Hieroglyphics | Definition, History, & Facts

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Hieroglyphics, a type of image writing, were utilized by the ancient Egyptians. They first used this very ancient kind of writing around 3000 B.C. 1000s of symbols were used in the extremely complex writing system known as hieroglyphics. Like our letters, some of the symbols represented sounds, while others represented whole words.

Information on Hieroglyphics

Numerous ways distinguish hieroglyphic writing from modern writing

It could be written from top to bottom, from left to right, or almost any other manner. The orientation of the symbols would let the reader determine which way to interpret it.

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They did not punctuate their sentences.

Hieroglyphics were written with the intention of looking artistic and appealing to the eye.

An ideogram, or single visual symbol, can represent an entire word or sound using a phonogram. A picture of an eye, for instance, might represent the word “eye” or the letter “I”.


Hieroglyphic writing was so difficult that mastering it required years of training and practice. Scribes were those who studied how to write. They would begin training when they were just six or seven years old.

In Ancient Egypt, being a scribe was a good career. Taxes and military service were not requirements for scribes. Only the children of the wealthy had the opportunity to pursue scribe training since they were so highly esteemed.


In addition to writing on papyrus paper, the Ancient Egyptians also frequently used tablets and walls for their writing. Papyrus is a long, reed-like plant that was used to make papyrus paper. To manufacture the paper, the Egyptians would cut strips from the plant’s inner stem. Two layers of strips, one horizontal and the other vertical, would be created. After that, they would cover it with a linen cloth and pound it with stones or a mallet. Over time, the strips would come together to form a single flat writing surface.

Rosetta Stone

In the city of Rosetta, a French soldier discovered a unique stone in 1799. The hieroglyphic and Greek writing on this stone both conveyed the same information. This was significant since it contributed to the translation of what the hieroglyphics meant and could be applied to other hieroglyphic texts.

Hieroglyphics in Egypt: Interesting Facts

On papyrus, scribes occasionally utilized hieratic, a quicker abbreviated variant of hieroglyphics.

Numerous scribes were had to learn Greek as well when the Greeks conquered Egypt.

Imhotep was a scribe who was well-known. He built the first pyramid, rose to the position of high priest of the sun deity, and eventually became a god.

The majority of Ancient Egyptians were illiterate.

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