hieroglyphic

1 of 2

adjective

hi·​ero·​glyph·​ic ˌhī-(ə-)rə-ˈgli-fik How to pronounce hieroglyphic (audio)
variants or less commonly hieroglyphical
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
hieroglyphically adverb

hieroglyphic

2 of 2

noun

1
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

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
Think of each as equivalent to a hieroglyphic image. Warren Cornwall, science.org, 5 July 2024 Maya scribes kept accounts of the astronomical observations in codices, hieroglyphic folding books made from fig bark paper. Kimberly H. Breuer, Discover Magazine, 5 Apr. 2024
Noun
On July 1, Princess Märtha Louise unveiled a new cipher interlocking the initials of her and her fiancé's first names with hieroglyphics and Egyptian symbols, explaining its meaning. Janine Henni, Peoplemag, 2 July 2024 Every design choice seems handed down through millennia of alternative human history, from arcane hieroglyphics to a slew of creative masks and veils meant to conceal the faces of those manipulating the levers of power, nearly all of them women. Peter Debruge, Variety, 21 Feb. 2024 See all Example Sentences for hieroglyphic 

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'hieroglyphic.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

Etymology

Adjective

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

First Known Use

Adjective

1585, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Noun

1586, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of hieroglyphic was in 1585

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Dictionary Entries Near hieroglyphic

Cite this Entry

“Hieroglyphic.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hieroglyphic. Accessed 21 Jul. 2024.

Kids Definition

hieroglyphic

noun
hi·​ero·​glyph·​ic
ˌhī-(ə-)rə-ˈglif-ik
1
2
: a system of writing mainly in pictorial characters
especially : the picture script of the ancient Egyptian priesthood
3
: unclear or unreadable signs or writing
hieroglyphic adjective
Etymology

Noun

derived from early French hieroglyphique (adjective) "relating to or being writing that consists of pictures or symbols rather than words," derived from Greek hieroglyphikos (same meaning), from hieros "sacred, holy" and glyphikos "of carving"; so called because it referred to the system of carvings used on ancient Egyptian temples

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