The "Word Geek" generally prefers calling a spade a spade. But the ancient king of Egypt was called a pharaoh for a reason. Nobody else’s king was a pharaoh. This word comes from a real and actual Egyptian word. The English version comes from Latin Pharao by way of Greek, also Pharao (with a macron or long sign over the “o”), via Hebrew par’oh, which also had a long “o.” The Hebrew version came from the original Egyptian which was written without vowels, transcribed pr’3. The Word Geek realizes that the last letter looks like a number, but that’s more or less the conventional way of representing a throaty sound called a glottal stop, which English has in the middle of “uh-oh.” Egyptian had three different kinds of glottal stop, actually, with the apostrophe and the apparent number three representing two of them. Originally, there would’ve been some vowels around those four consonants, making them pronounceable, so that the word probably sounded a lot like the Hebrew word above.
Anyway, the Egyptian expression means “great house, big house.” The first bit, pr, means “house” and the part with the two glottal stops means “big” or “great.” Originally the phrase referred to the palace where the king lived. But eventually it became a metaphor for the fellow who lived in that big house. That’s a lot like Americans speaking of the President by saying the White House said or did thus and so.
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