BRiT is a digital publication that aims to narrate cultural transfer and language change in the Ancient Near East.

Semitic loanwords appearing in Ancient Egyptian texts serve as a unique testimony to the enigmatic cultural relations occurring between Egyptian and Levantine populations during the Second Millennium BCE.

The list utilizes a multidisciplinary approach, combining Egyptian and Afro-Asiatic linguistics, areal and historical linguistics and cultural interference theory to not only re-contextualize this socio-cultural interchange but make the data accessible for scholars and the general public by harnessing this data into a digital research platform.



1/ Creating a new lemma list

Firstly, a new list of loanwords appearing in texts of Second Intermediate Period and the New Kingdom Egypt was created. The first stage was the digitization of all existing lexicographical studies including entangling scholarly etymological debates about each possible loaned lexeme.

The digitization is done using 'iClassifier', a digital platform created for the study of classifiers in scripts and in languages. 

2/ Collecting examples and digitizing their analysis and metadata

I search for tendencies tied with geography, text-type and other sociolinguistic variables motivating lexical borrowing. Part of the research is to map the diachrony of lexical items in Egyptian and examine what enables certain lexemes (~20% of loanword in Late Egyptian) to linger up until Coptic, the latest attested variety of Ancient Egyptian. 

The context of each token is studied by collecting detailed metadata of each witness (textual source) using the Thot data model, which will structure open-source and sharable data according to TEI standards, offered for reuse by other projects.


3/ Sharing the data online- the story and lifespan of loanwords in Egyptian

Data will be searchable by meaning, transliteration, sign combination, classifier categories of borrowings, and by querying all cognates suggested per language (i.e. Akkadian, Ugaritic). Each lexical item is also linked to its possible cognates attested later in Biblical Hebrew, Aramaic, Arabic, Ge'ez as well as other languages. 

The story of Each lexical item will be illustrated and its journey into and out of the Egyptian lexicon retold. 

iCL logo BLUE.jpg


and The Archaeology of the Mind Lab 

Attestations of a term transliterated as brt appear in Egyptian monumental royal texts.

In temple regulations (Nauri decree of Sethy I) this term is used to describe how temple personnel are protected from being transported to other positions, one of which is


in    brt                     of   labor

"m brt m bḥw,meaning 'under a brt (contract) of labor.' 
This labor type is mentioned alongside agricultural labor positions such as plowing and harvesting). 

In an inscription dealing with the Second Libyan War dated to Ramses III's 11th Year, at Medinet Habu, this term appears in relation to the state of troops attacked by the Egyptians:

𓁹𓇋𓇋𓈖𓏥      𓃀𓅡𓂋𓍘𓏤𓇋𓀁 𓂋𓎛𓈖𓂝 [                                                  ]

made-we   brt                      with

"ı͗r(y)⸗nw brt r-ḥnꜥꜥ" , 'we made a brt with.. (??),

(Egypt is eternally victorious...)' 

Another occurrence in the same texts describes how after the foreign troops were intimidated and confused, they:

𓁹𓇋𓇋𓏲𓏥        𓃀𓅡𓂋𓏺𓍿𓀁𓂋𓇥𓂋𓅱𓏛𓏥𓌨𓂋     𓏎𓋔𓏌𓏲𓏛𓏥𓊃𓈖𓏪

they-made  brt                     entirely          under tribute-their
"ı͗r(y)⸗w brt r-ḏrw ẖr ı͗n.w⸗sn"  

'(they were intimidated, enfeebled and confused) and they all made a brt , bearing their tribute (upon their backs)'.. 

Medinet Habu pl 82 line 28 brit.PNG





B-R-T *

what does it stands for? 

*birītu, *birīta, *berītu

b-r-t are the consonants of a word attested in Egyptian texts
referencing a form of social agreement.

petrie stela brit PN f.PNG

Photo credits

University of Chicago. 1932. Later historical records of Ramses III. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Pls. 82-83. 

Griffith, F. Ll.  1927. 'The Abydos Decree of Seti I at Nauri.' The Journal of Egyptian Archaeology 13 (3/4): 193-208.

Petrie, F. 1925. Tombs of the Courtiers and Oxyrhynkhos. London. Pl. 31, no. 2.


Görg, M. 1979. “Bericht über die Arbeit an einem Wörterbuch der semitischen Fremdwörter im Ägyptischen,” in: W.F. Reineke (ed.), Acts of the First International Congress of Egyptology, Berlin: Schriften zur Geschichte und Kultur des Alten Orients, 237-41.

Kitchen, K. A. 1979. 'Egypt, Ugarit, Qatna and covenant.' Ugarit-Forschungen 11: 453-464.

Warburton, D. A. 1997. State and economy in ancient Egypt: fiscal vocabulary of the New Kingdom. Orbis Biblicus et Orientalis 151. Freiburg (Schweiz); Göttingen: Universitätsverlag; Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht.

David, A. 2006. Syntactic and lexico-semantic aspects of the legal register in Ramesside royal decrees. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz , pp. 45, 49. 

Subscribe here for updates regarding the online publication of the BRiT database:  


2017. "Tracking Variation in Orthography: The Case of Loanwords in Ancient Egyptian", (Poster), in: manuSciences‘17 French German Summer School organized by the BAM, CSMC and EPHE/PSL.

2018. y(a)m, ḳ(e)s(e)m and ḥ(e)r(e)p: Semitic Loanwords in Egyptian.’ Institute of Archaeology, Hebrew University, Jerusalem.


2018.  "How Does Language Portray Culture Contact? Semitic Loanwords in Second Intermediate Period and New Kingdom Egypt",(Poster), in: 'Crossroads III – A Stranger in the House', Prague, September 10-13, 2018.

3/2019. ‘Mapping the ancient Egyptian mind: Introducing iClassifier, a new platform for  systematic analysis of classifiers in Egyptian and beyond’, at: Ancient Egypt and New Technology: The Present and Future of Computer Visualization, Virtual Reality and other Digital Humanities in Egyptology. 29-30 March 2019 at Indiana University, Bloomington. (co-authored with Orly Goldwasser and Dmitry Nikolaev). 

4/2019. ‘A study on verb borrowing integration in the BRiT list of Semitic loanwords in Ancient Egyptian- The case of šrm ‘to greet; to seek peace’ and ʿšq ‘to extort’, at: The 7th International Graduate Student Conference on Diverse Approaches to Linguistics (IGDAL 7), April 8th, 2019, Hebrew University, Jerusalem.

7/2019. "Classifying the Other: Mapping classifier categories of Semitic loanwords in Late Egyptian." At the ISF founded international workshop "iClassifier: A new digital tool for the analysis of classifier scripts and languages." July 1-4, 2019. Maiersdorf room 501, Mount Scopus, Jerusalem. 

8/2019. '‘..and they all made a BRT’:  Semitic Loanwords in New Kingdom texts as cultural goods.' Talk to be given at International Congress for Young Egyptologists,  21-24 August 2019, Leiden University.

9/2019. 'Scenarios of verb borrowing from Semitic into Late Egyptian: A sociolinguistic analysis based on the iClassifier database corpora.' Charles University, Prague. 

12/2019. Halely Harel and Orly Goldwasser. “The classification of borrowed compound proper names in hieratic: A case study by the digital iClassifier.” Talk given at  Ägyptologische „Binsen“-Weisheiten IV - Hieratic of the New Kingdom, 11 December 2019.

BRiT will be a digital edition of my doctoral research titled LOANWORDS AS CULTURAL GOODS: CONTEXTUALIZING LEXICAL BORROWING FROM SEMITIC INTO EGYPTIAN DURING SECOND INTERMEDIATE PERIOD AND NEW KINGDOM EGYPT, carried out at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and supervised by Prof. Orly Goldwasser.

Cite: Harel, Halely. 2019. BRiT: A lexicon of Semitic loanwords in Ancient Egyptian. (DD/MM/YY)

Halely Harel

PhD candidate, Institute of Archaeology and the
Ancient Near East, Hebrew University of Jerusalem.