What Is Coptic Egyptian

Coptic Egyptian: An Introduction to the Ancient Language and Culture

Coptic Egyptian, also known as the Coptic language, is an ancient Egyptian language that was spoken and written from around the 2nd century CE until the 17th century CE. It is a direct descendant of the Egyptian language that was spoken by the pharaohs and people of Ancient Egypt. In this article, we will explore the history and cultural significance of Coptic Egyptian, as well as its revival and importance today.

Brief History and Origin of Coptic Egyptian

Coptic Egyptian has its roots in the hieroglyphic script of Ancient Egypt, which dates back to around 3200 BCE. Over time, the script evolved into a more simplified form known as Demotic, which was used for everyday purposes. However, with the spread of Hellenistic culture following the conquest of Egypt by Alexander the Great in 332 BCE, a new script was introduced: the Greek alphabet. Greek became the official language of the ruling Ptolemaic Dynasty and was widely used in administrative and commercial documents.

It was during this period that the Coptic language began to emerge as a distinct language. The word “Coptic” comes from the Greek word “Aigyptos,” which means Egypt. The Copts, who were Egyptians who had converted to Christianity, adapted the Greek alphabet to their native language, creating the Coptic alphabet. This allowed for the translation of the Bible and other religious texts into the Egyptian language, helping to establish Coptic Christianity as a distinctive expression of the faith.

Coptic Egyptian continued to be spoken and written until the 17th century CE when it fell out of use as Arabic became the dominant language in Egypt. However, Coptic continued to be used by the Coptic Orthodox Church for liturgical purposes and remained an important cultural marker for Egyptians of Coptic heritage.

Revival of the Coptic Language and Culture

In recent years, there has been a revival of interest in Coptic Egyptian, fueled in part by a growing interest in ancient history and languages. This has led to increased efforts to preserve and promote Coptic language and culture, particularly among the Coptic diaspora communities living in various parts of the world.

One of the key organizations involved in the revival of Coptic language and culture is the Coptic Canadian History Project, which was founded in 2009 with the aim of preserving the rich history and culture of Coptic Egyptians in Canada. The project has produced a range of resources, including a digital archive of Coptic texts, a cookbook featuring traditional Coptic dishes, and language courses for those interested in learning Coptic.

The revival of the Coptic language and culture has also been facilitated by the internet, which has made it easier for people around the world to connect with each other and share resources. There are now numerous websites, online courses, and social media groups devoted to Coptic language and culture, allowing people from all backgrounds to learn and engage with this fascinating aspect of Egyptian history.

Importance of Coptic Egyptian Today

The significance of Coptic Egyptian goes beyond its historical and cultural value. For many Coptic Christians, the language retains a deep spiritual and religious meaning. The Coptic Orthodox Church uses Coptic language in its liturgy, and the language is seen as an integral part of Coptic identity and heritage.

Furthermore, Coptic Egyptian provides a valuable window into the language and culture of Ancient Egypt, which has had a profound impact on world history and culture. The study of Coptic language and culture can help to deepen our understanding of the rich and complex history of Egypt and its people. By preserving and promoting Coptic language and culture, we are able to connect with the past and ensure that the legacy of the ancient Egyptians is not lost.


In conclusion, Coptic Egyptian is a fascinating language and culture that has played an important role in the history of Egypt and the wider world. From its origins in the hieroglyphic script of Ancient Egypt to its current revival and importance today, the language provides a unique insight into the history and culture of the Egyptians. Whether you are interested in history, language, or religion, the study of Coptic Egyptian is a rich and rewarding experience that is sure to deepen your knowledge and appreciation of this ancient and vibrant culture.