Viking Runes and Meanings: The 38 Runes You’ll Want to Know
Learning old Viking runes can be a fun hobby, but it also has some practical applications if you learn it fully. You can read many ancient writings and poems that you miss a lot of the specifics of when they are translated.
It is often used as well in many fantasy worlds in games, movies, and even books. Being able to read the symbols can be a fun way to get a little bit of a deeper glimpse. If you want to get all the Viking runes and meanings, you have to start with these 38.
Viking Runes and Meanings
Viking runes are often broken into two groups. You have the Older Futhark Runes, which were used between the 2nd to 8th centuries, though some recent excavations have shown it could have been used even further back than that. Then you have the Younger Futhark Runes, which were more used between the 8th to 12th centuries.
The younger runes came about to account for the new sounds that came from other tongues. The language was becoming more complicated to account for these new sounds and words, so they had to add new runes.
These runes didn’t replace the older ones but were added to the language. Most of the younger runes also had a long version and a short version, which was basically the printed form and cursive form of the runes. The short version was designed to be easier to write, and faster.
Most runes can be translated in a few ways. You have the English letter comparison, the phonetics, the proto-Germanic, old English, old Norse, and what the rune stands for. This means that runes can be used in a variety of ways, from spelling out words like individual letters, to symbolizing a meaning or sentence.
Though the younger runes are newer and simpler, many people and descendants still use the older runes the most because they most easily translate to English and other languages.
This rune, though it looks a little like an ‘F’, is actually best associated with the English letter ‘A’. It tends to have the meaning of Odin, inspiration, or wisdom. It is said with an ‘ah’ sound, as in ‘bard’.
This one looks a lot closer to the English letter it is similar to. This Viking rune is best compared to the English letter ‘B’. The rune often has the meaning of birch tree, birth, and liberation. It is pronounced like a usual ‘b’.
This letter stands for a few different things. It translates to ‘C’, ‘K’, or ‘Q’ in the English language, but it is most often pronounced like a ‘k’. This rune is used to stand for torch, fire, malady, or death.
This symbol is closely related to the English letter ‘D’. It is pronounced in the same way too. It often stands for day or dawn when used alone.
This rune is comparable to the English letter ‘E’. It is pronounced similarly to ‘ea’, such as in ‘peat’. When used alone, it can stand for twin forces or a horse.
At a glance, this looks very similar to the symbol for ‘A’, but it is a little different. Instead of the offshoots pointing down, they point up. This is the one that stands for livestock or, more specifically, cattle. It can also mean wealth because owning livestock was a sign of wealth. This is similar to the English letter ‘F’ and is pronounced the same way.
One of the most confusing runes, this X-shaped rune’s English equivalent would be the letter ‘G’. It was used to represent gifts, generosity, and spears as a standalone symbol. It is pronounced like a standard ‘g’.
8. ᚺ or ᚻ
If you thought this rune looked like the letter ‘H’, you’d be right. It is even pronounced the same way. This rune was often used to refer to all sorts of weather conditions like hail. You could even use it to refer to a storm or the air itself.
Ice was a natural part of life in the cold, northern regions and earned its own rune. This rune can also mean challenge. As you might expect, the closest English letter is ‘I’ and is often pronounced as an elongated version of that letter, as you would see in ‘night’, or ‘pie’.
This is the rune for year, earth, or harvest. Although we can represent it as a ‘J’ in English, it is closer to ‘Y’ in pronunciation, similar to how ‘ja’ in German sounds like ‘ya’ in English.
All kinds of bodies of water like seas and oceans can be represented by this single rune. It is easy to remember because its English counterpart and pronunciation are the same as the letter ‘L’ as in ‘lake’.
Referring to yourself is a huge part of language and communication which is why this rune is so important. It means self, human, or man. The best comparison to English would be the letter ‘M’ which sounds like the ‘ma’ of ‘mad’.
This simple rune was used to represent need or hardship. In English, it would be written with an ‘N’ and said like the ‘nuh’ sound of ‘nothing’.
14. ᛜ or ᛝ
Confusingly, these two runes are also written as ‘N’ in English but are pronounced differently. The sound is closer to the ‘na’ of ‘gnaw’. These runes were used to represent masculine energy or the god of kingship, Yvngi (also known as Frey or Freyr).
Long ‘o’ sounds like that in the word ‘balloon’ were written with this rune. Today, we would use the letter ‘O’ in English to represent this rune which meant heritage or estate.
The shape of this rune is nothing like the English letter ‘P’ that is used to refer to the rune. The meaning of this rune is diverse – from feminine energy and sexuality to dance and Elder trees. Although English speakers typically have well-defined differences between the sounds of ‘p’ and ‘b’, this rune lies somewhere in the middle in terms of pronunciation.
Thankfully, the corresponding English letter ‘R’ looks a lot like this rune. It has a hard ‘r’ sound to differentiate it from ‘l’ sounds and means things like ride, horse, journey, and the god of thunder, Thor.
18. ᛊ or ᛋ
These runes are associated with ‘S’ in English and are used in words with a ‘sa’ sound like the word ‘saw’. Meaning honor, sun, and thunderbolt, it wouldn’t be a stretch to think these runes appeared with the ᚱ rune above when talking about Thor.
With a little imagination, you can see how this rune looks like the letter ‘T’ which is how it is usually transcribed. Pronouncing it is a little unusual and sounds more like a ‘d’ than a ‘t’ in English. This rune had the very specific meaning of the one-handed god, Tyr.
This rune can be seen with straight lines, creating more of a triangle shape. In English, it is written with a ‘U’ and its pronunciation is a long vowel sound like ‘tool’. It can mean a variety of things from water and rain to aurochs – an extinct species of modern-day cattle.
This symbol can be either a ‘V’ or a ‘W’, though it is always pronounced as a ‘w’. It is a symbol that often shows joy, pleasure, harmony, or kinship. When looking at this one, make sure the triangle shape is always at the very top, or it can be confused with the next symbol.
Most often, this symbol has a sharper triangle shape than a rounded symbol. It often looks like the symbol for ‘W’, but with the triangle more in the middle of the line instead of the top. It is similar to ‘X’. It stands for giant, thorn, and danger. It has the IPA pronunciation ‘ө’ or ‘th’.
This symbol might not be one you can guess right away. It is basically a ‘Y’ and is pronounced like an elongated ‘ae’ sound. It has the meaning Yggdrasil, yew tree, or dream.
Similar to its English counterpart, the letter ‘Z’, this symbol is often pronounced as ‘z’ as well. When not used for a letter, it stands for protection, shield, or elk.
This is the first symbol in the Younger Futhark rune set. It is basically the letter ‘F’ and can be pronounced the same way. It is called Fe and means wealth.
Ur is the symbol close to ‘U’, and is pronounced similar to an elongated ‘u’. Its meaning is snow or rain.
This symbol, known as Thurs, is pronounced and considered comparable to ‘TH’. It is used to describe concepts like giant, danger, and anguish.
28. ᚬ or ᚭ
These two symbols are called As or Oss and are usually compared to ‘A’. It is usually pronounced like a long ‘a’ or an ‘o’. It usually references Odin, estuary, or haven.
As you might guess from the shape, the rune Reid, is similar to the English letter ‘R’ and is even pronounced the same way. It usually has meanings like ride, horses, speed, and journey.
While there is a long and short version of this symbol, they are more or less the same. This rune, known as Kaun, is similar to the English letter ‘K’, and can be pronounced like a ‘k’ or a ‘g’. It usually stands for poor health such as ulcers, disease, death, and malady.
31. ᚼ or ᚽ
These symbols are the long and short branches of the rune version of ‘H’. It is called Hagall and is pronounced like any ‘h’. It usually stands for hail and cold, similar to the old rune symbol for ‘H’.
32. ᛅ or ᛆ
If you are looking for a symbol that means plenty, the bounty of Frey, or a good harvest, then Ar might be the one you are looking for. It is another rune closely related to the English letter ‘A’, and is pronounced ‘a’ or ‘ae’.
33. ᛋ or ᛌ
Sol, the Younger Futhark symbol closely related to the English letter ‘S’, can be written in long branch or short branch form. The symbol also stands for the sun.
34. ᛏ or ᛐ
Tyr, similar to the English ‘TH’, like another rune, can be pronounced like a ‘t’ or a ‘d’. It stands specifically for Tyr, who is the one-handed god of justice.
35. ᛒ or ᛓ
This rune is similar to the Older Futhark rune for the English letter ‘B’. However, it has a secondary, short branch as well. The name for this rune is Bjork, Bjarkan, and Bjarken, and is pronounced either as a ‘b’ or ‘p’. It stands for birch tree, spring, and new life just like the old rune.
36. ᛘ or ᛙ
This is the long branch and the short branch of the rune names Madr. This is similar to the English letter ‘M’ and is pronounced the same way. When used to symbolize a meaning instead of a letter, it is often used to describe humankind and mortality.
The short and long form of the rune Logr is the same. This is similar to the English letter ‘L’ and is pronounced the same way. On its own, it stands for water, river, or waterfall.
38. ᛦ or ᛧ
This is the long form and short form of Yr, which is similar to the English letter ‘R’. It often stands for yew tree and endurance, and is pronounced either as an ‘r’ or a ‘z’.