Egyptian to Emoji

Egyptian hieroglyphs have already been added to the Unicode character list (13000–1342F), but I thought it might be fun to try and correspond them to emojis, so that anyone can write Middle Egyptian on their phone.

My system was to try and match them according to the following criteria, going from best to worst:

  1. Exact match – the symbol for ‘w’ in Egyptian is a quail chick, and there is a handy emoji for baby chick. Perfect.
  2. Same object, different look – the symbol for ‘d’ in Egyptian is a hand, and while there are a large array of hand emojis, waving hand is the closest…but it’s not very exact.
  3. Same shape(ish) – the symbol for ‘p’ in Egyptian is a stool, that looks like a rectangle. The best fit I though was the wastebasket emoji as it was roughly the same shape.
  4. Clutching at straws – the symbol for ‘h’ is an enclosure, like a square loop. There was nothing I could find that worked well so I just used a construction sign…

I used this system to match a hieroglyph to an emoji because I didn’t want the matching to be too arbitrary. If I just connected symbols which had nothing in common, either in form or name, I might as well not bother with the endeavour at all.

However, using the system meant that although there are 845 different emojis and only about 500 common hieroglyphs, some problems quickly arose. For a start, both Egyptian hieroglyphs and emojis have groups of very similar symbols, but these groups don’t correspond well: Egyptian has 54 different bird hieroglyphs, whereas there are only 7 bird emojis; and there are many different emojis for facial expressions, but Egyptian has 2 head hieroglyphs, one face-on and one in profile.

Another big problem is that we have a very different culture from the ancient Egyptians (duh…) so there are symbols on both sides that are almost impossible to correlate. Which emoji can possibly represent the ‘combined red and white crown’ hieroglyph? Or ‘the pot with legs’? And which hieroglyph can I connect with a taco? Or with a poo with face?

Also, actual writing would be difficult as Egyptian hieroglyphs have to face a certain direction – you always read into the faces of animals and people, etc., but emojis only come in one direction. This is a minor problem but a crucial one if you wanted to write accurate Middle Egyptian.

The fact that emojis look different on different devices doesn’t help either, as the perfect match on one device may look strange on another.

But I had a go! The picture below shows the hieroglyphs I found matches for, all the uniliterla signs, as well as some common bi- and triliteral signs.

FullSizeRender (4)

In the table below you can see which emojis I connected to each of these hieroglyphs.

Egyptian Emoji Aprox. Pronunciation 
3 (Eagle) 🐓   (Rooster) ah
j (Reed) 🌱   (Seedling) ee
y (Double reed) 🌱🌱  (2 seedlings) ee
‘   (Arm) 🏿🏿   💪 (  Flexed biceps ) ah
w  (Quail chick) 🐤   (Baby chick) w/oo
b  (Foot) 👢  (Woman’s boot) b
p  (Stool) 🗑  (Wastebasket) p
f  (Horned viper) 🐉   (Dragon) f
m  (Owl) 🐥  (Front-facing chick) m
n  (Water) 💧  (Droplet) n
r  (Mouth) 👄  (Mouth) r (more guttural than Eng.)
h  (Enclosure) 🚧  (Construction sign) h
ḥ  (Rope) ➰  (Curly loop) h
ḫ  (Unknown circle object) 🔵  (Large blue circle) kh (like in “loch“)
h  (Belly and udder) 🗝  (Old key) khy
z  (Doorbolt) 🔒  (Lock) z or s
s  (Bolt of cloth) 🎀  (Ribbon) s
š  (Pool) 🏊  (Swimmer) sh
q  (Hill) 🗻  (Mountain) k
k  (Basket) ☕️  (Hot beverage) k
g  (Jar stand) ⚱  (Funeral urn) g
t  (Bread-loaf) 🍞  (Bread) t
t  (Hobble) 🔗  (Link symbol) ch
d  (Hand) 👋  (Waving hand) d
d  (Cobra) 🐍  (Snake) j
k3  (Two arms) 🙌  (Both hands raised) kah
m3  (Sickle) ⛏  (Pick) mah
dj  (Bread mould) 🍙  (Rice ball) dee
mw  (Three waves) 🌊  (Water wave) moo
sw  (Rush) 🌿  (Herb) soo
jn  (Seated man) 🚶  (Pedestrian) een
wn  (Hare) 🐇  (Rabbit) wen
mn  (Game board) 🎹  (Piano) men
nb  (Bowl) 🍵  (Teacup w/o handle) neb
jr  (Eye) 👁   (Eye) eer
pr  (Building) 🏠  (House building) per
ḥr  (Face) 😀  (Grinning face) her
js  (Seat) 🛌  (Sleeping accom.) ees
ms  (Fox-skins) 👖  (Jeans) mes
ḫpr  (Scarab) 🐞  (Lady beetle) kheper
nfr  (Heart and windpipe) ❤️  (Heavy black heart) nefer
ntr  (Flag) 🚩(Triangular flag) netcher
‘nḫ  (Ankh symbol) ➕  (Plus sign) ahnkh
sb3/dw3  (Star) ❇️  (Sparkle) sebah/dewah
sw3/zw3  (Cross) ✖️  (Cross sign) sewah
šsr  (Loop of rope) ♉️  (Taurus) sheser

So there we have it! There are definitely other connections you can make: both Middle Egyptian and emojis have a symbol for ‘ox’ or ‘boat’ or ‘sun’, for example. But I haven’t included them in the list. Maybe I’ll update it at some point…

But now you can text helpful phrases in Middle Egyptian, like…

FullSizeRender (5)

nbt pt  🍵🍞 🗑🍞 “Mistress of the sky”

tf dtp   🍞🐉⛵️ 👋🍞🗑 “That boat” (This one has a determinative  for ‘boat’, which is a boat symbol)

nfr tw  ❤️🐉👄 🔗🐤  “You (ms) are good”

pr.k tn nfr  🏠☕️ 🍞💧 ❤️  “This, your beautiful house”

ḫpr-k3-r’ ntr  🌞🐞🙌 🚩  “Kheperkara (a name of the 12th dynasty Pharaoh Senusret I) is a god” (This one has the symbol for r’, or Ra, the sun as well. It comes first in the hieroglyphic/emoji writing of the name as it was considered the most important part of the name)




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