Ankh

An ankh

The ankh is an ancient Egyptian hieroglyphic symbol that was most commonly used in writing and in art to represent the word for "life" and, by extension, as a symbol of life itself. The sign has a cross shape but with an oval loop in place of an upper bar. The origins of the symbol are not known, although many hypotheses have been proposed. It was used in writing as a triliteral sign, representing a sequence of three consonants, Ꜥ-n-ḫ. This sequence was found in several Egyptian words, including the words meaning "mirror", "floral bouquet", and "life". In art the symbol often appeared as a physical object representing either life or substances such as air or water that are related to it. It was especially commonly held in the hands of deities, or being given by them to the pharaoh, to represent their power to sustain life and to revive human souls in the afterlife. It was also used as a decorative motif, one of the most common in ancient Egypt.

Cultures that neighbored ancient Egypt sometimes adopted the ankh as an artistic motif, and Coptic Christians adapted it, as the crux ansata, into a variant form of the Christian cross. Since the late 20th century, the sign has again come to be used decoratively, as well as a symbol of black identity, Neopagan belief systems, and the Goth subculture.

Use in writing

Ꜥnḫ
in hieroglyphs
S34n
Aa1
 
or
 
S34
[1]

In ancient Egyptian hieroglyphic writing, the ankh was a triliteral sign: one that represented a sequence of three consonant sounds. The ankh stood for the sequence Ꜥ-n-ḫ, where n is pronounced like the English letter n, is a voiced pharyngeal fricative, and is a voiceless or voiced velar fricative (sounds not found in English).[2] In the Egyptian language, these consonants were found in the verb meaning "live", the noun meaning "life", and words derived from them, such as sꜤnḫ, which means "cause to live" or "nourish".[1]

The same consonants were found in the word for "mirror" and the word for a floral bouquet.[3] The three consonants also compose the word for a rope-like object found in illustrations on many coffins from the Middle Kingdom (c. 2055–1650 BC). The Egyptologist Alan Gardiner believed these objects to be sandal straps, given that they appear in pairs at the foot of the coffin and the accompanying texts say the objects are "on the ground under his feet".[4]

Other Languages
Afrikaans: Anch
العربية: مفتاح الحياة
azərbaycanca: Anx
беларуская: Анх
Bikol Central: Ankh
български: Анх
brezhoneg: Ankh
català: Ankh
čeština: Anch
dansk: Ankh
Deutsch: Anch
eesti: Ankh
Ελληνικά: Ανκχ
español: Anj
Esperanto: Ansa kruco
euskara: Ankh
فارسی: عنخ
français: Ânkh
Gaeilge: Anc
galego: Ankh
한국어: 앙크
հայերեն: Անխ
hrvatski: Ankh
Bahasa Indonesia: Ankh
italiano: Ankh
עברית: ענח'
Latina: Ankh
latviešu: Anks
lietuvių: Ankhas
magyar: Ankh
македонски: Анк
Nederlands: Anch
日本語: アンク
norsk: Ankh
norsk nynorsk: Ankh
occitan: Ankh
ਪੰਜਾਬੀ: ਅਨਖ
polski: Anch
português: Ankh
română: Ankh
русский: Анх
Scots: Ankh
shqip: Anku
sicilianu: Ankh
Simple English: Ankh
slovenčina: Anch
slovenščina: Ankh
српски / srpski: Анк
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Ankh
suomi: Ankh
svenska: Ankh
Türkçe: Ankh
українська: Анкх
اردو: عنخ
Tiếng Việt: Ankh
žemaitėška: Anchs
中文: 生命之符