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

Keep scrolling for more

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 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 Today’s Mustafa Marie reports that the archaeologists examined hieroglyphic inscriptions on the lids of wine vessels and other containers for clues to the city’s history. Livia Gershon, Smithsonian Magazine, 9 Apr. 2021 The archaeological team dated the settlement through hieroglyphic inscriptions found on wine vessels, as well as rings, scarabs, pottery and mud bricks bearing the seals of King Amenhotep III’s cartouche, the statement said. Washington Post, 8 Apr. 2021 During this time, the Maya produced soaring pyramids and wondrous works of sculpture and painting, employed hieroglyphic writing and excelled at calendar-making and mathematics. NBC News, 25 Mar. 2021 The Mayans were also fascinated by meteor showers: Studies of hieroglyphic records suggest that important occasions, such as royal coronations, were timed to coincide with the Eta Aquarid shower in the spring. Amanda Foreman, WSJ, 1 Jan. 2021 Evidence of the importance of the ‘stinking rose’ in ancient Egyptian culture can be found in the form of hieroglyphic inscriptions, illustrations and sculptures discovered in the tombs of pharaohs—along with traces of actual garlic. Popular Science, 22 Oct. 2020 They’re all written in a foreign language only a hieroglyphic lawyer can decipher. J.d. Crowe | Jdcrowe@al.com, al, 20 Oct. 2020 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

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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More About hieroglyphic

Time Traveler for hieroglyphic

Time Traveler

The first known use of hieroglyphic was in 1585

See more words from the same year

Listen to Our Podcast About hieroglyphic

Dictionary Entries Near hieroglyphic



Hieroglyphic Hittite

See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for hieroglyphic

Last Updated

25 Sep 2021

Cite this Entry

“Hieroglyphic.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hieroglyphic. Accessed 27 Sep. 2021.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for hieroglyphic



English Language Learners Definition of 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


Test Your Vocabulary

Difficult Spelling Words Quiz

  • alphabet pasta spelling help
  • Which is the correct spelling?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

 AlphaBear 2

Spell words. Make bears.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!