A Journey Through Norse Runes: From Symbols to Modern Use

By Phuc Le on Apr 02, 2023

The Viking Age evokes images of fierce warriors, longships, and intricate artistry. One of the most fascinating aspects of Norse culture is the use of runes – symbols used for writing and divination. In this article, we'll explore the origins, meanings, and uses of the Norse runes, including the Younger and Elder Futhark, their symbolism, and their translations. Let's delve into the mysterious world of these ancient scripts!

Norse Letters to English

Elder Futhark

The Elder Futhark is the oldest known runic alphabet, consisting of 24 characters. It was used by Germanic tribes between the 2nd and 8th centuries AD. It is named after the first six letters of the alphabet: F, U, Þ, A, R, and K.

Younger Futhark

The Younger Futhark, used from the 9th to the 12th centuries AD, is a simplified version of the Elder Futhark. It has only 16 characters, making it more streamlined and easier to use for the Old Norse language.

Runes Definition

Runes are letters in a set of related alphabets used to write various Germanic languages before the adoption of the Latin script. Besides their use as a writing system, runes were also believed to possess mystical powers and were employed for divination and protection.

History of Runes

The origins of runes are shrouded in mystery. They are believed to have been inspired by the Roman alphabet or the North Italic alphabets. The earliest known runic inscriptions date back to the 2nd century AD, and their use continued in Scandinavia and other parts of Europe until the Middle Ages.

Norse Strength Rune and Other Symbols

Norse Strength Rune

The Norse strength rune, Uruz, symbolizes physical strength, endurance, and vitality. It is also associated with courage, determination, and the power to overcome obstacles.

Nordic Rune for Protection

Algiz, the Nordic rune for protection, represents a strong protective force and is often used to ward off negative energies or evil spirits.

Norse Rune for Power

The Norse rune for power, Sowilo, signifies victory, success, and the life-giving energy of the sun. It embodies the power to overcome darkness and illuminate the path towards one's goals.

Runic to English: Translating and Transliterating

English Runes Alphabet

While there isn't a direct English runes alphabet, the Elder Futhark can be adapted to represent English letters, making it possible to write English words using runic symbols.

Elder Futhark Translation

Elder Futhark translations involve converting the runic characters into their corresponding Latin alphabet letters. Various online tools and resources can help with translating Elder Futhark inscriptions.

Futhark Transliteration

Transliteration is the process of converting text from one script to another while retaining its original pronunciation. In the case of the Futhark, this involves converting runes into Latin script while maintaining the phonetic value of each rune.

How Many Rune Symbols Are There?

The number of rune symbols varies depending on the runic alphabet. The Elder Futhark has 24 runes, while the Younger Futhark has 16. There are also other runic alphabets, like the Anglo-Saxon Futhorc with 33 runes and the medieval Icelandic and Scandinavian runic alphabets with variations in the number of runes.

Nordic Rune Meanings

Each rune in the Norse runic alphabets has a unique meaning, representing concepts, objects, or natural elements. These meanings can be interpreted on a literal, symbolic, or spiritual level, depending on their context and purpose.

Protection Rune Elder Futhark and Other Runes for Protection

Runes Names

Runes have individual names that are often associated with their meanings or the sound they represent. For example, the name of the Algiz rune, which symbolizes protection, means "elk" or "swan" in Old Norse.

Celtic Runes for Protection

Celtic runes, though distinct from Norse runes, share similarities in their use for protection and other purposes. The Celtic Ogham alphabet, for example, has symbols that can be used for protection, such as the Dair rune, representing the oak tree, a symbol of strength and resilience.

Writing in Runes

Runic Writing

Runic writing involves using the appropriate runic alphabet to represent the sounds of a language. It is essential to understand the phonetic value of each rune and adapt it to the language being written.

Runes R and Runic N

The Runes R (Raidho) and N (Nauthiz) are two examples of runic characters with specific phonetic values. Raidho represents the "r" sound, while Nauthiz represents the "n" sound in the Old Norse language.

Name in Runes and Translation to Viking

Translating modern names into runes involves adapting the phonetic sounds of the name to the corresponding runic characters. Online tools and resources can help you convert your name into runes, providing an interesting glimpse into the Viking Age.

Rune Script and Icelandic Runes Alphabet

Rune script refers to the written form of runes, while the Icelandic runes alphabet is a medieval runic alphabet used in Iceland. It is an adaptation of the Younger Futhark and includes additional characters for the unique sounds of the Icelandic language.

Rune Alphabet Elder Futhark and Icelandic Runic Alphabet

The Elder Futhark is the oldest and most widely known runic alphabet, while the Icelandic runic alphabet is a later development specific to Iceland. Both alphabets have their unique set of runes and are part of the rich history of runic writing in the Germanic and Norse cultures.

How to Use Norse Runes

Norse runes can be used in various ways, such as writing, divination, and protection. To use them effectively, it is essential to understand the meanings and phonetic values of the runes, as well as the cultural context in which they were employed.

The Runic Alphabet and Alphabet Meaning

The runic alphabet is a system of symbols used for writing in various Germanic languages before the adoption of the Latin script. Each runic alphabet has its unique set of characters, with specific meanings and phonetic values. Understanding the alphabet meaning involves studying the history, cultural context, and symbolism of the runes.


Norse runes offer a fascinating glimpse into the world of the Vikings and their rich cultural heritage. From the ancient Elder Futhark to the Younger Futhark and Icelandic runic alphabet, these symbols have been used for writing, divination, and protection throughout history. By understanding the meanings, history, and uses of these runes, we can better appreciate their significance and the legacy of the people who created them.

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