Sometimes the Egyptians of Antiquity gave to their country the name of Kemet or Kêmi ( km.t in Translittération). The Egyptologists generally translate this word by “the black cotton soil”, in reference to the strip of land made fertile by the black silt deposited by the annual rising of the the Nile, artery vital of the civilization of the ancient Egypt.

However, the authors afrocentrists (who study ancient Egypt like a “négro-African” civilization), translate Kemet by “the Country of the Blacks” when it applies to the country and by “the Blacks” when it designates its inhabitants. This interpretation is not attested in the reference books.

Not very common in the Egyptian texts (with the difference in particular of Taouy ( tȝ.wj ), “Double Country”), the Kemet term emblématique of Egyptian civilization at some is not impassioned of it ancient Egypt. Thus, it is frequent to meet it in the titles of publications or the Egyptological names of associations. One also finds it in the name of the movement esoteric Kémitiste, which is based on the beliefs of ancient Egypt.

Meanings of the word Kemet

The hieroglyphic dictionaries of reference recognize several meanings with the word km.t :

There exist other words also transcribed in “kemet”, but which decided surely another way that the name of the country of Egypt. Indeed, the vowels being omitted in hieroglyphic writing, one conventionally replaces them by E , thus creating artificial homonyms. One of them (see opposite), which means “complétude”, was used by old the  Égyptiens to indicate a very widespread teaching which would be “the completed sum of a teaching whose perfection reflects that of Egypt ( Kemet , “it (ground) black”), itself perfect image of the universe”.

According to the Egyptologist Pierre Montet, determined Kemet as a Toponyme was also one of names of the place chief of names “black Ox” ( jh (or kȝ) km in transcription) “the black Ox” in Low-Egypt.

Kemet like locative

Used since the end of the Ancient Empire to indicate the country, the word Kemet was declined in a great number of graphic alternatives:

The determinative one (which informs about the direction of a word, by distinguishing it from its homophons) does not escape these evolutions and if, with the Ancient Empire, the word Kemet is accompanied by determinative by “irrigated ground” and of “channel, river, lake”, it is that of “inhabited place” which replaces them starting from the Moyen Empire or Piece of extreme coal|| Sign bilitère km |- | G17 || Owl || Sign unilitère m (frequent phonetic redundancy in writing) |- | X1 || Bread || Sign unilitère T |- | O49 || Plan of city || Determinative of the inhabited place names |}

They form the word km.t , given as being an inhabited place or, in the past, like an irrigated region. The root km indicates the black color, whereas T mark here the female one”. To note that the German reference books use the expression das schwarze Fruchtland , which means “the fertile black cotton soil”, but that this concept of fertility is generally omitted in French as in English ( the Black Land ).

Definition by antithesis

The Wörterbuch der Ägyptischen Sprache defines Kemet as an antithesis of Decheret ( dšr.t ): Kemet being “fertile black cotton soil” of the valley in opposition to the “reddish ground” of the desert which surrounds it; and, by extension, Egypt in opposition to the foreign countries.

In the same way, for the Egyptologist Mr. Damiano-Appia, “the name of Kemet (or Kemi ), “the Black one”, referred to the black silt deposited in the plains of the Nile and was given by the Egyptians to their ground, or rather, with the fertile area, in opposition to the desert, called Deshret , “the Red”. ”

This chromatic antithesis finds in the Egyptian symbolic system, where the color of the desert, associated with Seth the Sterile one, means violence and chaos, whereas the black (and green) of the valley, associated with Osiris, symbolize the rebirth and the fertility.

Kemet like collective

Kemet indicating a human community

One finds in an anthem with the glory of Sésostris {{III}}, the word Kemet accompanied by determinative by the human communities (a man and a woman sitted: cf opposite). According to the Thesaurus Linguae Aegyptiae , it is about an “exceptional” alternative of the word Kemet determined like an inhabited place, of which she designates the inhabitants: a collective that Raymond Faulkner, in his Concise Dictionary off Middle Egyptian , translated by “Egyptians”.

Apart from this Hapax, the Egyptians name themselves rmṯ , “the human ones” (), rmṯ N pȝ tȝ , “the human ones of this country” (), rmṯ N km.t , “the human ones of Egypt” (Average Empire) and km.tjw , “those of Egypt” (ptolémaïque time).


One of the many words which the Egyptians used at the time ptolémaïque indicating themselves is kmt.yw , written with the ending .yw of the adjective-substantives who mark the relation or the dependence, e.g. sḫt.yw , “the oasiens” (literally, those of the oasis, sḫt ); njwt.yw , “villagers, townsmen” (literally, those of the village or the city, njwt ); dšrt.yw , “inhabitants of the desert of Thot” (literally, those of the desert, dšr.t ); jmnt.yw , “the late ones” (literally, those of the necropolis, jmnt ). Grammatically, it is undoubtedly about a derivative of kmt , “the black one”, the kmt.yw being consequently “those of black”, i.e. the inhabitants of Egypt.

Syntagmatic employment of Kemet

The hieroglyphic dictionaries of reference give several phrases containing the word Kemet:

Afrocentric interpretations

For the afrocentric authors, the study of the word Kemet finds its place within a vaster theory making of ancient Egypt a “negro” civilization. Indeed, according to them, the root kem , “black”, as Kemet would describe the color of the skin of the inhabitants of this country, rather than that of their ground. Thus, if this translation could be shown, it would constitute an intrinsic testimony through which the Egyptians would have indicated themselves in their own language like people of “Negros” and their country, like a “Black Country”.

The thesis of Sheik Anta Diop (one of the pioneers of the afrocentrism) making of Kemet people of “Negros”, reported in particular by the Dictionary of Africa of Bernard Nantet, is based on the “strange” C-W communication of Kemet indicating a human community. For him, the word Kemet would be at the etymological origin of “the biblical root kam ”, of “cham” or “ham” and he considers that the traditions Jewish and Arab classify Egypt like one of the countries of “Blacks”. Moreover, according to him, the root kem would have proliferated in many “négro-African” languages where it would have preserved the same direction of “black, black being”; in particular in its native tongue, the Wolof where khem means “black, to carbonize by excess of cooking”, or in Pulaar where kembu means “coal”.

For Theophilus Obenga, pillar of the contemporary afrocentrism, Kemet should result in “the Black Country”, with the same direction of “human geography” as the Black Africa which “indicate in one and the other case the country by the racial color of the inhabitants”. It also gives the example of Arabic bilad are-Sudan that it translates into “the country of the Blacks”.

Of share the dominating place that it occupies in their theory, the philological analysis of the word Kemet is approached in many works afrocentric. One can quote:

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