Use in writing
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, Ꜥ is a voiced pharyngeal fricative, and ḫ is a voiceless or voiced velar fricative (sounds not found in English). 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". One of the common uses of the term was to express a wish that a particular person live. For example, a phrase meaning something like "may you be healthy and alive" was used as a polite phrase in contexts similar to the English phrase "if you please", and the phrase Ꜥnḫ wḏꜣ snb, meaning "alive, sound, and healthy", was used as an honorific for the pharaoh when he was mentioned in writing.
The same consonants were found in the word for "mirror" and the word for a floral bouquet, so the sign was also used in writing these words. The three consonants also compose the word for a looped rope-like object found in illustrations on many coffins from the Middle Kingdom (c. 2055–1650 BC). The Egyptologists Battiscombe Gunn and 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".