Gold (hieroglyph)

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in hieroglyphs

The Egyptian hieroglyph representing gold (𓋞 Gardiner S12), phonetic value nb, is important due to its use in the Horus-of-Gold name, one of the Fivefold Titulary names of the Egyptian pharaoh.

In its determinative usage, it identifies any precious metal, [1] and as an ideogram in "gold" specifically (Egyptian nbw, whence Coptic ⲛⲟⲩⲃ nūb).[2][3]

The hieroglyph represents a large gold and pearl necklace.[4] Old Kingdom scenes show dwarfs metalworking the gold,[5] and "stringing the pearls of gold".[6]

Variant forms[edit]

Three variants of the gold hieroglyph are ligatured with another hieroglyph:[7]

Gold and mace (club) for "silver."
Egyptian language nbi, for "gild", or "gilt." (Gold and Foot)
Gold and was scepter-("uas scepter"), for "electrum", dj'm.
In the 198 BC Rosetta Stone the silver ligature is used three times, lines N19-(Nubayrah Stele), R2, and R4 (Rosetta lines).[8] "Hedj", silver is often paired with grains as in line R2 (Rosetta 2), (for taxes from the temples): "....(amounts heavy) many of silver (i.e. money) and grain gave them, his Majesty to the ground (i.e. he remitted)."[9](For 'and', the wick, no. V28,
ligatured-with "arm",
.) In line R4, for renewing the shrines to God Hapy he gave: ".... Golds, (the hieroglyph-plural), silver (the ligature), (and)grains large quantities, and things of all kinds however many they were for the temple of dwelling of Apis-(Hap) the living, and decorated [it]. ...."[10] ("large" uses the swallow, no. G36,
, for wr-(ur): "great", 'large')


Horus-of-Gold name[edit]

12th dynasty pectoral, featuring twice a combination of the Horus falcon with the gold hieroglyph
One of the older uses of the gold hieroglyph is for the Horus-of-Gold,
name. Also known as the Golden Horus Name, this form of the pharaoh's name typically featured the image of a Horus falcon perched above /or beside the hieroglyph for gold.

The meaning of this particular title has been disputed. One belief is that it represents the triumph of Horus over his uncle Seth, as the symbol for gold can be taken to mean that Horus was "superior to his foes". Gold also was strongly associated in the ancient Egyptian mind with eternity, so this may have been intended to convey the pharaoh's eternal Horus name.

Similar to the Fivefold Titulary Nebty name, this particular name typically was not framed by a cartouche or serekh. It always begins with the depiction of the horus falcon perched above a representation of the sun-(hieroglyph).

The combination of the Horus falcon and the gold hieroglyph is frequently found on Ancient Egyptian pectorals (see image).


The Palermo piece of the 7—piece Palermo Stone.

In the Old Egyptian Palermo Stone inscription (late 24th or early 23rd century BC), the hieroglyph is used in the phrases "first counting of gold" and "collar of gold".

One spelling of the word "gold", nbw, in the Egyptian language, uses the melted nugget determinative,
(a small circle), and the plural strokes (3-strokes). A similar word nbi, nebi, "to cast metal" uses the foot hieroglyph and basket,
, hieroglyphs. However the determinative is not Gardiner Sign Listed; it is a "kneeling man-(metallurgist) blowing air into kiln-fire, with long tube".[11]

Late Period coinage[edit]

Gold stater of Nectanebo II; Perfect Gold, or Fine Gold.

One of the few coins minted for ancient Egypt is the gold stater, issued during the 30th Dynasty. The reverse of the gold stater shows a horse reared up on its hind legs. The obverse has the two hieroglyphs for nfr and nb: "Perfect gold", or a common-era term: 'Fine'-gold, ("Beautiful Gold"). The reverse, horse iconography is referenced because of the "beauty", and uniqueness of the horse species.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Betrò, 1994, Hieroglyphics: The Writings of Ancient Egypt, p. 176.
  2. ^ Allen, James P. (2013-07-11). The Ancient Egyptian Language: An Historical Study. Cambridge University Press. p. 71. ISBN 9781107032460. 
  3. ^ Betrò, 1994, p. 176.
  4. ^ Schumann-Antelme, Illustrated Hieroglyphics Handbook, p. 166.
  5. ^ Betrò, 1994, p. 176.
  6. ^ Betrò, 1994, p. 176.
  7. ^ Betrò, 1994, Hieroglyphics: The Writings of Ancient Egypt, p. 176.
  8. ^ Budge, The Rosetta Stone, p. 142, 147, 151.
  9. ^ Budge, p. 147-148.
  10. ^ Budge, p. 151.
  11. ^ Schumann-Antelme, p. 166-167.