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Name Proto-Germanic Old English Old Norse
Shape Elder Futhark Futhorc Younger Futhark
Runic letter thurisaz.svg
Transliteration þ
Transcriptionþþ, ð
IPA [θ][θ], [ð]
Position in

The rune is called Thurs (Old Norse Þurs , a type of entity, from a reconstructed Common Germanic *Þurisaz) in the Icelandic and Norwegian rune poems. In the Anglo-Saxon rune poem it is called thorn, whence the name of the letter þ derived. It is transliterated as þ, and has the sound value of a voiceless dental fricative /θ/ (the English sound of th as in thing).


The rune is absent from the earliest Vimose inscriptions, but it is found in the Thorsberg chape inscription, dated to ca. AD 200.


In Anglo-Saxon England, the same rune was called Thorn or "Þorn" and it survives as the Icelandic letter Þ (þ). An attempt has been made to account for the substitution of names by taking "thorn" to be a kenning (metaphor) for "giant".

It is disputed as to whether a distinct system of Gothic runes ever existed, but it is clear that most of the names (but not most of the shapes) of the letters of the Gothic alphabet correspond to those of the Elder Futhark. The name of 𐌸, the Gothic letter corresponding to Þ is an exception; it is recorded as þiuþ "(the) good" in the Codex Vindobonensis 795, and as such unrelated to either þurs or þorn. The lack of agreement between the various glyphs and their names in Gothic, Anglo-Saxon, and Old Norse makes it difficult to reconstruct the Elder Futhark rune's Proto-Germanic name.

Assuming that the Scandinavian name þurs is the most plausible reflex of the Elder Futhark name, a Common Germanic form *þurisaz can be reconstructed (cf. Old English þyrs "giant, ogre" and Old High German duris-es "(of the) giant").

Rune poems

The Germanic rune ᚦ is mentioned in three rune poems: [1]

Rune Poem: [2] English Translation:

Old Norwegian
Þurs vældr kvinna kvillu,
kátr værðr fár af illu.

Thurs ("Giant") causes anguish to women,
misfortune makes few men cheerful.

Old Icelandic
Þurs er kvenna kvöl
ok kletta búi
ok varðrúnar verr.
Saturnus þengill.

Thurs ("Giant") is torture of women
and cliff-dweller
and husband of a giantess
Saturn's thegn. (the source of this line in the poem is unclear)

Ðorn bẏþ ðearle scearp;
ðegna gehƿẏlcum anfeng ẏs ẏfẏl,
ungemetum reþe manna gehƿẏlcun,
ðe him mid resteð.

The thorn is exceedingly sharp,
an evil thing for any thegn to touch,
uncommonly severe on all who sit among them.


Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Thorn (letter)</span> Letter of Old English and some Scandinavian languages

Thorn or þorn is a letter in the Old English, Old Norse, Old Swedish and modern Icelandic alphabets, as well as modern transliterations of the Gothic alphabet, Middle Scots, and some dialects of Middle English. It was also used in medieval Scandinavia, but was later replaced with the digraph th, except in Iceland, where it survives. The letter originated from the rune in the Elder Fuþark and was called thorn in the Anglo-Saxon and thorn or thurs in the Scandinavian rune poems. It is similar in appearance to the archaic Greek letter sho (ϸ), although the two are historically unrelated. The only language in which þ is currently in use is Icelandic.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Yngvi</span> Germanic deity

Old Norse Yngvi[ˈyŋɡwe], Old High German Ing/Ingwi and Old English Ing are names that relate to a theonym which appears to have been the older name for the god Freyr. Proto-Germanic *Ingwaz was the legendary ancestor of the Ingaevones, or more accurately Ingvaeones, and is also the reconstructed name of the Elder Futhark rune ᛜ and Anglo-Saxon rune ᛝ, representing ŋ.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Runes</span> Ancient Germanic letter

A rune is a letter in a set of related alphabets known as runic alphabets native to the Germanic peoples. Runes were used to write various Germanic languages before they adopted the Latin alphabet, and for specialised purposes thereafter. In addition to representing a sound value, runes can be used to represent the concepts after which they are named (ideographs). Scholars refer to instances of the latter as Begriffsrunen. The Scandinavian variants are also known as futhark or fuþark ; the Anglo-Saxon variant is futhorc or fuþorc.

is the rune denoting the sound p in the Elder Futhark runic alphabet. It does not appear in the Younger Futhark. It is named peorð in the Anglo-Saxon rune-poem and glossed enigmatically as follows:

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. Also, the writing custom avoided carving the same rune consecutively for the same sound, so the spoken distinction between long and short vowels was lost in writing. Thus, the language included distinct sounds and minimal pairs that were written the same.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Elder Futhark</span> System of runes for Proto-Germanic

The Elder Futhark, also known as the Older Futhark, Old Futhark, or Germanic Futhark, is the oldest form of the runic alphabets. It was a writing system used by Germanic peoples for Northwest Germanic dialects in the Migration Period. Inscriptions are found on artifacts including jewelry, amulets, plateware, tools, and weapons, as well as runestones in Scandinavia, from the 2nd to the 10th centuries.

The Fehu rune represents the f and v-sound in the Younger Futhark and Futhorc alphabets. Its name means '(mobile) wealth', cognate to English fee with the original meaning of 'sheep' or 'cattle'. The Proto-Germanic name *fehu has been reconstructed, with the meaning of "money, cattle, wealth".

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Kaunan</span> 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.

Algiz is the name conventionally given to the "z-rune" of the Elder Futhark runic alphabet. Its transliteration is z, understood as a phoneme of the Proto-Germanic language, the terminal *z continuing Proto-Indo-European terminal *s.

Jera is the conventional name of the j-rune of the Elder Futhark, from a reconstructed Common Germanic stem *jēra- meaning "harvest, (good) year".

*Naudiz is the reconstructed Proto-Germanic name of the n-rune , meaning "need, distress". In the Anglo-Saxon futhorc, it is continued as nyd, in the Younger Futhark as , Icelandic naud and Old Norse nauðr. The corresponding Gothic letter is 𐌽 n, named nauþs. The valkyrie Sigrdrífa in Sigrdrífumál talks about the rune as a beer-rune and that "You should learn beer-runes if you don’t want another man’s wife to abuse your trust if you have a tryst. Carve them on the drinking-horn and on the back of your hand, and carve the rune ᚾ on your fingernail."

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Haglaz</span> Rune

*Haglaz or *Hagalaz is the reconstructed Proto-Germanic name of the h-rune , meaning "hail".

*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 íss in Old Norse. As a 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.

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 t-rune is named after Týr, and was identified with this god. The reconstructed Proto-Germanic name is *Tîwaz or *Teiwaz. Tiwaz rune was an ideographic symbol for a spear.

The Dev rune (ᛞ) is called dæg "day" in the Anglo-Saxon rune poem. The corresponding letter of the Gothic alphabet 𐌳 d is called dags. This rune is also part of the Elder Futhark, with a reconstructed Proto-Germanic name *dagaz.

Sowilo (*sōwilō), meaning "sun", is the reconstructed Proto-Germanic language name of the s-rune.

*Mannaz is the conventional name of the m-rune of the Elder Futhark. It is derived from the reconstructed Common Germanic word for "man", *mannaz.


  1. Dickins, Bruce (12 June 2009). Runic and Heroic Poems of the Old Teutonic Peoples (1915). Cornell University Library. ASIN   B003E7F8LW.
  2. Original poems and translation from the Rune Poem Page Archived 1999-05-01 at the Wayback Machine .

See also