Etiology as the origins study in linguistics is meant here to find the origin for the European words for the Egyptian pyramids.

It seems there is no acceptable answer to this question, leaving a lot of room for imagination. If the pyramids were pharaoh tombs, would that not be the origin for the Greek word? The Ancient Egyptian (AE) word for a pyramid transliterates to MR. I agree with I.E.S. Edwards, quoted later by Mark Lehner quoted again himself in the book Land of Osiris, that the Ancient Egyptians did not name it a pharaoh tomb but “place of ascension” which Edwards gives as an etymology for MR. He had doubts whether this was correct. I think pyramid as “pharaoh tomb” is not found in AE writings as that would mean the AE would acknowledge that the pharaoh was dead; something culturally inconceivable, because he was believed to ascend to heaven and live (see Pyramid texts). But foreigners considered the pharaoh human and his burial site was thus not called a ‘place of ascension’ by foreigners, but a ‘pharaoh grave’ (Modern Hebrew: pr3h mt) or ‘pharaoh tomb’ (AE pr maHat or maHat pr). So what is the etiology of the word ‘pyramid’?

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    I think you should look up "etiology". I presume "AE" means Ancient Egyptian": why do you think you know what was "official" in it? lf you are going to reference a source, please give more than just the author's name. I can't work out what your "hypothesis" actually is. In short: if you write your question in a way that is actually comprehensible, you are more likely to get useful answers.
    – Colin Fine
    Commented Aug 18, 2018 at 21:44
  • Thank you for the tips. I edited the text. Hopefully it is clear now. I think pyramid originates from ‘pharaoh tomb’ in hieroglyphics; maHat pr which is in context with Semitic versions meaning ‘dead pharaoh’. Mind that AE pr originally meant ‘house’ according to AE dictionaries, but I would simplify this to ‘peri’ meaning ‘in’ which in context of architecture would be the concrete idea of a house, which the hieroglyph also represents ideographically. Literally ‘house of the dead’.
    – Ajagar
    Commented Aug 18, 2018 at 22:26
  • I had time to edit the question. Removed the word ‘official’ and added the quote and source info. It seems Lehner was quoting Edwards.
    – Ajagar
    Commented Oct 15, 2018 at 18:03

3 Answers 3


InB4 Downvote.

The entry on pyramís in Chantraine's Etymological Dictionary of Ancient Greek cites two senses of pyramís: "pyramid", and "grilled wheat grain cake mixed with honey" (Ephippus, cited in the Etymologicum Magnum); the usual form for the cake is pyramoûs.

Etymology: In the sense of "cake", the word is formed based on pyrós "wheat", by analogy with sēsamís, sēsamoûs "sesame cake". Diels, KZ 47, 1919, 193 hypothesised that the Pyramids were so called because they looked like the cake (whose shape we know nothing of), cf. Kretschmer, Gl. 10, 1920, 243. The hypothesis that it derives from an Egyptian loanword, pr-m-us "height", which goes back to Brugsch, Z. f. aegypt. Spr. 1874, is worthless.

  • Hi Nick, Thank you for your answer. I was aware of the cake hypothesis but it is not my cup of tea. Compared to other words the Greek took from Ancient Egyptian like Papyrus and Hieroglyph (a translation) the majestic impression seeing a pyramid up close would give could not result in an offensive ‘wheat cake’ comparisson half the world took over as a word for the structures. Comparative etymology can link ‘fired wheat form’ to ‘Fired pilar’. The context has to change from baking to architecture.
    – Ajagar
    Commented Aug 20, 2018 at 6:35
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    I am struck by the virtually identical wording in Beekes. The Greek dictionaries are all copied from one another.
    – fdb
    Commented Aug 20, 2018 at 10:44
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    @fdb: Which is why DGE is a breath of fresh air: everyone else copies LSJ too. Commented Aug 20, 2018 at 11:07
  • @fdb Well, it's not necessarily a bad thing though. As Gregory Nagy (one of the greatest Classicists of our time, imho) and Madeleine Goh put it, "such cross-fertilization is at the very core of lexicography and even of classical philology", also partly due to the fact that "the funding as well as the time necessary for compiling a new dictionary for a language as complex as ancient Greek both in its breadth and in its chronological span is daunting."
    – Alex B.
    Commented Oct 16, 2018 at 2:59
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    AlexB, I do not share your optimism. I'm not seeing cross-fertilisation, but staleness: you go to all the dictionaries, and get the same answer from all of them. It is true that DGE taking 2 centuries to finish is not the right answer to this problem; but if you constrain scope, you can get a de novo dictionary done in far less time. Cambridge did. Commented Oct 16, 2018 at 5:23

the word Pyramid comes from Tamil language as it would have been constructed by migrant Tamils who have built huge stone temples in South India. In Tamil, Peru means Big and Idu (Kadu) means grave (yard) and hence the word Perumidu which became Pyramid.

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    Strong claims like that need strong evidence: Can you add scholarly references for this? Commented Mar 26, 2022 at 17:26

Suppose it means temple, sacred place, similar to harem (cg. haram - forbidden). Then pyr mihjt relate to pure and fire. The cake sense would mean a creme brule. The tower sense named on wiktionary would relate to lighthouse. That is to say, your architectural "in" reading isn't convincing as far as I can tell, but the tomb idea is neat. I'd see mous (au chocolat) in the cake sense, but that may be later.

There's something about muscat and hiding, seclusion, about nuts and the seat of power, vital force, and something that doesn't check out about the common etymology for muscle. There's something about fire implying power and protection, too. There's something about wheat and power, and about wheat and purity afger having been threshed. The gloss reap for amao in the cake sense also has something of defeating. That sounds a tad too negative though.

  • I could propose my pyra-emud option but it would compound pyra (Greek fired) in relation to clay bricks Of which the first pyramids were built, with emud (Semitic tower). So a fired-clay-brick tower. ‘Emud’ inverted gives ‘dume’ where we can recognise the word ‘dome’ as in ‘domestication’; architecturally close to house. Maybe pyramid was formed from Pr (house) Aa (great) and emud (tower as in dome house). The Ancient Egyptian Great House followed by the Semitic word for tower. Pyr-a-mis an interpretation of ‘house-great-tower’. A tower built by the Great Palace’ meaning and spelling Pharaoh.
    – Ajagar
    Commented Aug 20, 2018 at 6:24
  • So pyra-mis could also mean ‘formed by Fired clay bricks’ leaving out the actual term ‘clay bricks’ unless ‘mud’ as in clay is not just an English ‘synonym’ for clay. Nowadays most houses in England are made of Fired clay and the term ‘mud’ could be a loan word from ‘emud’ related words. If tombs were the first things built with Fired clay bricks, the similarities between the word for tower and the word for tomb in Semitic languages can easily be explained. Thus pyramid would not have an origin in Greek terms, especially not in a wheat cake.
    – Ajagar
    Commented Aug 20, 2018 at 6:30
  • your comparisson with Haram works in the sense of MR being the Ancient Egyptian name inverted to Haram and interpreting Haram as secured (forbidden) there is a comparative link between the roots in the word ‘secured’ and ‘Ziggurat’. Sakarra was named after Ziggurat (copy paste by Egypt). I see a comparisson between Lehner his ‘ascension place’ and Greek ‘imera’ (the rise of day), which signifies the resurrection of the sun/pharaoh from the dawn/pyramid. In a solar cult, not out of the question.
    – Ajagar
    Commented Aug 20, 2018 at 6:39
  • I would just like to share a detail that I find very intriguing and it might be a coincidence but the Mathematical chance that it is is veeeeery low. By the way, ask me for reference if you want to use this idea, because As far as I know I am the first to see it. The Great Pyramid of Khufu in cubits is 440 wide by 280 high. The numerical values in one of earths languages for these numbers are: 440 280 TM RP These consonants form the words PR MT which with vowels can make the Pharaoh Grave: pr maHat. A Great coincidence? A Great Pyramid measure...
    – Ajagar
    Commented Aug 21, 2018 at 19:50
  • egypt.hitchins.net/the-pyramids/numerical-magic.html On the measures
    – Ajagar
    Commented Aug 21, 2018 at 19:51

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