Spikey1one's Rants

One angry old man against the world



I know this is not for everyone, but for any writer interested 
in the early history of writing, its a fascinating subject. 
- Spikey.

Elder Fuþark

The Elder Futhark, used for writing Proto-Norse (urnordisk, 
urnordiska), consist of 24 runes, often arranged in three rows 
of eight. The earliest known sequential listing of the full set 
of 24 runes dates to c. 400 CE and is found on the Kylver Stone 
in Gotland. The 24 Elder Futhark runes with their common 
transliterations are:
f f 	Ʌ u 	th,þ þ 	a a 	 r 	k k 	 g 	w w
h h 	n n 	i i 	j j 	♪ ✝   	p p 	z z 	s st 	b b 	e e 	m m 	l l 	 ŋ 	d d 	 o


Each rune most probably had a name, chosen to represent the 
sound of the rune itself. The names are, however, not directly 
attested for the Elder Futhark themselves. Reconstructed names 
in Proto-Germanic have been suggested for them by W. Krause, 
based on the names given for runes of the later alphabets in 
the rune poems and the names of the letters of the Gothic 

    f fehu "wealth, cattle"
    Ʌ ûruz "aurochs" (or ûram "water/slag"?) "strength, power"
    th,þ þurisaz "giant" the God "Thor", "protection"
    a ansuz "one of the Aesir" (or ahsam "ear (of corn)"?)raidô "ride, journey"
    k kaunan "torch, candle, illumination"gebô "gift"
    w wunjô "comfort, glory, joy"
    h haglaz "hail (precipitation)"
    n naudiz "need"
    i îsaz "ice"
    j jera "year" or "harvest"ei îhaz / îwaz "yew"
    p perþô? "chance, fate, orlog"
    R algiz "elk"?
    s sôwilô "Sun"tîwaz (Tiwaz or Tyr, God of War)
    b berkanan "birch"
    e ehwaz "horse"
    m mannaz "man"
    l laguz "lake" (or laukaz "leek"?)ingwaz Yngvi, Earth God
    d dagaz "day"
     ôþalan "estate, inheritance"

    Frisian and Anglo-Saxon Fuþorc

    Main article: Anglo-Saxon Futhorc

The Fuþorc

The Futhorc are an extended alphabet, consisting of 29, and 
later even 33 characters. It was used probably from the 5th 
century onward. There are competing theories as to the 
origins of the Anglo-Saxon Fuþorc. One theory proposes that 
it was developed in Frisia and later spread to England. Another 
holds that runes were introduced by Scandinavians to England 
where the fuþorc was modified and exported to Frisia. 
Both theories have their inherent weaknesses and a definitive 
answer likely awaits more archaeological evidence. 
Futhorc inscriptions are found e.g. on the Thames scramasax, 
in the Vienna Codex, in Cotton Otho B.x (Anglo-Saxon rune poem) 
and on the Ruthwell Cross.

The Anglo-Saxon rune poem has: 
ᚠ feoh, ᚢ ur, ᚦ thorn, ᚩ os, ᚱ rad, ᚳ cen, ᚷ gyfu, ᚹ wynn, 
ᚻ haegl, ᚾ nyd, ᛁ is, ᛄ ger, ᛇ eoh, ᛈ peordh, ᛉ eolh, ᛋ sigel, 
ᛏ tir, ᛒ beorc, ᛖ eh, ᛗ mann, ᛚ lagu, ᛝ ing, ᛟ ethel, ᛞ daeg, 
ᚪ ac, ᚫ aesc, ᚣ yr, ᛡ ior, ᛠ ear.

The expanded alphabet has the additional letters ᛢ cweorth, 
ᛣ calc, ᛤ cealc and ᛥ stan. 
It should be mentioned that 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] in Middle English.


Little is known about the origins of the Runic alphabet, which is traditionally known as futhark after the first six letters. In Old Norse the word rune means ‘letter’, ‘text’ or ‘inscription’. The word also means ‘mystery’ or ‘secret’ in Old Germanic languages and runes had a important role in ritual and magic.

Here are some theories about the origins of runes:

  • The alphabet was probably created independently rather than evolving from another alphabet.

  • Runic writing was probably first used in southern Europe and was carried north by Germanic tribes.

  • The Runic alphabet is thought to have been modelled on the Latin and/or Etruscan alphabet.

The earliest known Runic inscriptions date from the 1st century AD, but the vast majority of Runic inscriptions date from the 11th century.

Runic inscriptions have been found throughout Europe from the Balkans to Germany, Scandinavia and the British Isles.

Notable features

  • The direction of writing in early Runic inscriptions is variable. Later they settled down into a left to right pattern

  • Word divisions were not generally recognised in Runic writing, although one or more dots were occasionally used for this function.

Types of runic inscriptions include:

  • ‘Hrolf was here’ type inscriptions on cliff walls, large rocks and buildings

  • grave stone inscriptions, often with who carved the runes and who was buried, and also who made sure the stone was raised. (Later grave slabs or stone coffins were sometimes inscribed with Christian texts carved in runes)

  • religious/magic inscriptions: prayers and curses, formulas on charms, etc.

  • inscriptions related to trade and politics: There are many examples of trade communication: stock orders and descriptions, excuses for not having payed on time, trade name tags for bags or cases of produce, etc. The trade inscriptions are often carved on wooden rune sticks. Political inscriptions are to do with matters of the law, historical figures state that they were somewhere hiding from the enemy, secret messages to do with the fighting of wars, etc.

  • personal letters: love letters, greetings between friends, proposals, etc.

  • rude messages, similar to modern graffiti

  • Art and craft-signatures: Goldsmiths, blacksmiths, wood carvers, church builders, etc., often put their name on what they made. Objects also sometimes had names carved onto them – either the name of the object itself, or the name of the person who owned it.

There are a number of different Runic alphabets including:

Elder Futhark

Elder Futhark is thought to be the oldest version of the Runic alphabet, and was used in the parts of Europe which were home to Germanic peoples, including Scandinavia. Other versions probably developed from it. The names of the letters are shown in Common Germanic, the reconstructed ancestor of all Germanic languages.



The letter k is also called kēnaz (torch) or kanō (skiff). The meaning of the letter name perþ is unknown.

Younger Futhork

Younger Futhork or “Normal Runes” gradually evolved Elder Futhark over a period of many years and stabilized by about 800 A.D., the beginning of the Viking Age. It was the main alphabet in Norway, Sweden and Denmark throughout the Viking Age, but was largely though not completely replaced by the Latin alphabet by about 1200 as a result of the conversion of most of Scandinavia to Christianity.

Three slightly different versions of the alphabet developed in Denmark, Sweden and Norway:

Danish Futhark


Swedish-Norwegian / Short-twig / Rök Runes


Norwegian Futhark


Gothenburg / Bohuslän Runes


Medieval (Latinised) Futhark

After the arrival of Christianity in Scandinavia, the Runic alphabet was Latinised and was used occasionally, mainly for decoration, until 1850.

Medieval (Latinised)

Thanks to Niklas Dougherty for some of the information on this page.

Sample text – Lord’s Prayer in Old Norse (Runic alphabet – Futhark)



Faðer uor som ast i himlüm, halgað warðe þit nama. Tilkomme þit rikie. Skie þin uilie so som i himmalan so oh bo iordanne. Wort dahliha broð gif os i dah. Oh forlat os uora skuldar so som oh ui forlate þem os skuüldihi are. Oh inleð os ikkie i frestalsan utan frels os ifra ondo. Tü rikiað ar þit oh mahtan oh harlihheten i ewihhet. Aman.

 (Sources: Wikipedia, Omniglot, Google.-Spikey)

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This entry was posted on December 6, 2014 by in Life, Religion, Society and tagged , , , , , , , , .
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