hi·er·o·glyph·ic / ˌhī(ə)rəˈglifik/ • n. (hieroglyphics) writing consisting of hieroglyphs. ∎ enigmatic or incomprehensible symbols or writing: tattered notebooks filled with illegible hieroglyphics.• adj. of or written in hieroglyphs. ∎ (esp. in art) stylized, symbolic, or enigmatic in effect.DERIVATIVES: hi·er·o·glyph·i·cal adj.hi·er·o·glyph·i·cal·ly adv.
This term, normally applied to ancient Egyptian picture writing, is also used for the symbolic illustrations in astrological almanacs and for symbols produced by automatic and direct writing through mediumship. Direct writing (i.e., messages produced without contact between mediums and writing materials), although sometimes produced at séances, has also occurred during outbreaks of poltergeist phenomena, when the poltergeist distributes messages throughout a house. For example, in a disturbance in the house of Eliakim Phelps, in Stratford, Connecticut (1850-51), hieroglyphs were found on the walls and ceilings. The matter was investigated by Spiritualist medium Andrew Jackson Davis, who claimed to recognize the hieroglyphs as spiritual symbols. He interpreted them as friendly messages from spiritual powers.
Capron, E. W. Modern Spiritualism: Its Facts and Fanaticisms. Boston: B. Marsh; New York: Patridge and Brittan, 1855.
Hence, as back-formation or after F. hiéroglyphe, hieroglyph XVII.