypt (Kem) was the gift of the Nile, for without it, Ancient Egyptians could not have thrived as well as they did.
nomarch
The governor of a nome.
nome
One of the forty-two traditional provinces of ancient Egypt known in Egyptian as a sepat.
Nubia
The region immediately south of ancient Egypt, beyond Elephantine (Aswan). Often called Yam by the Egyptians, it fell geographically into two regions, Lower Nubia (the northern part, roughly the south of the modern Egyptian republic) and Upper Nubia (the southern part, roughly present-day Sudan). Within Nubia three arose at various times a number of powerful states, such as Kush, Kerma and Meroe.
O
obelisk
A tapering four-sided pillar made of stone. It is said that some of the obelisk at the Temple of Karnek were plated in gold, to catch the sun's rays.
ostracon, ostrakon (pl. ostraca, ostraka)
The Greek word for a shard of pottery or a limestone flake, a common material employed for writting or drawing upon, usually for brief notes and artist's sketches.
P
papyrus
A water reed used to make a kind of paper. It was the main writing material used in Egypt. Papyrus was joined together and rolled up to make scrolls which to the Egyptian was their version of a book.
pectoral
A piece of jewelry that was worn on the chest.
pharaonic
Of or pertaining to the pharaohs (kings) of Egypt. The term commonly refers only to the centuries spanning the Old Kingdom to the Late Period, when Egypt was usually governed by kings of native origin, rather than the subsequent Ptolemaic and Roman periods, when the country was under permanent rule by foreigners.
Pharaoh
The king of Egypt, a Greek term derived from the Egyptian per-aa or per-ao ("Great House"), which originally referred to the royal palace but from the New Kingdom onward was also used to mean the ruler.
Ptolemaic
Of or pertaining to the Greek dynasty founded by Ptolemy I in 310BCE and ending in 30BCE with the murder (on Roman orders) of Ptolemy XV, the son of Cleopatra VII and Julius Caesar.
Punt
A semimythical land that the Egyptian texts refer to as a source for trade. Its exact location is still unclear, but it was south of Egypt, perhaps in modern day Somalia.
pylon
The monumental entrance of an Egyptian temple or palace.
pyramid
A huge tomb with a square base and four sloping sides, built to house a pharaoh's body when he died. The pyramids grew from the burial mastaba tombs of the Old Kingdom, and once the sides were filled in they became pyramids. Imhotep is acredited as the founder of the pyramid structures of Egypt when he built the "Step Pyramid" Saqqara for King Djoser. Also noted at this time was the fact that they changed from using building blocks made of mudbricks to building blocks of limestone. The most famous pyramids of Egypt are the Great Pyramids of Giza, for the pharaohs Khufu, Khafre, and Menkaure.
Pyramid Texts
A term used by Egyptologist to describe the first known Egyptian funerary texts, recorded on the interior walls of royal pyramids from King Unas (ca. 2371-2350BCE) onward and comprising around eight hundred spells.
Q
R
Ramesside (Ramessid)
  1. adj. Of or pertaining to the "Ramesside" period, the Nineteenth and Twentieth dynasties (ca. 1292-1075BCE), spanning the reigns of Ramesses I to Ramesses XI.
  2. n. A pharaoh of the Ramesside period.
relief
A carved or molded sculpture that stands out from its background.
S
Sahara Desert
The desert to the west of Ancient Egypt, also known as the world's largest desert.
sarcophagus
A stone coffin that is either rectangular or human-shaped. The word means "flesh-eater" in Greek.
scarab
An Egyptian dung-bettle, symbol of rebirth.
serdab
(Arabic: "cellar") A chamber in a mastaba in which was placed a statue representing the dead person's ka.
serekh
A hieroglyphic sign probably representing the facade of a royal palace, in which the name of an early Horus-king was customarily written.
shawabti
("Persea-wood figure"), a magical figurine placed in a tomb to act as a servant for the deceased in the afterlife. Later, probably through linguistic confusion, called an ushebti ("answerer"). This mummy-shaped figurine was placed in the tomb with a mummy. When the dead were called upon to work in the next life, they could call their shawabtis, who they believed would answer and do the work instead.
sistra
A rattle used mostly in religious ceremonies by temple priest. Sometimes incorporating the use of the goddess Hathor somewhere in the base of the rattle, above the handle.
sphinx
A statue in the shape of a lion with the head of a man or ram. A sphinx was a symbol of royal power.
stela
A slab of stone (or sometimes wood) with text and pictures, set up in a tomb or temple.
T
U
Upper Egypt
The southern part of ancient Egypt. The main city was Thebes.
uraeus
The royal cobra, worn by the pharaoh on his brow. It was thought to spit fire at the pharaoh's enemies.
V
Valley of the Kings
A desolate valley on the west bank of the Nile near Thebes(Luxor), which contains the tombs of many of the New Kingdom pharaohs.
vizier
The chief minister. He looked after government departments responsible for running the country and reported to the pharaoh daily.
W
wadi (wady)
A dry or seasonal river bed.
X
Y
Z

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