What is Transliteration?

Transliteration is a method of representing the characters of one writing system using the characters of another writing system. For our purposes, transliteration is a way of representing ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs using (mostly) letters from the English alphabet. It provides a standardized-- not to mention time-saving-- way to reproduce and analyze hieroglyphic writing.

Here is an example.

Note the "walking legs" glyph is not transliterated. This is a determinative sign indicating motion. A determinative gives context to the word that precedes it, serving as an aid in translation, but is omitted during transliteration.

There are several transliteration schemes in use among Egyptology scholars, each using slightly different character sets. In the scheme introduced by Egyptologist Sir Alan Gardiner, several transliteration characters combine an Engligh letter with a decoration. Gardiner's scheme also includes transliteration characters not used in the English alphabet. In the scheme introduced by Jan Buurman, Nicolas Grimal, et al. in 1988, known as the Manuel de Codage, all transliteration characters are taken directly from the English alphabet.

Here is an example.

Manuel de

There are several other transliteration schemes not mentioned here. For more information on transliteration and transliteration schemes, see the resources section.