The Stargate franchise is built around the notion of extraterrestrial visitors in Earth's ancient past, connecting many ancient Earth cultures with fictional extraterrestrial races such as the Goa'uld, Asgard, etc.. As a result, we often see a lot of Egyptian hieroglyphics, Norse runes, and other writing forms on screen. Where there is supposed to be a correlation with ancient Earth languages (regardless of origin), do the symbols actually make sense? Are they just random/arbitrarily chosen symbols? Do they form intelligible phrases? Do they contain production in-jokes? If so, what do they say?

Examples of alien writing:

  • Stargate symbols. Representations of constellations; non-linguistic and therefore out of the scope of my question.

  • Hieroglyphics. Look like Ancient Egyptian. Stargate mythology associates such writing with the language of the Goa'uld. Do any of the symbols appearing on obviously Goa'uld artifacts (resurrection sarcophagus, walls of Goa'uld ships, etc.) form readable phrases according to modern understanding of Ancient Egyptian?

  • Runes. Looks like ancient Norse writing. Stargate mythology associates such writing with the language of the Asgard. Do any of the runes where they appear in a technological or extra-terrestrial setting (as in episodes "Thor's Hammer", "Thor's Chariot", etc.) actually form readable Runic phrases?

  • Ancient. Looks more like a bar code than any natural language. Although Daniel Jackson associates spoken Ancient (one of the "four races") with Latin, the written form is obviously made-up for the show.

  • Nox and Furling. Writing appears in one or perhaps two episodes in which they are implicitly or explicitly identified as members of the "four races". Their languages are never associated with any human language, so any writings we might see must be made-up and therefore out of the scope of my question.

  • The Goa'uld system lord Yu wears clothing or other artifacts, or appears in settings upon which Asian (specifically Chinese?) symbols sometimes appear. Are these symbols meaningful in the context of their appearance?

I believe there are a few other examples of alien writings which Jackson associates with languages of the ancient Middle East or South Asia - Babylonian, Cuneiform(?) etc.. Does any of this writing which appears on screen actually form readable phrases, either meaningful in context or joke-full for the production staff?

  • 1
    I assume you're not referring to the symbols on the stargate itself, which mostly represent constellations. Aug 20, 2016 at 15:25
  • I'm assuming that he's referring to, for instance, the languages of the 4 races...gateworld.net/wiki/Alliance_of_Four_Races
    – Paulie_D
    Aug 20, 2016 at 15:43
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    The Goa'uld hieroglyphs were based on actual Egyptian hieroglyphs (but the show claimed the reverse of course). The Asgard runes contain actual Viking runes I believe.
    – Paulie_D
    Aug 20, 2016 at 15:52
  • @JohnSensebe Yes, excluding the constellation symbols, referring only to those which have or seem to have a linguistic nature - like hierogloyhics, runes, etc.
    – Anthony X
    Aug 20, 2016 at 16:21
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    I know that there have been attempts at converting some of the hieroglyphs to letters...you can see that at Wikipedia but whether they are meaningful is open to interpretation.
    – Paulie_D
    Aug 20, 2016 at 20:05

2 Answers 2


There is at least one case of ancient languages having meaning. As described in this excellent answer from Bamboo, the puddle jumper console (primarily appearing in Stargate Atlantis, occasionally appearing in Stargate SG-1) has messages written in Ancient.

copilot side of the console

In-universe, Ancient is a precursor language to Latin. However, the usage on the console is an English substitution cipher. If you replace the Ancient letters with English ones (and add spaces and punctuation), you see an apparently in-universe warning message about improper use of gate travel and the ship's cloaking device.

Gate protocols must be set before launch sequence.
Never attempt gate reentry when in cloak m??? [mode?]

  • Hey, that's my old answer! Neat. For what it's worth, all of the ancient writing in the Atlantis gate room (the text that lights up on the steps going up to the command center) can be similarly translated to English. I did it once, but don't seem to have my translation any more.
    – Bamboo
    Jan 22, 2017 at 21:47
  • @Bamboo I hope it's okay to share this info. If you wanted to take credit for this by posting your own answer, or expanding it, I'll be happy to delete mine. Jan 22, 2017 at 21:51
  • Oh no, it's totally cool. I was thinking about digging up my gateroom translation and adding it to this, or maybe creating a separate question specifically about translations to english. I'm sure there are plenty of others besides the gateroom and the jumper... those are just the only two I've done.
    – Bamboo
    Jan 22, 2017 at 21:54
  • @Bamboo The question asker was asking for several instances of translations. I think that either an expanded answer to this question, or a new self-answered question for just Atlantis stuff, would be great and I'd probably give you a bounty like I did for your last answer. Jan 22, 2017 at 21:58
  • Cool. I just posted a Question/Answer with the gateroom translation. Hopefully other people will find some other instances. I think there are a number of them. I vaguely recall someone in production at a convention saying there were lots of little phrases scattered around atlantis on consoles and viewscreens, etc. I figured since there are a number of them, it's worth it's own question.
    – Bamboo
    Jan 22, 2017 at 22:17

Most of the hieroglyphs are just a repeating series of a few glyphs. Some Hieroglyphic texts are intelligible though. See my answer for this question for a detailed explanation for the "Rosetta Stone" text in the original movie.

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