hi·​ero·​glyph·​ic | \ ˌhī-(ə-)rə-ˈgli-fik How to pronounce hieroglyphic (audio) \
variants: or less commonly hieroglyphical \ ˌhī-​(ə-​)rə-​ˈgli-​fi-​kəl How to pronounce hieroglyphical (audio) \

Definition of hieroglyphic

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : written in, constituting, or belonging to a system of writing mainly in pictorial characters
2 : inscribed with hieroglyphic
3 : resembling hieroglyphic in difficulty of decipherment



Definition of hieroglyphic (Entry 2 of 2)

2 : a system of hieroglyphic writing specifically : the picture script of the ancient Egyptian priesthood often used in plural but singular or plural in construction
3 : something that resembles a hieroglyph especially in difficulty of decipherment

Illustration of hieroglyphic

Illustration of hieroglyphic


hieroglyphic 2

In the meaning defined above

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Other Words from hieroglyphic


hieroglyphically \ ˌhī-​(ə-​)rə-​ˈgli-​fi-​k(ə-​)lē How to pronounce hieroglyphically (audio) \ adverb

Did You Know?


If hieroglyphic writing is "all Greek to you," you know more about the etymology of hieroglyphic than you might think. That word comes from the Greek hieroglyphikos, which means "sacred carving" (from hieros, meaning "sacred," and glyphein, meaning "to carve"). The ancient Greeks who named hieroglyphic writing reserved that term for the picture writing they found carved in temple walls or on public monuments in Egypt; it was distinguished from writings done in ink on papyrus or other smooth surfaces. But since making their first appearances in English in the 1580s, both the noun hieroglyphics and the adjective hieroglyphic have been extended to apply to the picture writing of various cultures, whether or not those writings were carved or sacred.

Examples of hieroglyphic in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective No athlete anywhere will ever have a mid-motion logo as triumphantly hieroglyphic as his, the silhouette as sentence. Wesley Morris, New York Times, "In ‘The Last Dance,’ Michael Jordan and the Bulls Still Dominate," 19 Apr. 2020 In place of three simple vertical lines on square 28 of early senet boards, for example, some now had three hieroglyphic birds that Egyptians used to symbolize the soul. Colin Barras, Science | AAAS, "Is this the original board game of death?," 6 Feb. 2020 The original tattooed woman assessed by Austin has cross patterns on her arms and hieroglyphic-like elements elsewhere. Jason Daley, Smithsonian, "Infrared Reveals Egyptian Mummies’ Hidden Tattoos," 5 Dec. 2019 In the top of the loaf, Blackley carved the hieroglyphic for bread bun. Maria Lovato, BostonGlobe.com, "A scientist made bread from 4,500-year-old yeast scraped from ancient Egyptian pots at local museums," 7 Aug. 2019 In a study published Monday in Nature Human Evolution, researchers examined an ancient hieroglyphic inscription at Naranjo, a Maya city that was located in what is now northern Guatemala. Fox News, "Ancient Mayan city burned in 'act of total war,' scientists say," 5 Aug. 2019 It’s by a couture house called Madeleine & Madeleine, and it is all covered in hieroglyphic embroidery. Vanessa Friedman, New York Times, "The Met’s Next Big Fashion Show Comes From One Little-Known Woman," 23 July 2019 Its pyramids and temples are better preserved than those at Chichen Itza, with clearly visible intricate hieroglyphic carvings. Shivani Vora, https://www.inquirer.com, "To get closer to Mayan ruins, travel farther," 6 June 2019 There were Egyptian hieroglyphic motifs and pyramid details in the collection, plus a few of Rousteing’s most surprising, body-concealing dresses yet, like a mini with a giant fanlike curve half-covering model Sarah Brannon’s face. Emily Farra, Vogue, "Watch: Olivier Rousteing Explains the “New Sexy” at Balmain Spring 2019," 28 Sep. 2018 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun The farmers, truckers and others who traverse these rural roads, though, could quickly tell you what the hieroglyphics mean: Help. Patricia Cohen, New York Times, "The Struggle to Mend America’s Rural Roads," 18 Feb. 2020 The board lacks the hieroglyphics symbolizing the soul, but square 27—which in earlier boards featured a simple X—now carries a hieroglyphic symbol for water. Colin Barras, Science | AAAS, "Is this the original board game of death?," 6 Feb. 2020 Earlier game boards boast completely blank playing squares, but in most later versions, the final five squares feature hieroglyphics denoting special playing circumstances. Meilan Solly, Smithsonian Magazine, "The Best Board Games of the Ancient World," 6 Feb. 2020 Early in the meditative travel drama Luxor, a woman crumples in front of a colossal stone wall carved with Egyptian hieroglyphics. Inkoo Kang, The Hollywood Reporter, "'Luxor': Film Review | Sundance 2020," 4 Feb. 2020 Although the game fell out of popularity, the history of senet remains embedded in hieroglyphics and ancient artifacts—and with humanity itself. Daisy Hernandez, Popular Mechanics, "Ancient Egyptians Had Their Own Kind of Ouija Board," 11 Feb. 2020 Yet even unreadable texts—cuneiforms, hieroglyphics, glyphs—declare (even before they are decoded) the solid existence of the past. Helen Vendler, Harper's magazine, "Dearest Lizzie," 20 Jan. 2020 Step 7: Realize there are no written words in the instructions, only drawings that look like indecipherable hieroglyphics. Sally Schwartz Higginson, chicagotribune.com, "Column: Fruitless attempt to assemble a bike rack leads to confession," 17 Oct. 2019 In 1960, Dows Dunham, a curator at the MFA Boston, translated the hieroglyphics on the coffin and discovered the corpse’s name: Padihershef. Washington Post, "Knock yourself out in the Ether Dome," 9 Oct. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'hieroglyphic.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of hieroglyphic


1585, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1586, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for hieroglyphic


Middle French hieroglyphique, from Late Latin hieroglyphicus, from Greek hieroglyphikos, from hieros + glyphein to carve — more at cleave

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Time Traveler for hieroglyphic

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The first known use of hieroglyphic was in 1585

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Cite this Entry

“Hieroglyphic.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hieroglyphic. Accessed 13 Jul. 2020.

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More Definitions for hieroglyphic


hi·​ero·​glyph·​ic | \ ˌhī-ə-rə-ˈgli-fik How to pronounce hieroglyphic (audio) \

Kids Definition of hieroglyphic

: any of the symbols in the picture writing of ancient Egypt

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More from Merriam-Webster on hieroglyphic

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for hieroglyphic

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with hieroglyphic

Spanish Central: Translation of hieroglyphic

Nglish: Translation of hieroglyphic for Spanish Speakers

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