Note:  Do not rely on this information. It is very old.


Copts, the native Christian people of Egypt, partly dispersed amongst the general population, partly in separate communities, but all alike now speaking Arabic. They are the direct descendants of the early Christians, and still belong to the same monophysite sect, recognising one nature only in Christ. The head of the Coptic Church is the Patriarch of Alexandria, but many have become Uniates, that is, acknowledge the supremacy of the Pope while retaining their national rite and using the Coptic language in the church service. The missal and other liturgical books are generally printed both in Coptic and Arabic, very few of the laity and not all of the clergy being able to understand the sense of the old texts. Otherwise they are relatively well educated, hence largely employed as secretaries, notaries, correspondents, and commercial agents throughout Egypt and Nubia. The Coptic language, of which there are three varieties (Memphitic, Theban, and Basmuric), represents a later form of the old Egyptian, and is written since the Ptolemaic epoch in an alphabet based on Greek, with a few characters added from the hieroglyphics to express sounds unknown in Hellenic. The word Copt itself is a corrupt form of Egypt, that is, Eghypt with hard g. Population (1890) about 300,000.