Sunday, April 29, 2012

A break for a language lesson

Words are always important to studying any culture. I thought I would take a moment to talk about the origins of some words related to Egypt and Egyptology.

Pharaoh.. From the Egyptian per-ao (the great house). It started as the word for palace but eventually came to mean the person who lived in the great house. Pharaoh wasn't used in the modern definition as a word for the king in Egypt until the 20th dynasty, approximately 1185 BC.
Satellite Map of the Nile Delta

Delta... We call the alluvial area of the Nile river and all rivers Deltas due to the Greek relationship between the mapping of Egypt and the Greek letter Delta, both being triangular. 

Hieroglyph.. from Greek hieros (sacred) and glyphe (carvings) because most hieroglyphs were seen on the walls of temples and other sacred places. Egyptians used the word Medu Neter,  words of the gods.

Cartouche ... from the French word for the paper rolls that the French stored their musket gunpowder in.

Ripper... The idea of a ripper being a murder may be directly related to Ancient Egyptian taboo. Cutting a human body was considered the highest offense, especially the body of the dead, so the person who made the cut into the body to remove the internal organs was called the Ripper. The Ripper was chased away after making the cut with curses and stones thrown at him. 

Pyramid... from the Greek pyramis. Pyramis was a triangular shaped wheat cake the Greeks made.

Hyksos... the word we use for the invaders during the Intermediate Periods. This comes from the Ancient Egyptian word heqa-khasut which means "chiefs of foreign lands". 

Sarcophagus... from the Greek sarx (flesh) and phagos (eating) related to the belief of the Greeks that certain kinds of stones could eat flesh.

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