Friday, February 10, 2017

The Egyptian Word "Hotep" & Its Various Contemporary African American Meanings

Edited by Azizi Powell

This pancocojams post provides information and comments about the use of the Egyptian word "hotep" in the United States.

The content of this post is presented for etymological, historical, and cultural purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks to all those who are quoted in this post.
Click for the companion post "The Black Consciousness Movement, Spike Lee's Movie "School Daze" & The Vernacular Word "Woke""

Also, click for a related pancocojams post on the word "alafia".

"Hotep (ḥtp) is an Egyptian word that roughly translates as "to be at peace". It is regularly found in the names of ancient Egyptian figures such as Hotepsekhemwy (ḥr ḥtp-sḫm.wj "the two powers are at peace"), the first ruler of Egypt's Second Dynasty.[1]".....

"Hotep" is a commonly used greeting in Afrocentric circles.[6][7][8]....

The word "afrocentric" is used throughout this post. Here's one definition for that term:
...."In general, Afrocentrism is usually manifested in a focus on African-American culture and the history of Africa, and involves an African diaspora version of an African-centered view of history and culture to portray the achievements and development of Africans who have been marginalized....

What is today broadly called Afrocentrism evolved out of the work of African-American intellectuals in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, but flowered into its modern form due to the activism of African-American intellectuals in the U.S. Civil Rights Movement and in the development of African-American Studies programs in universities. In strict terms Afrocentrism, as a distinct academic ideology, reached its peak in the 1980s and 1990s.[3] Today it is primarily associated with Molefi Asante.[4]

Proponents of Afrocentrism support the claim that the contributions of various African people have been downplayed or discredited as part of the legacy of colonialism and slavery's pathology of "writing Africans out of history".[5][6] Critics of Afrocentricity accuse it of being pseudohistory,[7] reactive,[8] and therapeutic.[9]
I consider myself to be afrocentric. In my opinion, an afrocentric person is one who is interested in the histories, cultures, and present circumstances of people of African descent throughout the world. I believe that a person can be afrocentric without judging cultures of African descent to be better or worse than the cultures of other people who aren't of African descent.

My position is that certain afrocentric African Americans began using the Egyptian word "Hotep" around the 1980s as a greeting word meaning "peace" in substitution for the Arabic greeting/farewell word "Salaam" (meaning "Peace") or the use of the English word "Peace" itself. "Salaam" was/is itself a shortened form of and a substitution for the Arabic phrases "As salaam alaikum" (greeting term meaning "Peace be unto you") and "Wa alaikum salaam (response: And unto you peace).

Those Arabic phrases were known to Muslims in the United States and elsewhere, including African Americans who were members of the Moorish Science Temple (i.e. Moorish Americans)* from 1913 on and African American who were members of The Nation Of Islam, especially after 1975.**
*Click for information about the Moorish Science Temple. Here's an excerpt from that article:
..."The Moorish Science Temple of America was incorporated under the Illinois Religious Corporation Act 805 ILCS 110. Timothy Drew, known to its members as Prophet Noble Drew Ali, founded the Moorish Science Temple of America in 1913 in Newark, New Jersey, a booming industrial city. After some difficulties, Ali moved to Chicago, establishing a center there, as well as temples in other major cities. The movement expanded rapidly during the late 1920s. The quick expansion of the Moorish Science Temple arose in large part from the search for identity and context among black Americans at the time of the Great Migration to northern and midwestern cities, as they were becoming an urbanized people".
**Click for information about the Nation Of Islam (aka Black Muslims)
"The Nation of Islam, abbreviated as NOI, is an African American political and religious movement, founded in Detroit, Michigan, United States, by Wallace D. Fard Muhammad on July 4, 1930.[2]...

After Fard disappeared in June 1934, the Nation of Islam was led by Elijah Muhammad, who established places of worship (called Temples or Mosques), a school named Muhammad University of Islam, farms, and real estate holdings in the United States and abroad.[9] The Nation has long been a strong advocate of African-American businesses.[10]

There were a number of splits and splinter groups during Elijah Muhammad's leadership, most notably the departure of senior leader Malcolm X to become a Sunni Muslim. After Elijah Muhammad's death in 1975, his son, Warith Deen Mohammed, changed the name of the organization to "World Community of Islam in the West" (and twice more after that), and attempted to convert it to a mainstream Sunni Muslim ideology.

In 1977, Louis Farrakhan rejected Warith Deen Mohammed's leadership and re-established the Nation of Islam on the original model. He took over the Nation of Islam's headquarters Temple, Mosque Maryam (Mosque #2) in Chicago, Illinois"...
Some African Americans who've never been Moorish Americans and/or who have never been members of the Nation of Islam also have used/use those Arabic greeting terms toward members of those organizations and toward other Muslims. For example, from 1967-1969 I was a member of the afrocentric [Black cultural nationalist] organization the "Committee For Unified Newark (CFUN)" (located in Newark, New Jersey). While I had/have never been Muslim and have never been affiliated with the Moorish Science Temple, I greeted members of those organizations with "As salaam alaikum" and I received the standard Arabic response to my greeting.

For the two years that I was a member of that Newark organization, the "ankh" symbol of life was the only Egyptian cultural artifact that I remember being favored. Women who were members of that organization wore ankh necklaces and rings, and men wore ankh medallions. But Arabic names (or the Swahili forms of those names) were very common among members of that afrocentric group-as my name "Azizi" shows.

Instead of the Arabic greeting/farewell phrases or their shortened forms, members of CFUN (the organization which was led by Amiri Baraka, formerly known as [playwright/poet] Le Roi Jones) used the Swahili greeting phrase "Habari Gani" (We were taught that meant "What's the news?"). The response that we were taught for that greeting was "Njema" ("Fine".) And members of that afrocentric cultural organization used the Swahili farewell term "Tutaonana" (We pronounced this word "too tah oo- NAH nah" and were told it meant "See you later").
The first time that I can recall hearing the word "hotep" used as a greeting was in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania around 1987. The twenty something year old African American man who regularly used that word also gave himself (or was given) the name "Imhotep", after the ancient Egyptian physician, architect, high priest, etc. with that name. Click for information about Imhotep.

I think that the use of "hotep" by afrocentric African Americans was relatively new in the late 1980s, and I believe that it was confined to a relatively small subset of afrocentric African Americans. That is probably still the case today. However, nowadays in the United States the word "hotep" has taken on additional meanings, and is now considered by some to be a pejorative term.

Before looking at the added uses of the word "hotep", here's an example of that word being used at the end of a sentence to mean "Peace"- and the comment that that used evoked:

molefi mutombo, 2015
"africans were put in scientific incarceration of islamic and christian religions to physical slavery; to get out of these troubles is to rehabilitate african ancestors values, spirituality to inspire us. MAAT is still there, VOODOO is still there. hotep"

Italian Soldier from WW2, 2017
"Hotep? Isn't that Egyptian? Egyptian people are not black"

While the Egyptian word "hotep" continues to be used by some African Americans to mean "peace", some other people are using that word as a diss (insult term/description) on a sub-set of afrocentric African Americans who they consider to be hypocritical, limited in their acceptance of others, and obnoxious in their attitudes and treatment of other people-including other afrocentric people.

Here are some article excerpts about these added meanings/uses for the word "hotep". These articles are given in no particular order and are numbered for referencing purposes only.

Article Excerpt #1:
From "Hotep, Explained" by Damon Young, 3/05/16
"What does “Hotep” mean?

“Hotep” is an Egyptian word that means “at peace.” It’s basically the Egyptian “What’s good?”

Over the past several decades, the word has also been utilized quite frequently by black Americans who happen to be more Afrocentric. Let me put it this way: If you happen to attend a Juneteenth festival this year and collect business cards from vendors there, at least 17 percent of them will have “Hotep” written somewhere on them....

Over the past decade or so, the working definition of “Hotep” has morphed into an all-encompassing term describing a person who’s either a clueless parody of Afrocentricity... or someone who’s loudly, conspicuously and obnoxiously pro-black but anti-progress....

“Hotep” can be a noun and an adjective. Sometimes in the same sentence! Example: “I didn’t realize he was a Hotep until I friended him on Facebook and he kept sharing Hotep memes on my timeline.” My favorite said, “Why be eye candy when you can be soul food.”

It can also be a verb (“You need to Hotep up your language a bit. More ‘kings’ and ‘queens’ would help”) and an adverb (“She spoke Hotepidly during the community meeting”). OK, maybe the adverb doesn’t quite work, but you get my point.”.....
“The why be eye candy..." is a caption in a poster of a young Black woman with no makeup wearing a gele [an African headwrap].

Article Excerpt #2
By Michael Harriot, 2016 [?]
"Lately “Hotep” has become the de rigueur term to describe anyone wearing a dashiki or sporting an ankh as a necklace or tattoo. It is slowly morphing from adjective to pejorative, and because it has crossed the invisible bounds of Black jargon into the awareness of White America, there is a need for negrologists* such as myself to lend clarity and nuance to the term, lest we soon see the phrase used in McDonalds commercials and Macklemore songs. The Urban dictionary** (or–as I call it–the “White People’s Guide To Code-Switching”)*** lists three definitions for “Hotep:”

1. “Peace” or “I come in Peace” it is a common greeting with people well versed in true world history.

Hotep brothers & sisters, today we will discuss...

2. Black men who are only concerned about matters of social justice when it comes to black men and have little or no regard for the health and well-being of other members of the black race unless those people can serve to uphold their misogynistic societal ideas.

Hoteps are bitter black men who are somewhat progressive though undereducated on issues of racial prejudice and use pro-black rhetoric to support ideas that are clearly not in the best interest of all black people. These men are typically misogynists who display a particularly high level of disrespect for the thoughts, bodies and experiences of black women, black homosexuals and black children. These men regularly espouse anti-intellectual and anti-scientific beliefs about nutrition, women’s menstrual cycles and child development on social media.

Jay is always so outraged over the oppression of black men, but often posts derogatory memes about black women and gays on social media. I finally had to just stop talking to him because he is such a hotep.

3. One who thinks and talks enlightenment and has no idea what he or she is actually talking about. Found predominately in the African American culture. Hotep thinkers believe almost everything is a conspiracy against the black race while having no actual proof to back up said conspiracy.

“The real George Washington was actually black, but the white man doesn’t want you to know that” -Hotep talk.”....
Explanations added 2/11/2017
*"negrologists- a tongue and cheek referent for someone who studies African American culture (Note that the referent "Negro" has been retired since the late 1960)
"1.One who studies African-Americans and their culture.

2.Negrology- The study of African-Americans

(not an actual field of study)
See that guy over there? He's a negrologist.

I hear he studies negrology.
#negro #negrology #negrologist #african #africa #african-american #black
by moose_20 February 28, 2007"
Also note the use of the lower case "n" in the word "negrologist". Contemporary Black writers who purposely spell "Negro" with a lower case "n" are doing so as an insult (i.e. "Lots of people think that Clarence Thomas is a negro". (meaning he acts like an uncle tom.) Given this point, "negrologist" may be a referent to refer to a person who focuses on the less than respectable aspects of Black (i.e. Negro) culture. For the record, I don't consider myself a "negrologist".

** now [as of 2/10/2017 at 2:46 PM EST] has four definitions of the word "hotep".

When Michael Harriot wrote that he calls urban dictionary the "White People’s Guide To Code-Switching”, he means that he (and others) believe that White people search that site for explanations of African American Vernacular English (i.e. Black slang) that we use when we "code-switch" from standard American English to African American Vernacular English. Click for a Wikipedia article about code switching.

Also, click and for two posts in the ongoing pancocojams series on African American code-switching.

That description of urban may also be tongue in cheek. But it's important to note that all of the terms and definitions in visitor submitted dictionary site aren't about African American Vernacular English, and some of the definitions for African American Vernacular English terms aren't correct. (Not to mention, that many of the definitions on urban are x rated).

Article Excerpt #3
Stay Woke: What Is Hotep Twitter And Why Is It So Awful? Posted on July 2, 2015 - By Bossip Staff
"Hotep Twitter is the home of the #StayWoke crowd of men who claim to represent the roots of Africa or whatever…but deep down they display misogynist and homophobic traits. Their statuses make little sense and usually offend more than help. If you’ve never come in contact with one of these Hotep men, consider yourself lucky. Just make sure that you stay aware so you can run for help when they appear. Keep your eye on the Hoteps and #StayWoke*.
Bossip= Black Gossip

*"woke"= in afrocentric context, a Black person who is woke (awake) is conscious of the realities of oppression, institutional racism, and injustice, particularly as these refer to Black people

Article Excerpt #4
"How to identify Hoteps
“This specimen can usually be found championing for rights of Black men while simultaneously throwing Black women, Black trans persons, Black members of the LGBTQ community or anyone else who is not a Black man under the bus.- The Visibility Project"
Another pejorative term that is used for "hotep people" (particularly "hotep men") is "Hotep Ni&&a" (with that form of the n word fully spelled out)

ADDED 2/10/2017
Here's an example of the use of "Peace" at the end of a sentence. This comment is from a YouTube discussion thread for Spike Lee's 1988 movie School Daze and is included in the companion post about the afrocentric use of the word "Woke" whose link is found above:

jojoko64, 2017
"Be awoke enough not to allow yourself to repeat history. Division is the fall before destruction, pull folks on all sides together. You are your hope, do not continuously allow yourself to be deceived. Peace!"

ADDED 2/18/2017
Here's another example of "Hotep" used as a greeting word:
04-13-2007, Kentake
Bro.Awotunde asante sana 4 starting this thread. i recently went out 2 dinner w/my cousin 2 this new nigerian restaurant here and i overheard some bros greeting each other w/"Alafia". i must admit i was confused, i heard u and others say b4 dat it is an arab word but then i hear nigerians use it sooooo much i was asking myself ?? it is AMAZING how the Arab culture/language etc. has been SOOOO INTERTWINED AND BASICALLY INTER-MARRIED w/INDIGENOUS AFREEKAN CULTURE/LANGUAGE. it is at the point that WE cannot tell the difference btwn the 2"...
From reading this and other comments in that discussion, my sense is that the participants are African American and "here" in that discussion means "in the United States.

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Visitor comments are welcome.


  1. Here are two examples of the word "peace" being used as ending terms. The comments are from a discussion about the origin and use of the word "alafia" which is generally considered to be a Yoruba word meaning "peace":
    Jaik, December 20, 2007
    "i agree with you. one of our teachers, a nigerian born & raised babalawo, uses alaafia as a greeting just like he uses “ekaaro” and “ekurole”, so it’s all good. not to mention probably a function of lineage, native region, etc.

    peace & blessings. odabo!"
    "Odabo" is a Yoruba word whose English translation is "goodbye".

    omi, May 16, 2008
    "Thanks for the feedback omi,

    A changing and growing language is a sign of a changing and growing people.

    "Peace and love" is another farewell expression that I heard (and sometimes used) in the 1980s and 1990s. I think that the farewell term "peace" may be a shortened form of "peace and love" (which itself was popularized as an English form of "as salaam alaikum" and its clip "salaam".

    In contrast, I've never heard or seen the farewell expression "peace and blessings" before this article.

    1. Here are two other comments from that brotherpeacemaker discussion thread. The first comment includes the greeting "Salaam" with its English translation "peace". That comment also ends with the word "Salaam". The second comment (which happens to have been posted more that four years later, is a response to the question the commenter asked.

      babalola, August 18, 2008
      "Bismillaah. Salaam/Peace. This is getting to me! i need to know. What does alafia mean?

      Salaam. Wafi"
      "Bismillah (Arabic: بسم الله‎‎ "In the name of God" or "In the name of Allah") is the first word in the Quran and the incipit (the shortened form) of the basmala, a name for the Quran's opening phrase in Arabic, bismillāhi r-raḥmāni r-raḥīm ("In the name of God, the Most Gracious, the most Merciful")".

      Wafi, October 14, 2012
      "Bismillaah. Salaam/Peace. oops sorry...

      The word ALAFIA to me as a yoruba means Peace, tranquility,wellness,calmness and good tidings coming from the person that say the word."
      The ellipses (...) were written in this comment.

    2. Here's a quote about the use of "As salaam alaikum" in Cuba:

      We know that “Santeria” adopted a lot from European imagery, but it was new to me that also the language was influenced in this way.

      This reminds me on a trip to Havana. I was walking along the streets and a man was passing by with his bicycle shouting to his friend “Salam Alaykum“, the friend responded “Alaykum Salam“. First I thought I might have witnessed two people of the obviously very small Muslim Cuban community. Later I was told that this is an “African greeting“ used by Abakua or Paleros and today I see it written on Facebook like “Nsala Maleko“ in a kind of imagined “Congo-way“ or "Bantu-style" spelling of a once arabic Muslim greeting. Many slaves sold to the colonies were Muslims in fact, as also back home the Yorùbá had Hausa-slaves, whose rebellion once even brought the kingdom of Oyo to fall. Today in Cuba it is the code for greeting other initiates of the same belief, but has nothing to do with Islam anymore."

  2. I just want to say thank you for your work.

    Also, & I sincerely say this in origin form. Hotep.

  3. Unknown March 13, 2019, I appreciate your comment.