[hahy-er-uh-glif-ik, hahy-ruh-]
See more synonyms for hieroglyphic on Thesaurus.com
  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

Examples from the Web for hieroglyphics

Historical Examples of hieroglyphics

  • 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.

  • 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.

British Dictionary definitions for hieroglyphics


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


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 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

hieroglyphics in Culture


[(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.)


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 Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.