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[hahy-er-uh-glif-ik, hahy-ruh-] /ˌhaɪ ər əˈglɪf ɪk, ˌhaɪ rə-/
Also, hieroglyphical. designating or pertaining to a pictographic script, particularly that of the ancient Egyptians, in which many of the symbols are conventionalized, recognizable pictures of the things represented.
inscribed with hieroglyphic symbols.
hard to decipher; hard to read.
Also, hieroglyph. a hieroglyphic symbol.
Usually, hieroglyphics. hieroglyphic writing.
a figure or symbol with a hidden meaning.
hieroglyphics, handwriting, figures, characters, code, etc., difficult to decipher:
the confusing hieroglyphics of advanced mathematics.
Origin of hieroglyphic
1575-85; < Late Latin hieroglyphicus < Greek hieroglyphikós “pertaining to sacred writing.” See hiero-, glyph, -ic
Related forms
hieroglyphically, adverb Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for hieroglyphics
Historical Examples
  • But, unfamiliar with hieroglyphics, his handiwork was lost upon her.

    St. Cuthbert's Robert E. Knowles
  • In Egyptian hieroglyphics the symbol for stone is used as the determinative for Set.

    The Evolution of the Dragon G. Elliot Smith
  • I shall not, in this connection, enter into a discussion of the nature of these hieroglyphics.

  • hieroglyphics of thought were there, too mysterious for the common eye to interpret.

    Ernest Linwood Caroline Lee Hentz
  • Their occupations are designated by the hieroglyphics above them.

  • They confronted Alfred with the sheets on which were scribbled the hieroglyphics.

    Watch Yourself Go By Al. G. Field
  • In one of the corridors are two large tablets of hieroglyphics.

    The Western World W.H.G. Kingston
  • With her forefinger she idly traced some hieroglyphics on her lap.

    The Right Knock

    Helen Van-Anderson
  • They usually bear in hieroglyphics the sixth chapter of the funeral ritual.

    Museum of Antiquity L. W. Yaggy
  • They are the hieroglyphics of feudalism, succeeding those of theocracy.

    Notre-Dame de Paris Victor Hugo
British Dictionary definitions for hieroglyphics


noun (functioning as singular or pl)
a form of writing, esp as used in ancient Egypt, in which pictures or symbols are used to represent objects, concepts, or sounds
difficult or undecipherable writing


of or relating to a form of writing using picture symbols, esp as used in ancient Egypt
written with hieroglyphic symbols
difficult to read or decipher
a picture or symbol representing an object, concept, or sound
a symbol or picture that is difficult to read or decipher
Derived Forms
hieroglyphically, adverb
hieroglyphist (ˌhaɪərəˈɡlɪfɪst; ˌhaɪəˈrɒɡ-) noun
Word Origin
C16: from Late Latin hieroglyphicus, from Greek hierogluphikos, from hiero- + gluphē carving, from gluphein to carve
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for hieroglyphics

1580s, from Greek ta hieroglyphika; see hieroglyphic + -ics.


1580s (adj. and n.), from Late Latin hieroglyphicus, from Greek hieroglyphikos "hieroglyphic; of Egyptian writing," from hieros "sacred" (see ire) + glyphe "carving," from glyphein "to carve" (see glyph). Plutarch began the custom of using the adjective (ta hieroglyphika) as a noun.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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hieroglyphics in Culture
hieroglyphics [(heye-uhr-uh-glif-iks, heye-ruh-glif-iks)]

A system of writing with pictures that represent words or sounds. The ancient Egyptians wrote with hieroglyphics. (See Rosetta stone.)

Note: Present-day writing that is hard to decipher or understand is sometimes jokingly called “hieroglyphics.”
The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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