Runic alphabets


Elder Futhark (2nd to 8th centuries)

 The Elder Futhark, used for writing Proto-Norse, consists of 24 runes that often are arranged in three groups of eight; each group is referred to as an Ætt. The earliest known sequential listing of the full set of 24 runes dates to approximately CE 400 and is found on the Kylver Stone in Gotland, Sweden. Most probably each rune had a name, chosen to represent the sound of the rune itself.


Rune UCS Transliteration IPA Proto-Germanic name Meaning
f f /f/ *fehu “wealth, cattle”
u u /u(ː)/ ?*ūruz aurochs” (or *ûram “water/slag”?)
th,þ þ /θ/, /ð/ ?*þurisaz “the god Thor, giant
a a /a(ː)/ *ansuz “one of the Æsir (gods)”
r r /r/ *raidō “ride, journey”
k k (c) /k/ ?*kaunan “ulcer”? (or *kenaz “torch”?)
g g /ɡ/ *gebō “gift”
w w /w/ *wunjō “joy”
h h ᚺ ᚻ h /h/ *hagalaz “hail” (the precipitation)
n n /n/ *naudiz “need”
i i /i(ː)/ *īsaz “ice”
j j /j/ *jēra- “year, good year, harvest”
ï,ei ï (æ) /æː/(?) *ī(h)waz/*ei(h)waz “yew-tree”
p p /p/ ?*perþ- meaning unclear, perhaps “pear-tree”.
z z /z/ ?*algiz unclear, possibly “elk“.
s s ᛊ ᛋ s /s/ *sōwilō “Sun”
t t /t/ *tīwaz/*teiwaz “the god Tiwaz
b b /b/ *berkanan birch
e e /e(ː)/ *ehwaz “horse”
m m /m/ *mannaz “Man”
l l /l/ *laguz “water, lake” (or possibly *laukaz “leek”)
ŋ ŋ ŋ ᛜ ᛝ ŋ /ŋ/ *ingwaz “the god Ingwaz
o o /o(ː)/ *ōþila-/*ōþala- “heritage, estate, possession”
d d /d/ *dagaz “day”

Anglo-Saxon runes (5th to 11th centuries)

Main article: Anglo-Saxon runes
Anglo Saxon Runes

The Anglo-Saxon Fuþorc: The futhorc are an extended alphabet, consisting of 29, and later, even 33 characters. It probably was used from the 5th century onward. The expanded alphabet features the additional letters cweorth, calc, cealc, and stan. These additional letters have only been found in manuscripts. Feoh, þorn, and sigel stood for [f], [þ], and [s] in most environments, but voiced to [v], [ð], and [z] between vowels or voiced consonants. Gyfu and wynn stood for the letters yogh and wynn, which became [g] and [w] inMiddle English.

“Marcomannic runes” (8th to 9th centuries)[edit]

Marcomannic Runes

A runic alphabet consisting of a mixture of Elder Futhark with Anglo-Saxon futhorc recorded in a treatise called De Inventione Litterarum, ascribed to Hrabanus Maurus and preserved in 8th- and 9th-century manuscripts mainly from the southern part of the Carolingian Empire (Alemannia, Bavaria).

Younger Futhark (9th to 11th centuries)[edit]

Main article: Younger Futhark

The Younger Futhark: long-branch runes and short-twig runes

While also featuring a runic inscription detailing the erection of a bridge for a loved one, the 11th-centuryRamsung carving is a Sigurd stone that depicts the legend of Sigurd.

The Younger Futhark, also called Scandinavian Futhark, is a reduced form of the Elder Futhark, consisting of only 16 characters. The reduction correlates with phonetic changes when Proto-Norse evolved into Old Norse. They are found in Scandinavia and Viking Agesettlements abroad, probably in use from the 9th century onward. They are divided into long-branch (Danish) and short-twig (Swedish and Norwegian) runes. The difference between the two versions is a matter of controversy. A general opinion is that the difference between them was functional (i.e., the long-branch runes were used for documentation on stone, whereas the short-branch runes were in everyday use for private or official messages on wood).

Medieval runes (12th to 15th centuries)[edit]

Main article: Medieval runes

In the Middle Ages, the Younger Futhark in Scandinavia was expanded, so that it once more contained one sign for each phoneme of the Old Norse language. Dotted variants of voiceless signs were introduced to denote the corresponding voiced consonants, or vice versa, voiceless variants of voiced consonants, and several new runes also appeared for vowel sounds. Inscriptions in medieval Scandinavian runes show a large number of variant rune forms, and some letters, such as s, c, and z often were used interchangeably.

Medieval runes were in use until the 15th century. Of the total number of Norwegian runic inscriptions preserved today, most are medieval runes.

Dalecarlian runes (16th to 19th centuries)

Main article: Dalecarlian runes

The Dalecarlian runes are a mix of  runes and Latin letters developed in the isolated province of Dalarna in the early 16th century and remained in some use up to the 20th century.