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

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 The Upper Mojave Desert is like some terrifying postapocalyptic dream: abandoned gas stations covered with hieroglyphic graffiti, battered highways streaked with moldering roadkill. Joe Pappalardo, Popular Mechanics, "The Rocket Man Who Wants To Beat the Billionaires," 14 Oct. 2015 The ancient Maya were skilled farmers and developed the science of astronomy, calendar systems and hieroglyphic writing. Ana Gershanik, NOLA.com, "See the Creatures of the Night at the Audubon Zoo," 11 Apr. 2018 In order to make players feel like true archaeologists, Inkle created an entirely new hieroglyphic language from scratch. Andrew Webster, The Verge, "Heaven’s Vault is a game about translating an ancient alien language," 3 Apr. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Imagine standing in the midst of human hieroglyphics, contortionists, gymnasts and acrobatic actors engaged in an organic origami of expression. Dasun Imanuel, Essence, "Street Dance Evolves From The Subway To Centerstage In The Powerful Performance 'Maze'," 28 Aug. 2019 Along the way, Blackley became an amateur Egyptologist with a working knowledge of hieroglyphics. Hiawatha Bray, BostonGlobe.com, "Now rising from an ancient Egyptian tomb: Bread," 8 Aug. 2019 But by now the rovás are part of the nationalist imaginary, the hieroglyphics of the ancient Turantan-Magyar race. Jacob Mikanowski, Harper's magazine, "The Call of the Drums," 21 July 2019 The scientific hieroglyphic on them that resembles a burst of fireworks is actually a map of the frequencies of the thirteen nearest pulsars. Ann Druyan, National Geographic, "Dear Voyagers: How your billion-year journey carries true love," 10 July 2019 In addition, accompanying hieroglyphics are sometimes intact and sometimes scraped away. Edward Rothstein, WSJ, "‘Striking Power: Iconoclasm in Ancient Egypt’ Review: Editing the Image," 17 June 2019 To the average recreational golfer, the books might resemble something like hieroglyphics. Carlos Monarrez, Detroit Free Press, "Why one caddie holds secret key to success on the PGA Tour," 26 June 2019 Three songs inscribed in hieroglyphics at Luxor reveal the words chanted by priests and priestesses. National Geographic, "Egypt’s pharaohs welcomed summer with this fabulous festival," 25 June 2019 The irregularly shaped stone contained fragments of passages written in three different scripts: Greek, Egyptian hieroglyphics and Egyptian demotic. Chris Stirewalt, Fox News, "Midterms will mold Dems' 2020 field," 19 July 2018

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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1 Sep 2019

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Time Traveler for hieroglyphic

The first known use of hieroglyphic was in 1585

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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

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with hieroglyphic

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for hieroglyphic

Spanish Central: Translation of hieroglyphic

Nglish: Translation of hieroglyphic for Spanish Speakers

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one from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan

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