The Golden mask of an ancient Egyptian Pharaoh. Shutterstock

Where Does the Word Pharaoh Originate From and What does it Mean?

What does the word Pharaoh mean, and where does it come from? How can we define ancient Egypt, and what are some of the differences between Greek and ancient Egyptian temples? Find out below. 


What does the word Pharaoh mean?

The word “Pharaoh” is of ancient Egyptian origin, derived from the words per aa, or “Great House.” This was the name of the royal residence. It was during the New Kingdom when the rulers themselves were designated metonymically by this term. As ancient Egypt evolved and its cultures gained notoriety, so did the Pharaohs and their meaning. By the Twenty-Second Dynasty and onward, the word Pharaoh was an essential component of royal terminology and was written right before the cartouche with the ruler’s name. As ancient Egypt’s boundaries expanded, so did the king’s role in the historical and state-building myth.

Defining ancient Egypt

We can define ancient Egypt as the totality area and every place where Egyptians and their deities existed. Furthermore, Egypt was where the Pharaoh exercised power and where divine order ruled. However, as noted by archaeologists, ancient Egyptians would identify themselves and their country only as the area of the Nile Valley. This was a region that spanned from the Delta to the first Cataract. However, this was expanded as far as Nubia.


The “must do” for a Pharaoh

The Pharaoh was not only a king. As revealed in Miroslav Verner’s book “The Pyramids,” State dogma emphasized the Pharaoh’s military and creative roles. Perhaps this creative role would give rise to some of the most stunning monuments the lands of Egypt had ever seen. Moreover, a mythical conception of the Pharaoh dictated that he must expand the lands of Egypt, not only by conquering the enemies of the country but by constructing and developing edifices. These were of great importance since it was expected that each new ruler’s monuments were supposed to surpass those built by his predecessor.

Greek and Egyptian temples

This development and evolution marked a clear distinction between the temples of ancient Greece and those of Egypt. The Temples of ancient Greece, once finished, were left untouched. They were not developed further. In contrast, the temples of ancient Egypt were never completed, and it was always possible to add new areas, structures, monuments, and statues. The best example of this can be found in a literary work from the First Intermediate Period, circa 2181–2055 BC. In the “Instructions for Merikare,” the ruler Khety called on his successor to “enlarge what he had built.” It is, therefore, obvious that both the historical and mythological aspects required from every Pharoah to outdo the works of his predecessor.


Have something to add? Visit Curiosmos on Facebook. Join the discussion in our mobile Telegram group. Also, follow us on Google News.

Written by Ivan Petricevic

I've been writing passionately about ancient civilizations, history, alien life, and various other subjects for more than eight years. You may have seen me appear on Discovery Channel's What On Earth series, History Channel's Ancient Aliens, and Gaia's Ancient Civilizations among others.

Write for us

We’re always looking for new guest authors and we welcome individual bloggers to contribute high-quality guest posts.

Get In Touch