Ansuz (rune)

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Name Proto-Germanic Old English Old Norse
Shape Elder Futhark Futhorc Younger Futhark
Runic letter ansuz.svg Runic letter os.svg Runic letter ac.svg Runic letter ansuz.svg Long-branch Oss.svg Short-twig Oss.svg
Transliteration aoaæo
Transcriptionaoaæą, o
IPA [a(ː)][o(ː)][ɑ(ː)][æ(ː)][ɑ̃], [o(ː)]
Position in

Ansuz is the conventional name given to the a-rune of the Elder Futhark, . The name is based on Proto-Germanic *ansuz , denoting a deity belonging to the principal pantheon in Germanic paganism.


The shape of the rune is likely from Neo-Etruscan a ( EtruscanA-01.png ), like Latin A ultimately from Phoenician aleph.


In the Norwegian rune poem, óss is given a meaning of "estuary" while in the Anglo-Saxon one, ōs takes the Latin meaning of "mouth". The Younger Futhark rune is transliterated as ą to distinguish it from the new ár rune (ᛅ), which continues the jēran rune after loss of prevocalic *j- in Proto-Norse *jár (Old Saxon jār).

Since the name of Gothic a.svg a is attested in the Gothic alphabet as ahsa or aza, the common Germanic name of the rune may thus either have been *ansuz "god", or *ahsam "ear (of wheat)".

Development in Anglo-Saxon runes

The Anglo-Saxon futhorc split the Elder Futhark a rune into three independent runes due to the development of the vowel system in Anglo-Frisian. These three runes are ōs (transliterated o), ac "oak" (transliterated a), and æsc "ash" (transliterated æ ).

Development in Younger Futhark

Variations of the rune in Younger Futhark. Forasrun.svg
Variations of the rune in Younger Futhark.

The Younger Futhark corresponding to the Elder Futhark ansuz rune is , called óss. It is transliterated as ą. This represented the phoneme /ɑ̃/, and sometimes /æ/ (also written ) and /o/ (also written ). The variant grapheme became independent as representing the phoneme /ø/ during the 11th to 14th centuries.

Rune poems

In the Icelandic rune poem, the name óss refers to Odin:

Óss er algingautr
  ok ásgarðs jöfurr,
  ok valhallar vísi.

Óss is aged Gautr
  and prince of Asgard
  and lord of Valhalla.

Related Research Articles

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Runes Ancient Germanic alphabet

Runes are the letters in a set of related alphabets known as runic alphabets, which were used to write various Germanic languages before the adoption of the Latin alphabet and for specialised purposes thereafter. The Scandinavian variants are also known as futhark or fuþark ; the Anglo-Saxon variant is futhorc or fuþorc.

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The Younger Futhark, also called Scandinavian runes, is a runic alphabet and a reduced form of the Elder Futhark, with only 16 characters, in use from about the 9th century, after a "transitional period" during the 7th and 8th centuries. The reduction, somewhat paradoxically, happened at the same time as phonetic changes that led to a greater number of different phonemes in the spoken language, when Proto-Norse evolved into Old Norse. Thus, the language included distinct sounds and minimal pairs that were written the same.

Elder Futhark System of runes for Proto-Germanic

The Elder Futhark, Elder Fuþark, Older Futhark, Old Futhark or Germanic Futhark is the oldest form of the runic alphabets. It was a writing system used by Germanic tribes for Northwest Germanic dialects in the Migration Period, the dates of which are debated among scholars. Runic inscriptions are found on artifacts, including jewelry, amulets, plateware, tools, weapons, and, famously, runestones, from the 2nd to the 8th centuries.

Kaunan rune

The k-rune is called Kaun in both the Norwegian and Icelandic rune poems, meaning "ulcer". The reconstructed Proto-Germanic name is *Kauną. It is also known as Kenaz ("torch"), based on its Anglo-Saxon name.

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*Ehwaz is the reconstructed Proto-Germanic name of the Elder Futhark e rune , meaning "horse". In the Anglo-Saxon futhorc, it is continued as eh.

*Laguz or *Laukaz is the reconstructed Proto-Germanic name of the l-rune , *laguz meaning "water" or "lake" and *laukaz meaning "leek". In the Anglo-Saxon rune poem, it is called lagu "ocean". In the Younger Futhark, the rune is called lögr "waterfall" in Icelandic and logr "water" in Norse.

*Isaz is the reconstructed Proto-Germanic name of the i-rune , meaning "ice". In the Younger Futhark, it is called Iss in Icelandic and isa in Old Norse. As rune of the Anglo-Saxon futhorc, it is called is.

Berkanan is the reconstructed Proto-Germanic name of the b rune , meaning "birch". In the Younger Futhark it is called Bjarkan in the Icelandic and Norwegian rune poems. In the Anglo-Saxon rune poem it is called beorc. The corresponding Gothic letter is 𐌱 b, named bairkan.

Anglo-Saxon runes system of runes for Old English

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Runic transliteration and transcription are part of analysing a runic inscription which involves transliteration of the runes into Latin letters, transcription into a normalized spelling in the language of the inscription, and translation of the inscription into a modern language. In machine-processed text, there is a long-standing practice of formatting transliterations in boldface and transcriptions in Italic type, as the two forms of rendering a runic text have to be kept distinct.

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Runic is a Unicode block containing runic characters. It was introduced in Unicode 3.0 (1999), with eight additional characters introduced in Unicode 7.0 (2014). The original encoding of runes in UCS was based on the recommendations of the "ISO Runes Project" submitted in 1997.

Runic alphabets have seen numerous uses since the 18th-century Viking revival, in Scandinavian Romantic nationalism (Gothicismus) and Germanic occultism in the 19th century, and in the context of the Fantasy genre and of Germanic Neopaganism in the 20th century.