TLA Lemma Lists

A set of digital lemma lists is one of two core parts of the Thesaurus Linguae Aegyptiae (TLA), the other one being the text corpus. Currently, there are two structured lists of lemmata of the ancient Egyptian language: (i) the hieroglyphic/hieratic lemma list (55,333 entries, 1,159 thous. tokens), based on texts written in hieroglyphic or hieratic script, and (ii) the Demotic lemma list (15,321 entries, 328 thous. tokens), based on texts written in Demotic. Soon, a third list with Coptic lemmata will be added (see below).

The lemma lists contain basic words as well as phrases comprising words that belong together, e.g., ḥw.t-nṯr ‘temple.’ The lists include specific nominal entities in addition to common nouns such as proper names (of kings, deities, private persons, places, named things), titles, and epithets, e.g., jm.j-rʾ-mšꜥ ‘general’ (title), or ḥqꜣ-dwꜣ.t ‘ruler of the netherworld’ (epithet).

Each lemma entry contains an Egyptological transliteration, an indication of its word category (part of speech), translation equivalents in German, often in English, and sometimes in French, and bibliographic references. Entries in the hieroglyphic/hieratic lemma list also provide a selected hieroglyphic spelling. If applicable, lemma entries may also contain information on word formation, namely its root or its nominalization class (‘noun class’). All lemma entries have a unique and stable ID number, which should be used for scientific reference in digital and in printed publications, e.g., “TLA lemma 90260.”

The lemma lists are constantly maintained and expanded.

Unique identification number (ID)

Each entry in the lemma lists has a unique and stable ID number, e.g., “90260” or “d3318.” These IDs should be used to quote individual lemmata from the TLA. They may also serve to match TLA entries with other electronic lexicographical sources via stable URLs, e.g., “” IDs for lemmata in the hieroglyphic/hieratic lemma list are purely numeric and correspond to those in “legacy TLA” (2014). IDs for lemmata in the Demotic lemma list consist of a number that corresponds to the one in legacy TLA plus a new additional prefix “d” (for “Demotic”). The minus (“-”) in the number in legacy TLA is substituted by “m” (for “minus”). Consequently, Demotic lemma IDs have forms like, e.g., “d3318” or “dm1105” (note that “d3318” and “dm3318” are indeed different entries; the minus originally was a now obsolete editorial technicality.) Lemmata in the Coptic lemma list (will) have a prefix “C” (for “Coptic”).

Editorial status

The editorial review status of each lemma entry is categorized and indicated by one of three icons:

  • The icon (“Verified”) indicates that an entry has been reviewed and found valid.
  • The icon (“Verification pending”) indicates that an entry still needs to be reviewed (e.g., entries imported from external lexicographical sources, but not yet checked).
  • The icon (“Inactive”) indicates that an entry’s status as a lemma has been revoked by the chief lemma list editor based on ongoing lexicographical research. Furthermore, specific lemma entries that simply refer the user to other entries are marked this way.


The core part of each lemma entry is an Egyptological transliteration.

For the transliteration of lemmata in hieroglyphic or hieratic script, the lemma list follows a transliteration system with j for 𓇋 (not ı͗ as in the Berlin Wörterbuch) and also for 𓏭, y (not j) for 𓇌, z (not s) for 𓊃, and s (not ś) for 𓋴, q (not ) for 𓈎, i.e., a system as basically established by Elmar Edel in his Altägyptische Grammatik (1955–1964), however, expanded as far as the transliteration of the double reed leaf (𓇌) is concerned.

Effectively, the system is equivalent to the one in Rainer Hannig’s lexica series; cf. the overview on Wikipedia. Note that this decision is not meant as a philological or linguistic statement but was based on pragmatic considerations about editorial convenience and machine readability in times before Unicode.

For the transliteration of lemmata in Demotic script, the lemma list essentially follows the transliteration system of W. Erichsen’s Demotisches Glossar (1954), with ı͗ for the successor of 𓇋 and j for the successor of 𓇌𓏲. However, as in the hieroglyphic/hieratic lemma list, q is used for the successor of 𓈎.

Overview of special signs

Erman &
Grapow, Wb.
lemma list
de codage
Demot. Glossar
lemma list
de codage
𓇋ı͗jjı͗ı͗iCodepoint for ı͗:
ijjjUlt.inf. j
uUlt.inf. w
ʾ'“Secondary Alif”

Basic lemma information

Lemma entries generally provide the following additional information:

  • Hieroglyphic spelling: In order to support the identification of a lemma, entries in the hieroglyphic/hieratic lemma list usually quote a selected hieroglyphic spelling (still in progress).
  • Part of Speech (POS) / lemma category: Each lemma is classified according to a lexical category. These categories range from common nouns (substantives), adjectives, verbs, adverbs, and various function words to such specific categories as personal names, epithets, and titles. Compare the following list of POS categories and subcategories:
    • Common nouns (optional specification: masc.; fem.)
    • Names (optional specification: divine name; Royal name; personal name; animal’s name; name of an institution; name of a thing; place name)
    • Titles / epithets (optional specification: title; divine epithet; royal epithet)
    • Adjectives (optional specification: deprepositional nisbe; denominal nisbe)
    • Verbs (optional specification: 2-rad.; 3-rad.; 4-rad.; 5-rad.; 6-rad.; IIae gem.; IIIae gem.; IIIae inf.; IVae inf.; Vae inf.; caus. 2-rad.; caus. 3-rad.; caus. 4-rad.; caus. 5-rad.; caus. IIae gem.; caus. IIIae gem.; caus. IIIae inf.; caus. IVae inf.; irregular)
    • Adverbs (optional specification: deprepositional)
    • Pronouns (optional specification: personal pronoun; demonstrative pronoun; interrogative pronoun; relative pronoun)
    • Numerals (optional specification: cardinal number; ordinal number)
    • Prepositions
    • Particles (optional specification: non-enclitic; enclitic)
    • Interjections
    • Roots
    • Punctuation marks
    • (undefined)
  • Translation: By default, each lemma entry includes a German translation. English translations are provided for a large part of the hieroglyphic/hieratic lemma list (with more being added periodically). For a smaller number of lemmata a French translation is also available (as imported from the cooperation partner Project Karnak). The Demotic lemma list currently only contains German translations.
  • Bibliographic references: Lemma entries include a selected, compact bibliography, referring to printed dictionaries or secondary literature in which the respective lemma is discussed.
  • External links: Lemma entries provide links to matching or related entries in other Egyptological electronic lemma lists or dictionaries.

Certain lemma entries also provide information on word formation:

  • Noun class: If applicable, entries for basic nominal lemmata provide information on their type of word formation pattern according to the noun classes in (i) J. Osing’s Nominalbildung des Ägyptischen (1976) and/or (ii) W. Schenkel’s Zur Rekonstruktion der deverbalen Nominalbildung des Ägyptischen (1983) (and further articles by him).
  • Root: see below.

Many lemma entries also provide information on relations to other lemmata. Types of such relations are:

  • Reference relation (“Referring to / Referred to from”): Revoked, obsolete, or referencing lemmata, i.e., those with the editorial status “Inactive” (see above), link to their respective substitute (and vice versa).
  • Hierarchical relation (“Hierarchical superordinates / Hierarchical subordinates”):
    • In accordance with the widely accepted grammatical analysis that adjectives and corresponding verbal lemmata are productively related, adjectives usually provide links to the respective (superordinate) verbal lemma (and vice versa).
    • Collocational lemmata entries such as jri̯ (sḫr.w) ‘to take care’ link to their superordinate kernel lemma (jri̯ ‘to make’). Likewise entries that represent contextually especially noteworthy semantics such as jri̯ (plus descendant name) ‘to engender’ link to their superordinate lemma (jri̯ ‘to make’).
  • Diachronic relation (“Historical successors / Historical predecessors”): Historically related entries in the hieroglyphic/hieratic lemma list and the Demotic lemma list are interlinked as successors or predecessors, respectively. (still in progress.)
  • Part/whole relation (“Parts / Part of”): Multi-word lemmata, i.e., lemma that consist of two or more words, provide links to the lemma entries for their respective parts (and vice versa). For example, the compound ḥw.t-nṯr “temple” refers to the two separate lemmata ḥw.t “mansion” and nṯr “god” (and vice versa). (still in progress.)
  • Root relation (“Root / Root of”): Entries for basic, i.e., single-word lemmata provide references to their consonantal root (and vice versa).

History of the lemma lists

The basis for the hieroglyphic/hieratic lemma list was the so-called “Beinlich Wortliste” compiled by Horst Beinlich and Friedhelm Hoffmann, which combined the lemmata from A. Erman’s & H. Grapow’s Wörterbuch der aegyptischen Sprache (1926–1931) and D. Meeks’s Année lexicographique (1977–1979, 1980–1982) into a single digital lemma list. This list was incorporated into the digital working environment of the Academy’s previous project “Altägyptisches Wörterbuch” (1992–2012). Since then, it has been constantly and gradually developed into the present hieroglyphic/hieratic lemma list, carefully edited by Ingelore Hafemann and Simon Schweitzer. In the course of this work, a digital list of Egyptian proper names compiled by Jochen Hallof was added to the list. English translation equivalents were added to the lemmata by Marianne Eaton-Krauss and Andrea Sinclair.

The foundation for the Demotic lemma list was laid by Friedhelm Hoffmann who compiled a digital demotic lemma list from W. Erichsen’s Demotisches Glossar (1954) and the Chicago Demotic Dictionary edited by J. Johnson. Once implemented in the Berlin Text System (BTS), this lemma list was edited and enlarged by Günter Vittmann as part of the project “Demotische Textdatenbank” at the Academy of Sciences and Literature in Mainz (2000–2012).

The Academies’ TLA projects owe much to collaborators such as those mentioned above, who have generously shared their work.

Prospects for the future

Coptic lemma list

The latest language stage of the ancient Egyptian language, the Coptic language and script (ca. 4th to 14th century CE), is not yet represented in the TLA. However, its inclusion in the TLA is currently being prepared. The basis for the future Coptic lemma list, which includes indigenous Egyptian lemmata as well as the large set of Greek loanwords, is already published as the Comprehensive Coptic Lexicon (CCL) in the form of raw TEI XML data outside the TLA under a free license (for the latest version, see The CCL was edited at the Berlin academy (BBAW) by Frank Feder and Maxim Kupreyev in cooperation with colleagues from the DFG project Database and Dictionary of Greek Loanwords in Coptic (DDGLC, 2012–2024), directed by T. Sebastian Richter. It is already in operation on the Coptic Dictionary Online (

A complete lemma network for the Egyptian-Coptic language

In the coming years, the three still separate lemma lists – hieroglyphic/hieratic, Demotic, and Coptic – will become more and more interlinked. They will develop into a network of diachronic chains of Egyptian-Coptic lemmata, covering the entirety of attested Egyptian language history over more than 4,000 years, from ca. 3,000 BCE to 1,400 CE. We hope that this new diachronic lemma network, the future diachronic TLA ‘lemma network’, will stimulate new research questions and research designs that overcome the traditional separation of Ancient Egyptian lexicography along its language phases.