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 hieroglyphic (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

Other Words from hieroglyphic


hieroglyphically \ ˌhī-​(ə-​)rə-​ˈgli-​fi-​k(ə-​)lē How to pronounce hieroglyphic (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 Walls were seen decorated with hieroglyphic inscriptions and images of sacred animals and after-life items used by ancient Egyptians. Samy Magdy, USA TODAY, 24 Mar. 2022 Early adopters are using these hieroglyphic identifiers, called Yats, as URLs. Rachel Wolfe, WSJ, 8 Feb. 2022 No flip-wrist band with hieroglyphic shorthand for who all must make this spring football thing work. Roy S. Johnson | Rjohnson@al.com, al, 18 Feb. 2022 During the Classic Period, which spanned roughly 250 to 900 C.E., Maya people wrote books on paper with hieroglyphic writing and developed calendars and mathematical and astronomical systems. Livia Gershon, Smithsonian Magazine, 27 Oct. 2021 Pieces had broken off, not just from its hieroglyphic text but from the Demotic and Greek texts as well. The New Yorker, 22 Nov. 2021 Trottinettes—those narrow, elegant scooters—glide among the lanes, their drivers perfectly erect, one foot behind the other, like hieroglyphic Egyptian figures. Roxana Robinson, The New Yorker, 11 Oct. 2021 Artifacts recovered from the rectangular graves include silver rings, funerary vessels and a seal bearing a hieroglyphic inscription. Meilan Solly, Smithsonian Magazine, 28 Apr. 2021 When scholars initially discovered the El Palmar structure, archaeologists had just found a few other hieroglyphic staircases at Maya archaeological sites. Isis Davis-marks, Smithsonian Magazine, 17 Mar. 2021 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, 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, 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, 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, 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, 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, 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, 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, 9 Oct. 2019 See More

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.

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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Cite this Entry

“Hieroglyphic.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hieroglyphic. Accessed 9 Aug. 2022.

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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

More from Merriam-Webster on hieroglyphic

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for hieroglyphic

Nglish: Translation of hieroglyphic for Spanish Speakers


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