The Alterans, later known as the Ancients, settled in the Milky Way Galaxy and built the Stargate system (2.16 "The Fifth Race"). The Ancients were extremely advanced, but could not save themselves from a terrible plague (4.06 "Window of Opportunity"). Some of the Ancients ascended to a higher state of existence (6.22 "Full Circle). Remnants of their civilization were scattered throughout the galaxy, recognized by the writing still carved in the stone ruins.
Note: the Alteran/Ancient language and Ori language were recognized as similar, if not identical by Daniel Jackson, so Ori phrases are included in this dictionary.
The written language is made up of block-like symbols and sharp edged patterns, almost like a computer code. When Cameron Mitchell and Teal'c were trapped in a lethal puzzle, Mitchell yelled the following description of an Ancient word (pictured above) to Daniel Jackson for translation:
Uh, "U" with a square over it. Chair with a square. Upside-down backwards "L", call that "seven." Squares unevenly stacked. That chair thing again. Big "N" and "sad face."
Daniel successfully translated the word to mean "reflect" from Cameron's description (9.02 "Avalon Part 2").
Daniel Jackson's knowledge of the written Ancient language came from his experience hearing Jack O'Neill speak the language for a short time (2.16 "The Fifth Race"). Before Jack read the symbols of the circle and the Heliopolis text aloud, Daniel was unable to even associate sounds with the symbols. Since then, not only he, but several linguists associated with the SGC have learned to read the language, with various levels of competence, including those on the Atlantis expedition, since the technology in Atlantis is obviously written in Ancient (Stargate Atlantis). Jack O'Neill and Teal'c learned how to read over 400 pages of Ancient text while stuck in a time loop (4.06 "Window of Opportunity"). However it is unclear how much if any of the language they retained from that experience.
Because of the block-like structure of the language a symbols could form different words if viewed from an alternate perspective. The Ancients used this feature of their language as a way to create codes. They blocked entry to the weapon of Dakara by creating a combination lock (9.17 "Reckoning Part 2"). Only someone familiar with the Ancient tongue could correctly interpret the combination. Jacob and Samantha Carter discovered this code when translating the symbols. While looking at her father's notes when they were upside down from her perspective, she noticed the symbols formed intelligible words. Jacob Carter/Selmak was able to re-translate the word he had seen as "darkness" upside-down meant "sun."
More on the various translations and knowledge gleaned from Ancient writings may be found in our sister article on Ancient Writings.
The spoken language is similar to medieval Latin. Once Daniel Jackson was able to hear it spoken, he had a baseline from which to translate the symbols into the derivative and subsequently to English. His theory was that it was a derivation, or possibly a root of medieval Latin (2.16 "The Fifth Race", 7.15 "Chimera"). As Daniel pointed out while Jack was still under the influence of the Ancient Repository: "The language he's speaking has similar sounds to medieval Latin but it's still quite different." (2.16 "Fifth Race").
Ancient does not seem to be directly equivalent to Latin. For example, Daniel translated O'Neill's final words of aveo amacuse in 7.22 "Lost City Part 2" to be "goodbye", but the Latin roots would indicate that only aveo related to goodbye or farewell. "Amacuse" is similar to the Latin root for friend(s) amicus, but fans who are Latin scholars note that the translation could also be indicative of loved one(s) (and the singular versus plural is also contested).
On another occasion, Dr. Jackson and Malikai, both experts on the Ancient language, discussed a translation of an Ancient device, disputing its meaning based upon the context (4.06 "Window of Opportunity"). The term domiwaitus westul motobilum was translated both as "conqueror of time" and "master of the uncertain past" (Malikai conceded the latter definition by Dr. Jackson likely was more accurate). Daniel was able to translate the Ancient term fallatus as "ability" based upon its similarity to the Latin term faculatus and the term lochus as similar to locatia, Latin for "location" (2.16 "The Fifth Race"). It is possible that these distinctions are merely the differences in the alien language and the Latin language here on Earth.
Later, Jonas Quinn used Daniel Jackson's notes to interpret a stone tablet as saying "City of the Lost" (7.01 "Fallen"). He found a subtle difference when using Asgard translations of early Ancient. But a recently descended Daniel, who apparently retained his ascended knowledge of the language, explained that both Jonas and his own pre-ascended notes were incorrect in translating lacun to mean "of the lost" (he did not provide the correct translation).
After Jack O'Neill had the Ancient Repository of Knowledge downloaded into his head a second time, it was revealed that the Stargate Glyphs were pronounced as syllables by the Ancients (7.22 "Lost City Part 2"). They named at least some of their planets according to these symbols. Col. O'Neill only revealed the syllables for seven Stargate glyphs, listed below in English alphabetical order
Ancient to English Dictionary
A through M
- to give up (but not the same as surrender)
- from Latin, warning
- to a
- armeria verimas
- ark of truth
- star (see astria porta)
- astria porta
- astrum attero et mundus
- untranslatable, likely referring to solar flares; from Latin "the sun will destroy the planet (astrum being singular for "star")
- (as in Attero device) from Latin, destruction
- aveo amacuse
- goodbye [friend(s)?]
- world (though "universe" would be a more apt definition as per Joe Mallozzi)
- calium videre eessit, et eraos ad sidera tollere vultus
- untranslated, but from Latin: When you see her, you see the sky, and those on earth must lift their faces toward the stars.
- clava / clavia
- clava thessara infinitas
- key to infinite treasure
- mercy (see mia clementia, denar esto)
- untranslatable—possibly please? want? request?
- untranslated, but from Latin, illness, infection, plague
- wrong / sick / ill
- (Latin: deductum); taken away
- crazy / insane
- desire / need
- learn (will learn, see ex uno disce omnes)
- domiwaitus westul motobilum
- master of the uncertain past
- sleep (specifically referencing a cryogenic chamber)
- I / me
- enim lupin purnum pravus intus
- (from rough Latin translation) Verily, the corrupted sinner will be cleansed from within.
- ex uno disce omnes
- from one, all will learn
- fugere destiterunt quah ad
- running away before reaching
- fugit ciruculum
- all must end
- hic qua videeum
- the place of our legacy
- attacked or overtaken
- Mia clementia denar esto
- Have mercy. I was blind, but now I see.
N - Z
- ne que prius
- they didn't stop
- nullus temporis
- untranslated; likely "no time" (remembered by Atlantis "whales")
- on na matta netario
- this is really unnecessary
- orbis machinus
- loop machine
- perennial adventus
- the approaching disaster
- pervenerunt degenerus
- recurring use of
- gate/door (see astria porta)
- praclarush taonas
- lost in fire
- red hot
- untranslatable, but from Latin, immediately
- statim admonitio Adarus
- untranslated, but from Latin, "urgent warning from the science vessel "Adarus""
- statim curatio
- untranslatable but from Latin, request for immediate assistance
- statim contego dilatium
- untranslatable but extrapolated from Latin "We must extend the shield to encompass the planet."
- tectum de nationis incursus
- half-translated as the shield of [all] (nationis from latin refers to species) being overtaken/overwhelmed
- came (we came)
- truth (see armeria verimas)
- vis uban
- "place of great power" (may be a mistranslation)
Articles on the Ancients
This series of articles covers the history, language, writings, knowledge, and technology of the Ancients.
- Ancients: History (Main Article)
- Altera: The Ancients as Advanced Humans in Their Home Galaxy
- The Others: The Ancients After Ascending
- Ancient Language
- Ancient Writings
- Ancient Knowledge and Technology
- Complete Timeline of the Ancients (50 Million Years Ago to Present)
- 1.11 "The Torment Of Tantalus"
- 2.16 "The Fifth Race"
- 4.06 "Window Of Opportunity"
- 6.22 "Full Circle"
- 7.01 "Fallen Part 1"
- 7.15 "Chimera"
- 7.21 "Lost City Part 1"
- 7.22 "Lost City Part 2"
- 8.02 "New Order Part 2"
- 8.10 "Endgame"
- 8.13 "It's Good To Be King"
- 8.16 "Reckoning Part 1"
- 8.17 "Reckoning Part 2"
- 9.01 "Avalon Part 1"
- 9.02 "Avalon Part 2"
- 9.08 "Babylon"
- 9.09 "Prototype"
- 9.11 "The Fourth Horseman Part 2"
- 9.20 "Camelot Part 2"
- 10.01 "Flesh And Blood Part 3"
- 10.08 "Memento Mori"
- 10.10 "The Quest Part 1"
- Stargate Atlantis
- 3.12 "Echoes"
- Ancient Communication Terminal
- Ascended Beings
- Lost City of the Ancients
- Ernest's planet (P3X-972, later PB2-908)
- Place of Our Legacy (P3R-272)
- Praclarush Taonas
- Rebel Jaffa
- Repository of Knowledge
- Sodan Cloaking Device
- http://stargate-sg1-solutions.com/blog/?p=209 Solutions contributor and Latin scholar Alex posted a well researched article on the varying potential meanings of "aveo amacuse" and the Latin roots of the Ancient languages here.
- http://www.ancientscripts.com A site by an ancient linguistics hobbyist that provides a nice overview of real ancient languages, a comprehensive bibliography and other links.
- http://www.omniglot.com A general overview of languages.
- http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/cgi-bin/resolveform?lang=Latin A Latin to English dictionary by Tufts University, also known as the Perseus Project.
- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Latin The Latin entry of wikipedia which gives a general overview as well as provides a comprehensive list of other web articles on the subject.
--Aurora 14:49, 21 April 2006 (PDT) --thanks to maranya14 for added Latin translations