The Egyptian spoken language has evolved dramatically due to influences from the many foreign powers who ruled Egypt over the ages. Coptic is an Egyptian language with strong influences from Greek, while modern Egyptian Arabic is the local Arabic dialect with Coptic influences.

If we consider Ancient Egyptian to be the "original" indigenous Egyptian language, with its roots in the indigenous peoples of Ancient Egypt, then how much of it survived into Coptic and Egyptian Arabic, two Egyptian languages that are still routinely used today?

This question can also be interpreted as "How much of Coptic & Egyptian Arabic did not originate from influences foreign to Egypt?"

2 Answers 2


Being an Egyptian myself, I have some information about this subject. But my information is also supported by an Egyptian Egyptologist called "Ossama Al-Sa'dawy" who has a PHD in the Ancient Egyptian language.

My sources are his research papers and his dictionary, and he states (And again, me being an Egyptian I can confirm) that a lot of words that modern Egyptians use come from the Ancient Egyptian language.

We actually use these words on a daily basis and most of us Egyptians do not even know that these words come from Ancient Egypt, but what everyone knows for sure is that these words are not Arabic in anyway.

In Modern Egyptian language, if the word's origin is not Arabic, then it can be English, French, Italian, Latin, Turkish, Spanish and of course Ancient Egyptian.

I cannot say how much exactly of the language now comes from Ancient Egyptian, but from my own experience and being born and living in Egypt for 28 years (And using Dr. Ossama's research), I can say that there are no more than 50 words that today's Egyptians (actively) use that come from Ancient Egyptian directly. Including names of areas, cities, towns and villages.

Some examples:

-We use the word "Nannus" as a cute way to refer to a baby, Ancient Egyptians used that word to say "The beautiful one"

-We use the word "tata" to encourage a child to take his first step, Ancient Egyptians used the word "titi" that means "Pace" or "tread"

-We use the word "Embu" to refer to drinking water, and Ancient Egyptians used the word "embe-mo" which means "from the water"

-We use the word "Bahh" to say "finish" or "end", and Ancient Egyptians used the word "phh" which means the same "to come to an end"

-We use the word "haba-haba" which means "easily easily" or "bit by bit" and Ancient Egyptians used "hbhb" which means "tread" or "trample"

Unfortunately most of his work is in Arabic, but you may find some interesting information in his messages and his dictionary.

You will find some great information about this very subject written by him here as well.

A great book written by the American University in Cairo in a story format that uses a lot of Ancient Egyptian words that are still in use today in Egypt:

"From Pharaoh’s Lips:Ancient Egyption Language in The Arabic of Today - Ahmad Abdl-Hamid Youssef"

  • Might have been an idea to cite at least one example.
    – fdb
    Commented Aug 28, 2017 at 22:01
  • @fdb edited my answer to give some examples and added a new source.
    – Kareem
    Commented Aug 28, 2017 at 23:04
  • I'm absolutely intrigued by this answer! What I wonder is: how many of these words are from ancient Egyptian and how many are just cognates due to both Arabic and Egyptian being Afro-Asiatic? IIUC, it's often an ongoing debate with Indo-European languages: borrow vs cognate.
    – Marakai
    Commented Aug 29, 2017 at 3:58
  • Do the copts have some extra positive attitude to this era? As far I know, the liturgical language of their Christian Church is based on that language.
    – Gray Sheep
    Commented Jun 19 at 23:24

The Arabic name for Egypt closely resembles the Arabic word for ‘East’ making them cognates. This is interesting because Egypt lies to the west of the Arab world and so you would expect Egypt to be called after the West as the cardinal direction in which the Arabs would locate Egypt. The word Africa is most probably based on a Semitic word for West. Egypt as a word is said to come from Hwt-Ka-Ptah (a temple in Heliopolis). Heliopolis lies to the East of the Egyptian delta and the ‘temple of the Ka of Ptah relates to the sun, which rises in the East and so it is probably a cultural reference which resulted in the Arabic word for Egypt being based on the word for East. Although the Ancient Egyptian words are not used, the Ancient Egyptian sun cult ideas seemingly survived in the choice of name for Egypt which is remarkable since the Abrahamic moon oriented cultures were not compatible with the sun cult ideology until Christianity united the two by merging the texts that now respectively form the Old and New Testaments.

  • 1
    I'm not sure that this actually attempts to answer the more general question that was asked.
    – Steve Bird
    Commented Nov 2, 2018 at 6:03
  • IT does not state Ancient Egyptian language specifically. So I answered based on Ancient Egyptian ideas.
    – Ajagar
    Commented Nov 2, 2018 at 6:37

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