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ANKH (ongk)

Egyptian hieroglyphic character shaped like a looped cross
Common clues: Egyptian cross; Looped cross; Egyptian symbol of life; Pharaoh's cross; Ancient cross
Crossword puzzle frequency: 2 times a year
Frequency in English language: 67849 / 86800
Video: Meaning of the ankh

The ankh was the Egyptian hieroglyphic character that stood for a word which means life. Gods may carry it by the loop, or bear one in each hand crossed over their breast. Latinists interpreted the symbol as a crux ansata, "cross with a handle."

What it is a picture of remains a mystery to Egyptologists. Some have speculated that it represents a stylized womb. This hypothesis has not met with wide acceptance. Sir Alan Gardiner speculated that it represents a sandal strap, with the loop going around the ankle.

The ankh appears frequently in Egyptian tomb paintings and other art; it often appears at the fingertips of a god or goddess in images that represent the deities of the afterlife conferring the gift of life on the dead person's mummy. The ankh symbol was often carried by Egyptians as an amulet, either alone, or in connection with two other hieroglyphs that mean "strength" and "health." Mirrors were often made in the shape of an ankh.

A similar symbol (♀) was used to represent the Roman goddess Venus. This symbol, known benignly as Venus' hand mirror, is much more associated with a representation of the female womb. In astrology the same symbol is used to represent the planet Venus, in alchemy to represent the element copper, and in biology to identify the female sex.

The ankh is widely employed in pop culture, as a textual device to instantly communicate deep history, arcane life-forces and/or spiritual magic. Commonly used as a logo that virtually says "Ancient Egypt!”

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Ankh".