The word "pharaoh" is a corruption of the Egyptian term Per-Ah ("The Great House,") indicating the abode of the royal family. This word was used by the ancient Israelites to refer to a ruler of a house - akin to calling the President of the United States "The White House." It was not until the late New Kingdom, nearly 1,000 years later, that the king of Egypt became known as a "pharaoh," or "Ruler of the Palace" - before that, he was known as Nisu ("The Great One"), Ity ("Sovereign"), or Hem-Ef ("His Majesty.") The ancient Egyptians did not call their ruler "pharaoh" until very late in their history, and then only as non-Egyptians took up the word.

Important Terminology