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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Personal Names: Function and Significance

  • Author(s): Vittmann, Günter
  • et al.

In ancient Egypt, an individual’s name was of vital importance for defining his identity insociety and assuring his survival for posterity. A person might have two or even three names,one of them sometimes being a basilophorous name (a name that incorporates a king’s name)adopted by the individual at a certain stage of life. For foreigners, taking an Egyptian namewas frequently a means by which they integrated into Egyptian society. Grave crimes wouldentail damnatio memoriae, a process by which a person’s identity could essentially beerased by mutilation and obliteration of the name. Certain personal names also hadapotropaic potential, and the names of the sages of the past could even be used in magic.

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