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Ancient Egyptian Language: Demotic

Ancient Egyptian Language: Demotic

Ancient Egyptian language used in everyday life between 500 B.C. and A.D. 500 has been compiled in a dictionary by University of Chicago scholars. Below are some facts about the language and words that people still use today in it via ScienceDaily (2012).

Ancient Egyptian Language: Demotic Egyptian

  • The Greeks gave Demotic Egyptian its name.
    • It comes from Demos, meaning everyday people.
  • Demotic Egyptian was used in Egypt between approximately 500 B.C. and 500 A.D.
  • The ancient Egyptian language was written in flowing script.
  • Demotic Egyptian was used for:
    • business and legal documents,
    • tax records,
    • administrative inscriptions,
    • private letters,
    • literary texts,
    • religious texts,
    • magical texts, and
    • scientific texts (mathematics, astronomy, and medicine, among others).
  • Demotic Egyptian was one of three languages on the Rosetta Stone (along with Egyptian hieroglyphics and Greek)
    • The Rosetta Stone dates to 196 B.C. (Trustees of the British Museum n.d.; Wikipedia 2012).
  • More unpublished Demotic Egyptian documents have been found than any other ancient Egyptian language.
Creative Commons License

Susan from Water Lily by Shari Maria Silverman is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License. Susan is indirectly derived from the Demotic Egyptian word “water lily.”

Demotic Egyptian Words in Use Today

Several words from the ancient Egyptian language are still used today, even in English. These words include:

  • Adobe (comes from the Demotic word: brick)
    • In the American Southwest and throughout the world, “adobe” refers to a mud and straw mixture used to construct structures. It’s very resilient in dry climates, and is a great insulator.
    • The word “adobe” moved with Islam from Egypt to Spain, and dispersed around the world. The American Southwest was part of the Islamic and Spanish diaspora from the 1500s through 1700s.
  • Ebony (comes from the Demotic word referring to a specific dark wood).
    • Ebony is a dark wood that was traded with the Sudan from Nubia.
    • The trade route was along the Nile River.
  • Susan is indirectly related to the language
    • The name “Susan” is derived from the Demotic word for “water lily.”



2012   Dictionary Completed on Language Used Everyday in Ancient Egypt. ScienceDaily (published online September 18, 2012). Electronic document,, accessed September 27, 2012. ScienceDaily article was obtained from materials provided by Harms: University of Chicago at, referenced directly below.

Harms, William
2012   Chicago Demotic Dictionary Refines Knowledge of Influential Language. UChicago News (published online September 17, 2012). Electronic document,, accessed September 27, 2012.

Trustees of the British Museum

n.d.  The Rosetta Stone. British Museum website. Electronic document,, accessed September 27, 2012. The British Museum also plugs the Wikipedia article (as of September 27, 2012), referenced below.


2012   Rosetta Stone. Wikipedia (article updated September 19, 2012). Electronic document,, accessed September 27, 2012.

Creative Commons License
Ancient Egyptian Language: Demotic by Shari Maria Silverman is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

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