American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition
- n. A picture or symbol used in hieroglyphic writing.
- n. Something that suggests a hieroglyph.
Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia
- n. The figure of any object, especially a familiar object, as an animal, tree, weapon, staff, etc., standing for a word, or a syllable, or a part of a syllable, or a single sound; a figure representing an idea; and intended to convey a meaning, thus forming part of a mode of written communication. The name was first applied to the engraved marks and symbols found on the monuments and other records of ancient Egypt. Of these, some signified directly the objects represented by them; others, conceptions suggested by those objects; others, ideas having names identical with or closely resembling the names of the objects represented; others, part of the sounds composing those names, or even only their initial sounds-these last being nearly a true alphabet, and used especially in writing proper names. The name, which had its origin in the idea that the sculptured symbols were exclusively sacerdotal, is now given to any writing of a similar character, as that of the ancient Mexicans, Peruvians, etc.
- n. Any figure, character, or mark having or supposed to have a mysterious or enigmatical significance.
- To write in hieroglyphs; represent by means of hieroglyphs.
GNU Webster's 1913
- n. A sacred character; a character used in picture writing, as of the ancient Egyptians, Mexicans, etc. Specifically, in the plural, the picture writing of the ancient Egyptian priests. It is made up of three, or, as some say, four classes of characters: first, the
hieroglyphicproper, or figurative, in which the representation of the object conveys the idea of the object itself; second, the ideographic, consisting of symbols representing ideas, not sounds, as an ostrich feather is a symbol of truth; third, the phonetic, consisting of symbols employed as syllables of a word, or as letters of the alphabet, having a certain sound, as a hawk represented the vowel a.
- n. colloq. Any character or figure which has, or is supposed to have, a hidden or mysterious significance; hence, any unintelligible or illegible character or mark.
- n. a writing system using picture symbols; used in ancient Egypt
- n. writing that resembles hieroglyphics (usually by being illegible)
- First attested around 1598, a back-formation from hieroglyphic, from Middle French hiéroglyphique, from Late Latin hieroglyphicus, from Ancient Greek ἱερογλυφικός (hieroglyphikós), derivative of ἱερογλυφη (hieroglyphē, "hieroglyphs"), compound of ἱερός (hierós, "sacred, holy") and γλύφη (glyphē, "carved work"), a translation of Ancient Egyptian (Wiktionary)
“In the same way this snake with the god's head is also found in the Codex Cortesianus, page 10, middle, a passage which is rendered notable also by the fact that in the writing above the picture there is expressly found as a second sign the name hieroglyph of the god.”
Aids to the Study of the Maya Codices Sixth Annual Report of the Bureau of Ethnology to the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, 1884-85, Government Printing Office, Washington, 1888, pages 253-372
“The hieroglyph is a symbol, denoting something without letters or syllables; as, pictures of a bee stand for king.”
“Ere long, through his influence, this form of writing will supersede wholly the hieroglyph, which is cumbersome and difficult to be understood, save by a native-born Egyptian; yet I have commenced the study of it, and can read already the cartouch of Mitres, on his obelisk over against the portico of my residence.”
“Thus, at Copan, wherever the same kind of hieroglyph is to be represented, it will be found that the human face or other object employed is almost identically the same in expression and character, wherever it is found.”
Studies in Central American Picture-Writing First Annual Report of the Bureau of Ethnology to the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, 1879-80, Government Printing Office, Washington, 1881, pages 205-245
“This is proved by the shape of the object held in the hand in the sign and the hieroglyph which is the determinative in writing for all ideas of violence or brute force, comes down to us from a time when the principal weapon was the club, or a bone serving as a club.”
“I gave this primitive kind of hieroglyph to my interrogator, who, after inspecting it gravely, handed it to his next neighbour, and it thus passed round the group.”
“So, we are left with an inscription “near” the pyramid, a fake hieroglyph and a two and a half thousand year old text based upon hearsay.”
“And is there a name for that final hieroglyph you sent me (Dear Mr. Phillips, it is a grammatical determinative called the issuing penis)?”
“Matthew Barney is making his first appearance in a New York gallery in five years with 12 drawings and four sculptures—one resembling an Egyptian hieroglyph the mold was made from the melted undercarriage of a 1967 Chrysler Imperial.”
“Anatomizing a temple, though, like interpreting a hieroglyph, risks missing the unanalyzable spirit of the thing, its beautiful and hazardous play in a time we can never know.”
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