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Languages and Scripts in Egypt

Collection of 8 Articles





The Ancient Egyptian language had a diverse vocabulary and precise syntax. It was written in Hieroglyphs and hieratic and demotic scripts. Egyptians tried to write their language using Greek letters, which became known as Coptic. Coptic was later replaced by the Arabic language. Kufic and Naskh scripts evolved as Arabic became the national language of Egypt.

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Spread of the Ancient Egyptian Language

The Ancient Egyptian language belongs to the Afro-Asiatic family, but it began to take form before the African and Asian branches began to develop their current separate grouping.


The basic writing system of Ancient Egypt was in the form of hieroglyphs. These signs could be used either to write the words they depicted or to spell out the sounds of the words.

Hieratic Script

Hieratic script was a cursive style of writing that was used mainly for religious texts. Surviving hieratic texts generally show careful calligraphy for literary or religious texts and very cursive shorthand for rapid writing.

Demotic Script

Demotic became the script for everyday use for the ancient Egyptians. It was developed from hieratic and was used for religious texts as well as business documents.

Development of the Coptic Language

Coptic grew from efforts in the pre-Christian eras to record the Egyptian language in Greek script. Coptic is interspersed with Demotic letters.

Coptic Script

Ancient Egyptian was adapted into Coptic when it began to be written with Greek alphabetic signs and seven demotic signs to represent sounds that were not found in Greek.

Spread of the Arabic Language

The Arabic language entered Egypt starting in the seventh century AD/ first century after Hijra, with the spread of Islam. It was strengthened when Copts were forced to learn the Arabic language to keep their jobs in government offices.

Islamic Scripts

Arabic writing split into different styles, Kufic and Naskh inscription. Kufic was the first to be used to transcribe the Qur'an. Naskh script was more artistic and was used on famous mosques.

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