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Runic alphabet   Runic/Futhark

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 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

Types of runic inscriptions include:

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.

Elder Futhark


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

Futhark Danish

Swedish-Norwegian / Short-twig / Rök Runes

Swedish-Norwegian / Short-twig / Rök Runes

Norwegian Futhark

Norwegian Futhark

Gothenburg / Bohuslän Runes

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) Futhark

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

Sample text - Lord's Prayer in Old Norse (Runic alphabet - Futhark)

Lord's prayer in Old Norse (ᚠᛆᚦᛅᛦ ᚢᚮᛦ ᛋᚮᛘ ᛆᛋᛐ ᛁ ᚼᛁᛘᛚᚤᛘ ᚼᛆᛚᚵᛆᚦ )


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.


Information about Old Norse | Tower of Babel | Learning materials

Download these alphabet charts (Excel speadsheet)

books   Books about Runes and Runic scripts


Information about the Runic alphabets

Nytt om runer: Meldingsblad om runeforskning - the international periodical for runic studies

An English Dictionary of Runic Inscriptions of the Younger Futhark

Runic Inscriptions

The mystery of the Runic alphabet - discusses the connections between Scandinavian and Turkic runes:

Runes Secrets - How to Use the Elder Futhark Runes

Free Runic fonts

Your name in runes

ALPHABETUM - a Unicode font specifically designed for ancient scripts, including classical & medieval Latin, ancient Greek, Etruscan, Oscan, Umbrian, Faliscan, Messapic, Picene, Iberian, Celtiberian, Gothic, Runic, Old & Middle English, Hebrew, Sanskrit, Old Nordic, Ogham, Kharosthi, Glagolitic, Old Cyrillic, Phoenician, Avestan, Ugaritic, Linear B, Anatolian scripts, Coptic, Cypriot, Brahmi, Old Persian cuneiform:

Runic and Rune-like scripts

Elder Futhark, Younger Futhork, Medieval (Latinised) Futhark, Dalecarlian Runes, Anglo-Saxon Futhorc, Gothic Runes, Székely-Hungarian Rovás (Hungarian Runes), Turkic (Orkhon) Runes