Viking Runes - the 'Futhark' Alphabet

The Vikings wrote using letters called runes. The Old Norse word for rune is rún, or rúnar in the plural.

The Roman senator Tacitus first described the letters that the Germanic tribes used when practising magic.

Runes do not follow the same a-b-c convention as many alphabets developed in history. Instead, the first six letters spell the word f-u-th-a-r-k, and for this reason the runic "alphabet" is called futhark.

Old Norse and Old English each had two additional letters to write the sound "th". One for a soft "th", as in "think" or "thistle", and one for a voiced "th", as in "the" or "these".

Runes fell out of use as the Germanic tribes adopted Christianity, and mostly out of use by 1100.

Runes are often found in archaeological digs etched into combs, swords or jewellery.

futhark alphabet vikings


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