Hieroglyphs or Hieroglyphics?

There is a great deal of misconception about the correct term for the ancient Egyptian symbols often referred to as hieroglyphics. In fact, the correct term is really ‘Hieroglyphs’. The birds, hands, feet and feathers which make up the carvings and paintings are ‘Hieroglyphs’ – Hieroglyphics is simply the adjectival form of the word.

On this site, we do tend to use the word ‘hieroglyphics’ – because that’s what most people tend to call the writing, and what they tend to search for on the internet. In practice, exactly what you say isn’t that important – but remember to say Hieroglyphs if you ever speak with an Egyptologist!

The word hieroglyph itself comes from Greek. When the Greeks entered Egypt around the late 4th century B.C., they saw the carvings on temple walls and called them, ‘sacred carvings’ – which makes sense. In Greek, ‘hiero’ means sacred and glyph means carvings.

Many terms in ancient Egyptian history were first named by the Greeks – a good number of the ancient Egyptian gods, for example, are known today by their Greek name.