Several proposals have been made for the etymology and meaning of the original name; as Smith (2017) notes, none are fully convincing. Most take wsjr as the accepted transliteration, following Adolf Erman:
- Griffiths (1980), “bearing in mind Erman’s emphasis on the fact that the name must begin with an [sic] w”, proposes a derivation from wsr with an original meaning of “The Mighty One”.
- Sethe (1930) proposes a compound st-jrt, meaning “seat of the eye”, in a hypothetical earlier form *wst-jrt; this is rejected by Griffiths on phonetic grounds.
- Lorton (1985) takes up Sethe’s compound but explains st-jrt as signifying “product, something made”, Osiris representing the product of the mummification process.
- Westendorf (1987) proposes an etymology from wꜣst-jrt “she who bears the eye”.
- Zeidler (2000) reviews the common hypotheses and rejects the interpretation of the second element as either jrj (“to do, make”) or jrt (“eye”) on phonetic grounds, ultimately agreeing with Griffiths on the meaning and rendering the name (w)sr(w) with the assumption that the writing of the name reflects an archaic use of the throne and eye hieroglyphs as uniliteral signs.
- Smith (2017) makes no definitive proposals but asserts that the second element must be a form of jrj (“to do, make”) (rather than jrt (“eye”)).
However, recently alternative transliterations have been proposed:
- Muchiki (1990) reexamines Erman’s evidence that the throne hieroglyph in the word is to be read ws and finds it unconvincing, suggesting instead that the name should be read ꜣsjr on the basis of Aramaic, Phoenician, and Old South Arabian transcriptions, readings of the throne sign in other words, and comparison with ꜣst (“Isis”).
- Allen (2010) reads the word as jsjrt but later revises the reading (2013) to jsjrj and derives it from js-jrj, meaning “engendering (male) principle”.
- (in funerary literature) used as a title of the deceased
Alternative hieroglyphic writings of wsjr
||[after the Middle Kingdom]
- → Akkadian: uširu in 𒌷𒁍𒅆𒊒 (ālupu-ši-ru), šir in 𒁹𒁍𒋾𒍜 (lpu-ti-šir4)
- → Ancient Greek: Ὄσιρις (Ósiris), Ὕσιρις (Húsiris)
- → Aramaic: אוֹסרי, אסר
- Coptic: ⲟⲩⲥⲓⲣⲉ (ousire), ⲟⲩⲥⲓⲣⲓ (ousiri)
- → Thamudic: śr in ʿbdśr
- Griffiths, John Gwyn (1980) The Origins of Osiris and His Cult.
- Lorton, David (1985) in Varia Aegyptiaca I, pages 117-121.
- Westendorf, Wolfhart (1987) “Zur Etymologie des Namens Osiris: *wꜣs.t-jr.t “die das Auge trägt”.” in J. Osing and G. Dreyer (editors), Form und Mass: Beiträge zur Literatur, Sprache und Kunst des alten Ägypten: Festschrift für Gerhard Fecht zum 65. Geburtstag am 6. Februar 1987, pages 456-461.
- Muchiki, Yoshi (1990) “On the transliteration of the name Osiris” in The Journal of Egyptian Archaeology, volume 76, pages 191-194.
- James P[eter] Allen (2010) Middle Egyptian: An Introduction to the Language and Culture of Hieroglyphs, 2nd edition, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, →ISBN, 361 page 148, 361.
- Zeidler, Jürgen (2000) “Zur Etymologie des Gottesnamens Osiris” in Studien zur Altägyptischen Kultur, volume 28, pages 309–316
- Allen, James P. (2013) “The Name of Osiris (and Isis)” in Lingua Aegyptia, volume 21, pages 9-14.
- Smith, Mark (2017) Following Osiris: Perspectives on the Osirian Afterlife from Four Millenia, pages 124-125.