The name “Egypt” is believed to have come from the original name of Egypt’s ancient capital Memphis, “Hout ka-Ptah,” meaning “Castle of the ka of Ptah.” This name was often used even for the country as a whole. … The name of Egypt during ancient times, especially the Old Kingdom, was, however Kemet, meaning “Black land.”
Over the millenniums, Egypt has had many names in many different languages.
Today, its official name is Jumhuriyah Misr al-Arabiyah, which in English means the Arab Republic of Egypt. Egyptians themselves refer to Egypt as Misr, though this can also be a name for Cairo.
Interestingly, it is common for Egyptians to refer to Egypt as Misr, if they are resident in Cairo, but if outside of Cairo, then
they will refer to Cairo as Misr. In a certain respect, this is a custom that dates to the earliest times of ancient Egypt.
Basically, we can examine three groups of names which have applied to Egypt.
• In the early period of Egypt, during the Old Kingdom, Egypt
was referred to as Kemet (Kermit), or simply Kmt ,
which means the Black land. They called themselves “remetch
en Kermet”, which means the “People of the Black Land”. The
term refers to the rich soil found in the Nile Valley and Delta.
But it was also sometimes referred to as Deshret, or dshrt
, which refers to the “Red Land”, or deserts of which
Egypt is mostly comprised.
• Later, Egyptians referred to their country as “Hwt-ka-Ptah” (Htka-Ptah, or Hout-ak Ptah) , which means “Temple for
Ka of Ptah”, or more properly, “House of the Ka of Ptah” Ptah
was one of Egypt’s earliest Gods. As in modern Egypt, this was
both a name for the administrative center of Egypt, what we call
Memphis today, as well as the name of the country as a whole.
• Egypt, as many people of the world refer to the country today, is
a derivative of this ancient name. Even today, people who speak
one language often change the spelling of words in another
language because of the difficulty they may have in
pronouncing some of the sounds of that foreign language.
Hence, in pronouncing Hwt-ka-Ptah, the Greeks changed this
world to Aegyptus (Aigyptos), which they used in their literature
as the name of an Egyptian King (perhaps Ramesses, though in a fictional manner), the Nile River and for the country itself. We find the word used by Homer in his famous “Odyssey”. We
believe the Greeks had difficulties with the Egyptian
pronunciation of the letter “H” at the beginning and end of Hwtka-Ptah.
Today, the word Egyptians often use for their country is Misr.