The origin of the Name Horus
Horus is one of the most famous and iconic gods from ancient Egypt; the falcon-headed god born from Osiris and Isis after his father had been murdered and cut into pieces by his brother Set (Seth). The pieces of Osiris’ body was scattered throughout Egypt and Isis gathered them all and brought him back to life again to create their son.
But where does the name come from? What does it mean?
Archaeologists have believed that the name Horus stemmed from the root hr, ‘to be far’, that is to say ‘He Who Is Far Away’ – an explanation that seems to correspond the original concept of Horus as a sky god. However, this is based on later sources which confuse with the verb hr, and although this may have been the original meaning, “there is no early evidence for such paronomasia with the name of Horus”.
One way of determining the origin of Horus’ name is through the Coffin Texts, where Spell 148 states that his mother Isis says to him, ‘O falcon, my son Horus, dwell in this land of your father Osiris in this your name of Falcon who is on (or ‘above’) the battlements of the mansion of Him-whose-name-is-hidden’. His ornithological name is Bik; it is only after he has been born does she call him Horus, his divine name. She goes on to say, ‘Falcon who is on (or ‘above’) the battlements of the mansion of Him-whose-name-is-hidden’.
The name hr (Horus) was only given to him when he took his first flight after being instructed by Isis. “Consequently, one is tempted to consider the possibility that the present text regards Bik hry znbw hwt Imn-rn as the primary name of Horus, and that Hr may have been derived from it, perhaps even being a short form or a by-name”.
No matter what, Hr became the principal name of Horus. However, there is no firm round for the accepted etymology of Hr, ‘He who is far away’, despite the fact that being up and away is a feature of a flying falcon. This does not constitute a etymological value. “The late association of the name Hr in a play on words with the root hr does not actually show anything beyond the propensity of the Ancient Egyptians towards puns, and does not convey anything about the original meaning of the name”.
Gilula, Mordechai (1982) An Egyptian Etymology of the Name of Horus? The Journal of Egyptian Archaeology, Egypt Exploration Society.