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Title: Dingir  
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Subject: Cuneiform, Ideogram, Enki, Etemenanki, Phonetic complement
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Dingir (usually transliterated diĝir, pronounced /diŋir/) is a cuneiform sign, most commonly the determinative for "deity" although it has related meanings as well. As a determinative, it is not pronounced, and is conventionally transliterated as a superscript "D" as in e.g. DInanna. Generically, dingir can be translated as "god" or "goddess".[1]

The sign in Sumerian cuneiform (DIĜIR, 𒀭)[2] by itself represents the Sumerian word an ("sky" or "heaven"),[3] the ideogram for An or the word diĝir ("god"), the supreme deity of the Sumerian pantheon. In Assyrian cuneiform, it (AN, DIĜIR, ) could be either an ideogram for "deity" (ilum) or a syllabogram for an, or ìl-. In Hittite orthography, the syllabic value of the sign was again an.

The concept of "divinity" in Sumerian is closely associated with the heavens, as is evident from the fact that the cuneiform sign doubles as the ideogram for "sky", and that its original shape is the picture of a star. The original association of "divinity" is thus with "bright" or "shining" hierophanies in the sky. A possible loan relation of Sumerian dingir with Turkic Tengri "sky, sky god" has been suggested.[4]

Cuneiform sign

A list of Sumerian deities, ca. 2400 BC. Each list entry is prefixed by the DIĜIR determinative. For example, the third line would be autographed as 𒀭𒈹, transliterated as DInanna, transcribed as Inanna, and translated as "goddess Inanna" or simply "Inanna".


Middle Bronze Age form of the sign

The Sumerian sign DIĜIR originated as a star-shaped ideogram indicating a god in general, or the Sumerian god An, the supreme father of the gods. Dingir also meant sky or heaven in contrast with ki which meant earth. Its emesal pronunciation was dimer.

The plural of diĝir can be diĝir-diĝir, among others.


Late Bronze Age to Iron Age form of the sign The Assyrian sign DIĜIR could mean:

  • the Akkadian nominal stem il- meaning "god" or "goddess", derived acrophonically from the Semitic ʾil-
  • the god Anum
  • the Akkadian word šamû meaning "sky"
  • the syllables an and il
  • a preposition meaning "at" or "to"
  • a determinative indicating that the following word is the name of a god

According to one interpretation, DINGIR could also refer to a priest or priestess although there are other Akkadian words ēnu and ēntu that are also translated priest and priestess. For example, nin-dingir (lady divine) meant a priestess who received foodstuffs at the temple of Enki in the city of Eridu.[5]

Digital encoding

The cuneiform sign is encoded in Unicode (as of version 5.0) under its name AN at U+1202D .

See also


  1. ^ Edzard, 2003
  2. ^ By assyriological convention, capitals identify a cuneiform sign, while the phonemic value of a sign in a given context is given in lower case. See also Sumerogram.
  3. ^ Hayes, 2000
  4. ^ George Rawlinson in his The Five Great Monarchies of the Ancient Eastern World (p. 78).
  5. ^ Margaret Whitney Green, Eridu in Sumerian Literature, PhD dissertation, University of Chicago (1975), p. 224.


Edzard, Dietz Otto (2003). Sumerian Grammar. Handbook of Oriental Studies 71. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature.  

Hayes, John L. (2000). A Manual of Sumerian Grammar and Texts. Aids and Research Tools in Ancient Near Eastern Studies (Second revised ed.). Malibu: Undena Publications. . 

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