[hahy-er-uh-glif-ik, hahy-ruh-]
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  1. Also hi·er·o·glyph·i·cal. 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.
  2. inscribed with hieroglyphic symbols.
  3. hard to decipher; hard to read.
  1. Also hi·er·o·glyph. a hieroglyphic symbol.
  2. Usually hieroglyphics. hieroglyphic writing.
  3. a figure or symbol with a hidden meaning.
  4. 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 formshi·er·o·glyph·i·cal·ly, adverb
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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Historical Examples of hieroglyph

British Dictionary definitions for hieroglyph


adjective Also: hieroglyphical
  1. of or relating to a form of writing using picture symbols, esp as used in ancient Egypt
  2. written with hieroglyphic symbols
  3. difficult to read or decipher
noun Also: hieroglyph
  1. a picture or symbol representing an object, concept, or sound
  2. a symbol or picture that is difficult to read or decipher
Derived Formshieroglyphically, adverbhieroglyphist (ˌhaɪərəˈɡlɪfɪst, ˌhaɪəˈrɒɡ-), noun

Word Origin for hieroglyphic

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

Word Origin and History for hieroglyph

1590s, shortening of hieroglyphic (n.), 1590s; see hieroglyphic.


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