Glossary

This glossary contains terms that are used in Egyptology, as well as names of locations that were important in ancient Egypt and names of gods and goddesses who may not have been explained in the text.

Abu Simbel: A site in Nubia where King Ramses II constructed two temples, one for himself as the sun god and another for his queen, Nefertari, as the goddess Hathor.

Akh: A spirit, someone who has died and lives again in the afterlife.

Amarna: A site where King Akhenaten built a city dedicated to his god, the Aten.

Ammit: A frightening creature who gobbles up the heart of the deceased if it is heavy with sin when weighed on scales in the judgment to enter the afterlife.

Ba: One of five important aspects of a person. The ba is depicted as a bird and leaves the tomb in the daytime, returning to the body at night.

Bastet: The cat goddess who was worshipped at Bubastis in the delta. Bastet was a goddess of the household, women, and children.

Bes: An ugly dwarf who protected children and women in childbirth.

Book of the Dead: A collection of funerary spells that were used beginning with the New Kingdom.

Canopic jars: Four jars that held the lungs, stomach, liver, and intestines when they were removed during mummification.

Cartouche: An oval rope that was put around the names of kings, and later queens, for protection.

Co-regency: When two people, usually an older father and his son, rule together as two kings so that if one dies, the other is already ruling and the throne cannot be seized by anyone else.

Deir el-Medineh: The workmen’s village on the West Bank of Thebes where the men lived who cut and painted the tombs in the Valley of the Kings and the Valley of the Queens.

Faience: A fired ceramic made mostly of silica, most often colored blue. It was used for many objects, such as scarabs, beads, and rings.

False door: An imitation doorway set inside a tomb for the spirit of the deceased to pass through and receive offerings.

FayumA: An archaeological name for people who settled in the Fayum around 5000 BCE.

Hathor: A very important goddess who was the wife of the sun god. She could take the form of a cow. Hathor was the goddess of women and childbirth, as well as love, dancing, and drinking.

Hatti: An Egyptian name for the land of the Hittites in ancient Turkey.

Heart scarab: A scarab that was placed over the heart, inscribed with Spell 30b of the Book of the Dead, to keep the heart from revealing any sin the deceased was guilty of.

Heket: A frog-headed goddess of fertility who helped protect childbirth.

Hieratic: The handwritten cursive form of hieroglyphs.

Hieroglyphs: The script of the ancient Egyptian language that consisted of signs that had either phonetic or pictorial value. The most important signs were the twenty-six that made up the alphabet.

Horus: The falcon god, son of Osiris and Isis, who took the throne when Osiris was killed. Every king of Egypt was “Horus on the throne of the living.”

Hsyt: The Egyptian title for a “singer.”

Hyksos: Refers to the leaders of people from Syro-Palestine who had settled in the Egyptian delta during the later Middle Kingdom. The Hyksos ruled from the town of Avaris during the period known as Dynasty Fifteen.

Ipt: The word for the royal harem in the Old Kingdom.

Isis: Wife of Osiris and mother of Horus. She was a very important mother goddess during the Late Period and throughout Graeco-Roman times.

Ka: The ka is a person’s soul. It was created with you, and when you die, the ka has to continue to be taken care of.

Kap: The part of the royal harem where the royal children lived.

Kenbet: This is the name of a local law court. The village of Deir el-Medineh had its own kenbet to decide cases and problems at the village.

Khener: The name of dance groups who are the followers of the goddess Hathor.

Khnum: The ram god who created people and their souls on a potter’s wheel.

Khonsu: The moon god and son of Amun and Mut. His temple was at Karnak in the southwest corner of the enclosure.

Lahun: A town in the Fayum that began as the site of the pyramid of King Senusret II of the Twelfth Dynasty and later became an important provincial center.

Maat: This is the concept of justice and order. The king’s duty is to uphold maat.

Mastaba: A private tomb built out of limestone blocks in the shape of a bench.

Mehen: The name of a board game.

Mena nesut: The title given to a male tutor of royal children.

Menat: A heavy bead necklace held by priestesses of the goddess Hathor.

Menat nesut: The title held by a wet nurse for a royal child.

Meskhenet: The four bricks that a woman squatted on to give birth; also, the name of the goddess of childbirth.

Mitanni: The Egyptian name for an ancient country in the area of northern Syria.

Mwt: The ancient Egyptian word for mother as well as vulture. The goddess Mut was the wife of Amun of Karnak Temple.

Natron: A compound of sodium carbonate and sodium bicarbonate that was put on bodies to remove water and fat during mummification.

Nebet per: This is the title of housewife, “mistress of the house,” which first appears in the Middle Kingdom.

Neith: An old goddess, possibly of war, who became important again in the Late Period, with a temple at Sais in the delta.

Neolithic: The term that refers to an early human culture that has settled down, plants crops and herds animals, as well as produces pottery.

Nephthys: The sister of Isis and Osiris, who helps Isis retrieve the body of Osiris and bury him.

Opening of the Mouth: The important ritual carried out at the funeral before the deceased is buried.

Osiris: The god of the afterlife. Osiris had ruled as king until killed by his jealous brother, Seth.

Ostracon: A flat piece of limestone or a pot sherd that is used to write on.

Ptah: A creator god whose cult temple was at Memphis, the capital of Egypt. Ptah was the patron deity of craftsmen and so was worshipped at the workmen’s village of Deir el-Medineh.

Punt: The Egyptian name for a place along the southern Red Sea where they went to get myrrh and incense. The location is unknown.

Pyramid Texts: Religious spells that first appear in the pyramid of King Unas at the end of the Fifth Dynasty.

Ra: The sun god, creator of all life. The king functioned as the sun god on the earth.

Red Crown: The crown of Lower Egypt.

Renenutet: A cobra goddess associated with the harvest.

Sakhmet: The lioness goddess who brought plague and illness and was also the patron goddess of doctors.

Sau: The word for magician.

Scarab: An amulet in the shape of the scarab beetle that symbolized rebirth.

Sekhet Iaru: The Egyptian name for the “Field of Rushes,” the location of the eternal afterlife.

Senet: The most popular board game in ancient Egypt.

Serdab: A hidden tomb chamber, often behind the false door, where a ka-statue of the deceased was placed.

Serekh façade: The panel design that was on the wall of the king’s palace. It was also used to frame the king’s Horus name, the first and oldest of the king’s five names.

Serket: The scorpion goddess. She helped to protect the canopic jars.

Seshat: This is the word for female scribe and also the name of the goddess of writing.

Shemayit: This is the ancient Egyptian word for chantress.

Sistrum: A jingling instrument associated with the goddess Hathor and held by all chantresses.

Swnw: The ancient Egyptian word for doctor.

Ta rekhet: The ancient Egyptian word for wise woman.

Taweret: A goddess who protected pregnant women and babies. She was a mixture of a hippopotamus, crocodile, and lion.

Tyet: An amulet that seems to be a piece of cloth tied in a knot. It was a protective symbol of the goddess Isis.

Uraeus: This is the rearing cobra, and it is placed over the forehead of the king to protect him.

Valley of the Kings: The location of the royal tombs of the kings of the New Kingdom on the West Bank of Thebes.

Valley of the Queens: The location of the tombs of the queens of the New Kingdom on the West Bank of Thebes, south of the Valley of the Kings.

Vizier: The most important official under the king; he was also the highest judge in the land.

Wah-Sut: A Middle Kingdom town in south Abydos that was an important center in the Thirteenth Dynasty.

If you find an error or have any questions, please email us at admin@erenow.org. Thank you!