Coptic language

latest stage of the Egyptian language

Coptic or Coptic Egyptian is an Egyptian language. It was spoken by many people in Egypt until at least the 17th century. Now, only a few people speak the language.[1]

ϯⲙⲉⲧⲣⲉⲙⲛ̀ⲭⲏⲙⲓ ~ ⲧⲙⲛ̄ⲧⲣⲙ̄ⲛ̄ⲕⲏⲙⲉ
Native toEgypt
Era2nd – 17th century; survives as the liturgical language of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria, with sporadic attempts at revival
Early forms
Coptic alphabet
Language codes
ISO 639-2cop
ISO 639-3cop
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Fragment of Coptic book

Egyptian began to be written using the Greek alphabet in the 1st century.[2] The new writing system became the Coptic script, an adapted Greek alphabet with the addition of six or seven signs from the demotic script to represent Egyptian sounds the Greek language did not have.[3] The two most common dialects are Sahidic and Bohairic.

Coptic and demotic Egyptian are very similar to the earlier Egyptian language written in the hieroglyphic script. Coptic flourished as a literary language from the 2nd to 13th centuries, and its Bohairic dialect continues to be the liturgical language of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria. It was supplanted by Egyptian Arabic as a spoken language toward the early modern period. The Copts have tried to revive the language since the 19th century.


  1. Coptic Encyclopedia;
  2. Reintges, Chris H. (2004). Coptic Egyptian (Sahidic dialect). Cologne: Rüdiger Köppe. ISBN 978-3-89645-570-3.
  3. Demotic means "of the people", so "demotic script" means the kind of writing the ordinary people used.