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Summary Article: Pharaoh
From The Encyclopedia of Ancient History

The term "pharaoh" is today used as a general term to describe a king of ancient Egypt. It is taken directly from the biblical books of Genesis and Exodus, where Joseph and Moses are described as dealing with "Pharaoh King of Egypt."

The term derives from the Egyptian pr-'3 (per-aa), with the meaning of "great house," its development into a metonymy for the inhabitant of the palace paralleling "The Sublime Porte" for the Ottoman Sultan, "The White House" for the President of the United States, and "10 Downing Street" for the British Prime Minister. The first such usage that survives dates to the time of Thutmose III (see Thutmose I–IV). Its first known use as an actual title of the king dates to the time of Sheshonq I (see Sheshonq I–VI).

Ultimately the title could be placed in a cartouche and be employed where for some reason a specific king could not be mentioned in a temple inscription, particularly during the Roman period eras of rival emperors.


Titulary, Pharaonic Egypt.

References and Suggested Readings
  • Vergote, J. (1959) Joseph en Égypte: Genèse chap. 37-50 à la lumière des études égyptologiques récentes: 45-6. Louvain.
  • Aidan Dodson
    Wiley ©2012

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