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In both Norse mythology and history, the runes (Old Norse rún, plural rúnar) were ancient letters used in the earliest alphabets of the Norse. The Runic language is also known as Futhark because of the first 6 letters.


The runes were in use among the Germanic peoples from the 1st or 2nd century AD. This period corresponds to the late Common Germanic stage linguistically, with a continuum of dialects not yet clearly separated into the three branches of later centuries: North Germanic, West Germanic, and East Germanic.

No distinction is made in surviving runic inscriptions between long and short vowels, although such a distinction was certainly present phonologically in the spoken languages of the time. Similarly, there are no signs for labiovelars in the Elder Futhark (such signs were introduced in both the Anglo-Saxon futhorc and the Gothic alphabet as variants of p)

The term runes is used to distinguish these symbols from Latin and Greek letters. It is attested on a 6th-century Alamannic runestaff as runa and possibly as runo on the 4th-century Einang stone. The name comes from the Germanic root run- (Gothic: 𐍂𐌿𐌽𐌰, runa), meaning "secret" or "whisper". In Old Irish Gaelic, the word rún means "mystery", "secret", "intention" or "affectionate love." Similarly in Welsh and Old English, the word rhin and rūn respectively means "mystery", "secret", "secret writing", or sometimes in the extreme sense of the word, "miracle" (gwyrth).

Runic alphabets

Elder Fuþark

Rune Transliteration IPA Proto-Germanic name Meaning
Runic letter fehu.svg f /f/ *fehu "wealth, cattle"
Runic letter uruz.svg u /u(ː)/ ?*ūruz "aurochs" (or *ûram "water/slag"?)
Runic letter thurisaz.svg þ /θ/, /ð/ ?*þurisaz "thurse" (or *þunraz "the god Þunraz")
Runic letter ansuz.svg a /a(ː)/ *ansuz "ase (god)"
Runic letter raido.svg r /r/ *raidō "ride, journey"
Runic letter kauna.svg k /k/ ?*kaunan "ulcer"? (or *kenaz "torch"?)
Runic letter gebo.svg g /ɡ/ *gebō "gift"
Runic letter wunjo.svg w /w/ *wunjō "joy"
Runic letter haglaz.svg Runic letter haglaz variant.svg h /h/ *hagalaz "hail" (the precipitation)
Runic letter naudiz.svg n /n/ *naudiz "need"
Runic letter isaz.svg i /i(ː)/ *īsaz "ice"
Runic letter jeran.svg j /j/ *jēra- "year, good year, harvest"
Runic letter iwaz.svg ï (or æ) /æː/(?) *ī(h)waz/*ei(h)waz "yew-tree"
Runic letter pertho.svg p /p/ ?*perþ- meaning unclear, perhaps "pear-tree".
Runic letter algiz.svg z /z/ ?*algiz unclear, possibly "elk".
Runic letter sowilo.svg Runic letter sowilo variant.svg s /s/ *sōwilō "Sun"
Runic letter tiwaz.svg t /t/ *tīwaz/*teiwaz "the god Tiwaz"
Runic letter berkanan.svg b /b/ *berkanan "birch"
Runic letter ehwaz.svg e /e(ː)/ *ehwaz "horse"
Runic letter mannaz.svg m /m/ *mannaz "Man"
Runic letter laukaz.svg l /l/ *laguz "water, lake" (or possibly *laukaz "leek")
Runic letter ingwaz.svg ŋ Runic letter ingwaz variant.png ŋ /ŋ/ *ingwaz "the god Ingwaz"
Runic letter othalan.svg o /o(ː)/ *ōþila-/*ōþala- "heritage, estate, possession"
Runic letter dagaz.svg d /d/ *dagaz "day"



In popular culture


External links

This page uses content from Wikipedia. The original article was at Runes (view authors). As with Myths and Folklore Wiki, the text of Wikipedia is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike License 3.0 (Unported).