Names of the Pharaohs


The pharaohs

The hieroglyphic names of the pharaohs.

The pharaohs ruled ancient Egypt for more than 3000 years. When the early historians visited, they transcribed the names of the pharaohs into Greek, which are still in use to this day.


The king lists

The hieroglyphic names on the king lists.

The invaluable king lists of pharaohs were important to show the king beside revered ancestors, establishing their rightful rule. They help egyptologists with the chronology of Ancient Egypt.

Origins of the names of the pharaohs

The names of the pharaohs still live on, despite that the first pharaohs ruled some 5000 years ago. Their names were inscribed with hieroglyphs on the massive monuments they created, yet their commonly used names today has an origin in the ancient Greek transcription. Modern transcriptions of the names yield quite different names than those of the Greeks of antiquity.

The full ancient Egyptian royal titulary consisted of up to five names meant to symbolise the power and might of the pharaoh:

  • Horus name — the oldest form of a pharaoh's name, often enclosed in a serekh, a sort of "heraldic crest" representing a palace facade.
  • Nebty name — the "heraldic Two Ladies", the goddesses Nekhbet and Wadjet, representing Upper and Lower Egypt respectively.
  • Gold name — gold was strongly associated with eternity, but the meaning of this title is disputed.
  • Throne name — (prenomen) the first of the two names written in a cartouche.
  • Personal name — (nomen) the name given at birth, often the name by which a pharaoh is known today.
The full titulary was announced at the coronation, when a pharaoh officially became king.

For millennia, the names of the pharaohs were only known from ancient Greek scholars - who wrote in Greek. Centuries later, they were superceded by Roman scholars, who used Latin. Many of the names still in use to this day can trace their origin to these ancient scholars. Cheops, the builder of the Great Pyramid, is the ancient Greek version of Khufu. Does the name Rathotis sound familiar? No? It is the ancient Greek version of Tutankhamun, but as King Tut was an unknown pharaoh until the late 19th century, thanks to modern Egyptology we know him by his Egyptian name. The ancient names are so ingrained common memory that they are still used to this day, and would be difficult to correct.
Ramessisu, who left his name on more monuments than any other pharaoh, is better known by his ancient Greek name – Ramesses II. His full titulary in hieroglyphics is:

Ramesses II royal titulary

Horus, the strong bull, beloved of Ra, great of majesty, Protector of Egypt for the Two Ladies, rich in years, great in victories forever
The Dual King, the justice of Ra is powerful, chosen by Ra, the son of Ra, Ramesses, beloved of Amun

Hor ka-nakht mery-Ra, nebty wer shefyt mek Kemet, nub Hor user-renput, aa-nehktu,
nesu-bity user-Maat-Ra, setep-en-Ra, sa-Ra, Ramessisu mery-Amun

The dynasties of ancient Egypt

The dynasties

The division of pharaohs into dynasties is generally considered to be an invention of Manetho. Some dynasties overlapped, with different pharaohs ruling in different regions at the same time.

The ancient historians

The historians

The ancient Greek historians that visited Egypt some 2000 years ago taught us the names of the pharaohs. Manetho's History of Egypt was the most comprehensive, and you can find all the sources here.

The obelisks of ancient Egypt

The obelisks

The pharaohs had obelisks erected and inscribed with hieroglyphs, often to celebrate a victory or other important event. They were placed in front of temples or other important places.

Monuments of Ancient Egypt

The Temples

Descriptions, maps, history and information about the temples of ancient Egypt, their location and importance.

The illustrations of ancient Egypt

The illustrations

Paintings and illustrations from early travelers that visited Egypt while it was still relatively unspoiled. Their art is an important time capsule as many of the places they visited have deteriorated severely or even been destroyed.

The hieroglyphs

The Hieroglyphs

How to learn to write and read hieroglyphic texts and information about tools that can be used to accomplish this. A system called Manuel de Codage has been the de facto standard since the 1990's.


With 2336 hieroglyphic names of the pharaohs
© 2011-2020 by Peter Lundström — All Rights Reserved — V.2019-07-08
Disclaimer: The content should be accurate, but errors and omissions are possible. All information is provided "as is". Always check the sources.