What kinds of hieroglyph are there?

All hieroglyphs were pictures in the first place. But they came to be used in three different ways.


1. Ideograms

ideograms are pictures of what the word means - or something close in meaning

Notice, when a hieroglyph has a little line under it, it means it stands for the picture itself.

  means the sun, or day, and also the sun god Re

means arm 

means heart


2. Phonograms

Phonograms are also pictures, but they stand for a sound.

There three kinds of phonogram, those that stand for:

1 letter - like r

2 letters - like pr

3 letters - like nfr


  means mouth, but it also stands for the sound r - like in Re, the name of the sun god

means house, but it is also the pr sound in words like , prt, which means the season of growth (November to February)

Note: we add in es to say these words, so we would say peret and nefer - see the section on vowels

3. Determinatives

Determinatives are types of ideogram. They go at the end of a word and tell us what it means.

Determinatives have no sound - they are not pronounced. Sometimes the scribes left them out to save space.

on its own means the sun -

but when the sun has the picture of a god after it, it means the sun god, Re. Here, the picture of the god is the determinative.

this hieroglyph means something to do with writing. 

with a 'man' determinative it means scribe

Here are some determinatives, and they kinds of words they are used for with a 'papyrus' determinative it means write