The Egyptians used various terms to designate amulets: wedja, meket, nehet and sa. All are connected, in one way or another, with a very general idea of protection. The nuances that might have distinguished these terms originally are by and large lost: by the time of the New Kingdom, the terms had become virtually interchangeable.
Wedja was in common use from the Middle Kingdom on, and is closely related to the verb wedja, 'to be intact, well preserved'. This term is found in relation to Osiris reborn, designated as 'He who awakens intact'. The state of wedja thus implies well-being and perfect health. Conveying ideas of plenitude and physical and mental integrity in the first instance, wedja is as applicable to the amulet one wears as it is to the magic spell one recites.
Meket, used from the Old Kingdom on, derives from m(e)ki'to protect'. It is by this term that the great goddesses are designated when they are protecting the sun from its enemies. Hathor is thus called meket neb (e)s, 'protectress of her lord'. Meket appears to be linked particularly to physical protection in its specific designation as meket ha, 'protection of the body'.
Nehet, current in the New Kingdom with the idea of 'protection, shelter', derives from nehj, 'to protect'. A drink known as nehet, used in the context of magic, was considered to be a protective beverage, while the same term could also designate a 'book of protection'. The term nehet was often applied to the written amulet (a rolled fragment of papyrus) attached to a mummy.
The last term, sa, known from the Old Kingdom on, and which is often written with the sole hieroglyph, denotes a very general form of protection. Like wedja, it designates the amulet as well as the magic spell. It is frequently associated with other terms that guarantee the king a life of plenty, free of all trouble: 'may all protection [sa], life, power and health surround him'. From the Middle Kingdom on, sa appears to have a very broad meaning, since it designates both amulets that protect the deceased, the gods and the kings, and magic pictures and the labels that bear magic spells. One may note that the derivative term sau designates the healer magician - maker of amulets and close associate of the sinu, precursor of of the doctors of today.
Since the Egyptians themselves failed to establish precise distinctions between these terms, which often cover identical things, no artificial distinctions will be made between them here, and the term amulet will be the only one used in the remainder of this book.