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This article refers to the historical Pharaoh. For Pharaoh in the Book of Abraham, see Pharaoh (Book of Abraham).

Pharaoh (פַּרְעֹה, Standard Hebrew Parʿo, Tiberian Hebrew Parʿōh) is a title used to refer to the kings (of godly status) in ancient Egypt. (See History of Egypt and monarch.) The term derives ultimately from the Egyptian words Pr-Aa meaning "Great House". Originally a term for the royal palace, this word came into vogue to refer to the king.

The earliest certain instance of the term "pharaoh" is in a letter addressed to Thutmose III in the mid-Eighteenth Dynasty (1539-1292 BC). By the Twenty-second Dynasty (c. 945-c. 730 BC) this usage had been extended and was now used occasionally just as hm.f "His Majesty" was used in earlier periods. It was not the official title but was used in letters to the monarch. It is frequently used by modern historians due to its use in the Bible, especially the Book of Exodus, and in the Ancient Greek and Roman writers; although the Bible, at least in the Hebrew original, treats Pharaoh like a proper name rather than like a title.



The official titulary of the king by the New Kingdom consisted of five names; for some rulers, we know only one or two of them. In the order of their appearance they are:

  • The Horus Name. This is the earliest recorded name, which was created to identify the king with an aspect of the Hawk-god Horus. It was written inside a serekh.
  • The nebty or Two Ladies Name. This name was associated with the goddess of Upper Egypt (the vulture-goddess Nekhbet), and the goddess of Lower Egypt (the cobra-goddess Wadjet).
  • The Golden Falcon Name. This name first appeared in the Twelfth Dynasty, and became a part of the official titulary.
  • The Praenomen. The throne name, by which he was addressed in diplomatic correspondence. It was the first of the two names written inside a cartouche, and usually accompanied by one of two phrases: either n-sw-bity, "He of the Sedge and the Bee"; or neb tawy, "Lord of the Two Lands".
  • The Nomen. This was given to the crown prince at birth; it was his "real" name. The other names were received at his coronation. Beginning with Chephren of the Fourth Dynasty, this name was introduced by the title "son of Ra."


The king of Egypt wore a double crown, created from the Red Crown of Lower Egypt and the White Crown of Upper Egypt. It was adorned by a uraeus, which was doubled under the Twenty-fifth Dynasty

See also


  • Sir Alan Gardiner Egyptian Grammar: Being an Introduction to the Study of Hieroglyphs, Third Edition, Revised. London: Oxford University Press, 1964. Excursus A, pp. 71-76.

External links

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