Egyptian Hieroglyphs: Lesson 4


The Basics

Prepositions are words that relate other elements of a sentence together through either time or space. For example, look at the english sentence “the cat is under the table.” The preposition (in bold) relates the nominal (noun) subject “cat” with the object of the preposition “table.” The preposition under could be replaced by any number of other prepositions that express the relationship between the cat and the table (beside, on top, near, etc.). We could also replace the the noun, “table,” with a pronoun, “it,” so the sentence would read “the cat is under it.”

Prepositions that express temporal relationships work exactly the same. For example, look at the English sentence “the cat slept until morning.” The preposition until expresses a temporal relationship-once the cat fell asleep, it did not wake until morning. Preposition in Egyptian hieroglyphs work similarly. Below is a list of prepositions, and some of the more common are noted with an asterisk (*).


Hieroglyph preposition for between and among imytw  “between, among”

Hieroglyph preposition for by in  “by”

*Hieroglyph preposition for in, by, from, during, as, with, through, m  “in”

*Hieroglyph preposition for like, according to mi  “like, according to”

Hieroglyph preposition for among mm  “among”

*Preposition for to and for n  “to, for”

*Hieroglyph preposition for to, toward, with respect to r  “to, toward”

*Hieroglyph preposition for together with ḥnʿ  “together with”

*Hieroglyph preposition for on, upon or Preposition - Hr - On-Upon ḥr  “upon, on”

Hieroglyph preposition for opposite, while ḫft  “opposite, while”

Hieroglyph preposition for at the head of ḫnt  “in front of, at the head of”

Hieroglyph preposition for with, under, and before ḫr  “with, under, before”

Hieroglyph preposition for through, afterward ḫt  “through, afterwards”

Hieroglyph preposition for under ẖr  “under”

Hieroglyph preposition for on top tp  “on top”

Hieroglyph preposition for since ḏr  “since”



Of these, m  Hieroglyph preposition for in, by, from, during, as, with, through,, “in,” is one of the more most common as well as versatile. Not only does m mean “in,”  it may also mean “for, during, from, with, and through,” depending on the context.

A common construction that uses  Hieroglyph preposition for in, by, from, during, as, with, through, is what Egyptologists term the m of predication. This construction consists by the subject + m + a word or phrase that describes the subject as possessing a certain quality or serving in a certain capacity. For example, look  the sentence M of predication example iw s m m, “the man is as a servant” or “the man is in (the capacity of) a servant.” So, in this example, the m of predication is used to describe the capacity in which the subject is acting–as a servant.

Hieroglyph preposition for to, toward, with respect to r is another preposition that functions in a number of different ways.  Depending on the context, more meaningful translations may include “against, concerning, and in order to.” Frequently, is used to express purpose. Lets look at an example:

 r of purpose clause example r pḥ niwt.f  “in order to reach his city”

In this example, r is placed at the head of a dependent clause. We know it is a dependent clause because it is not a complete thought–it depends on other grammatical elements to complete itself.  The clause expresses the purpose of an unidentified subject, “to reach his city.” A more complete thought could be “(The man sailed downstream) in order to reach his city.

Hieroglyph preposition for to, toward, with respect to also may express a sense of futurity; however, this will be touched upon in a later lesson.


Compound Prepositions

Compound prepositions are a combination of a preposition + noun. “In front of,” for  example, is a compound preposition. Below is a list of common compound prepositions.


m a - compound preposition m-ʿ  “in the hand of”

m bAH - compound preposition m-b3“in the presence of”

m HAt - compound preposition m-3t “in front of”

m xnw - compound preposition m-nw “inside”

m sA - compound preposition m-s3 “in the back of, after”

r gs - compound preposition r-gs “beside”


Example from The Shipwrecked Sailor

the shipwrecked sailor compound preposition example iw.i r t.i m-b3.f  “(…while) I was on my belly before him.”

Lesson 4 Vocabulary and Exercises


Vocabulary List

Hieroglyph for Hour wnwt “Hour”

Hieroglyph for Osiris wsir “Osiris”

Hieroglyph for Emmer bdt “Emmer”

Hieroglyph for Sky pt “Sky”

Hieroglyph for Storehouse mr “Storehouse”

Hieroglyph for Army mšʿ “Army, troops”

Hieroglyph for Law hp “Law”

Hieroglyph for Day hrw “Day”

Hieroglyph for Majesty m “Majesty”

Hieroglyph for Foreign Land 3st “Foreign land”

Hieroglyph for Land t3 “Land, ground, earth”

Hieroglyph for Wind 3w “Wind, breath”



Hieroglyph for aA - Biliteral ʿ3

Hieroglyph for aq - Biliteral ʿq

Hieroglyph for wr - Biliteral wr

Hieroglyph for ib - Biliteral ib

Hieroglyph for iT - Biliteral i

Hieroglyph for nn - Biliteral nn

Hieroglyph for nH - Biliteral n

Hieroglyph for sp - Biliteral sp

Hieroglyph for SA - Biliteral š3


apr - Triliteral ʿpr

wAH - Triliteral w3

wsx - Triliteral ws

mAa - Triliteral m3ʿ

nDm - Triliteral nm

xsf - Triliteral sf

Sma - Triliteral šmʿ

TAs - Triliteral 3s

tyw - Triliteral tyw


Exercises: transliterate and translate

1. Lesson 4 Exercises - 1

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ntf m-3t ḥm.f “He (is) in front of his majesty.”

2.Lesson 4 Exercises - 2

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mšʿ n ḫ3st tn r gs mẖr “The army of this foreign land (is) beside the storehouse.”

3.Lesson 4 Exercises - 3

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t3 dpt nt nb. s “The boat (is) in front of its owner.”

4.Lesson 4 Exercises4

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mi bdt m-nw mr m.f “Like the emmer inside the storehouse of his majesty.”

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