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Echoes of Ancient Words

Cultures that interact often exchange words between their respective languages. For example, in the UK, 'cul de sac' has been adopted from the French as the phrase used to describe what is, in US English, a dead-end road. For their part, the French have adopted the English word 'weekend'.

In the field of the study of the families of languages, it is generally accepted that certain of them can be considered to be direct descendents of others.

In the course of learning the basics of reading Egyptian hieroglyphic texts, it has struck me often that some Egyptian words seem to have come down to us today. Since we have no record of the pronunciation of ancient Egyptian, my recognition of possible echoes could be considered wishful thinking but why not judge for yourself?

It is from a corruption of the Egyptian phrase hwt-k3-ptah ('House of the Soul of Ptah' or 'Tomb-chapel of Ptah') that we derive the word Egypt itself, via the Greek 'Aegyptos'.

Here follows a list (updated as I get the time to note new ones I come across) of what I think may be the origins of these echoes.


[nwt] Nut, the Egyptian goddess of the sky. The sky, mother of the sun, moon and heavenly bodies. Compare also with 'nuit' (French).


[r`] Re/Ra, the god of the Sun (specifically, the midday sun). For example: sunray, x-ray, ray of light.


[k3 prw] There being no 'l' in the most ancient Egyptian, what became translated as an l (eg the l in Cleopatra) was actually written as the lion glyph rw. pr means 'house', pluralised in Egyptian with the addition of w to become prw - 'houses'. Coupled with k3 ('spirit/soul' - interpretations vary) leads to k3-prw (kha + pl) being 'spirit houses'.


[ms k3] ms being 'birth', leading to 'birth (of the) spirit'. Interestingly, according to an Iraqi friend, the Arabic word for mosque is 'mesjed'. ms djed perhaps? 'Birth of ...', well, we're trying to work out what a djed pillar represents, and why it was worshipped, in the earlier Djedankhra sections.


[m pr `3] The word we associate with the ruler of Egypt - Pharaoh - derives from the Egyptian pr `3 or 'Great House'. With the addition of the 'm' of predication meaning 'in the position of', we have 'in the position of Pharaoh'.

River Thames/Thamesis

[tm 3st] The River Thames which flows through the center of London is actually called the River Isis, further upstream where it flows within the city limits of Oxford. tm 3st, based on tm being the negatival form, means 'Isis is finished', 'Isis is completed' or 'Isis has ceased'.


[ntr] The word ntr ('net-cher') is translated as 'god'. The many gods of the Egyptian worldview were called, collectively, the ntrw. However, the ancient Egyptians were not necessarily pantheists, but believed in one 'Hidden God', the self-created. The ntrw, with their many aspects (Osiris as 'god' of the Underworld and 'god' of agriculture, for instance) reflect the attributes of the world and everything in it, both physical and metaphorical. The quintessence of a thing may be said to be 'its nature'.

SGB 1999