In Ancient Egypt, Heracleopolis Magna was known in Demotic as nn nswt Child of the Pharaoh (appearing as hnn nswt or hwt nn nswt). This later developed into Coptic: Ϩⲛⲏⲥ (/ǝhnes/), which was borrowed into early Egyptian Arabic: اهناس Ahnās. The site is now known as Ihnasiyyah Umm al-Kimam "Ihnasiyyah, Mother of the Shards" and as Ihnasiyyah al-Madinah "The City of Ihnasiyyah".
The Greek name meant "City of Heracles", with the epithet "great" being added to distinguish it from other towns with that name. The Greek form became more common during the Ptolemaic Kingdom, who came to power after the death of Alexander the Great. The Roman Empire used a latinised form of the Greek name.