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Runic Alphabet

This Page

  1. About the Runic Alphabet
  2. Browser and Font Recommendations
  3. Inputting Runic
  4. Web Development
    1. Language Codes: ang (Old English), enm (Middle English), non (Old Norse)
  5. Runic Unicode Chart (New Page)
  6. Links

About the Runic Alphabet

The "Runes" (or "Runic Alphabet") are an alphabet developed by Germanic speaking peoples during the Roman Era based on letters from both the Roman alphabet and the Greek alphbet. It was later used for writing Gothic, Old Scandinavian, Old Norse and Anglio-Saxon/Old English and some letters such as thorn (þ) were used to write Old English and Icelandic. In fact, the use of þ for "the" survived in English for many centuries and is still used in Modern Icelandic and Faeroese.

The letters all have names like thorn (þ) for "th" /θ/ and isaz (ᛁ) 'ice' for /i/. Ancient Germanic did use them for "magical" purposes but they also used it for everday writing. For Germanic languages like English, it's actually a little more efficient because it has single letters like thorn (þ) for sounds that need to be written with two letters in the modern Roman alphabet.

Because the Runic alphabet was used over several centuries and for multiple languages, there are several variant forms for many characters, and the same character may be prounced differently in different languages. Two key stages are Elder Futhark (Old Germanic/Old Scandinavian) and Futhorc (Anglo Saxon), but other variants exist.

Note: This Runic alphabet should not be confused with "Hungarian Runes" or "Turkic Runes." Although the forms look similar, the pronunciation and symbols are quite different.

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Browser and Font Recommendations

Fonts by Platform

Neither Windows or Apple provide a script with Runic characters, but there are freeware fonts which can be downloaded.

Freeware Unicode Fonts for Runic

These feature anglular forms such as would be carved in wood or stone.

These feature curved Runic forms like a manuscript.

Test Passage

If you see a question mark or a bunch of squares below, then you need to install a runic font.

ᛖᛚᛁᛊᚢᛒᛖᚦ ᚹᚱᚨᛖᛏ ᚱᚢᚾᚨ "ELISABEÞ WRAET RUNA" (reconstructed form, accuracy not verified)
ᚠᚢᚦᚨᚱᚲ "FUÞARK" (the first six runic letters)

Recommended Browsers

Browsers which fully support Unicode are strongly recommended. Click link in list to view configuration instructions. You will be asked to match a script with a font.

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Inputting Runic

Inputting from Character Utilities

For short passages, it may be practical to input characters from either the Windows Character Map or the Macintosh Character Viewer/Palette. In some cases, you may need to adjust the font to a Runic font.

Typing Runic Characters

Neither Microsoft or Apple provide a Runic keyboard, but there may several freeware keyboards which can be installed
Note: Not all applications have been tested.

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Web Development

Runic Encoding and Language Tags

These are the codes which allow browsers and screen readers to process data as the appropriate language. All letters in codes are lower case.

Using Encoding and Language Codes

Computers process text by assuming a certain encoding or a system of matching electronic data with visual text characters. Whenever you develop a Web site you need to make sure the proper encoding is specified in the header tags; otherwise the browser may default to U.S. settings and not display the text properly.

To declare an encoding, insert or inspect the following meta-tag at the top of your HTML file, then replace "???" with one of the encoding codes listed above. If you are not sure, use utf-8 as the encoding.

Generic Encoding Template

<meta http-equiv="Content-Type" content="text/html; charset=??? ">

Declare Unicode

<meta http-equiv="Content-Type" content="text/html; charset=utf-8 ">


The final close slash must be included after the final quote mark in the encoding header tag if you are using XHTML

Declare Unicode in XHTML

<meta http-equiv="Content-Type" content="text/html; charset=utf-8" />

No Encoding Declared

If no encoding is declared, then the browser uses the default setting, which in the U.S. is typically Latin-1. Some display errors may occur.

Language Tags

Language tags are also suggested so that search engines and screen readers parse the language of a page. These are metadata tags which indicate the language of a page, not devices to trigger translation. Visit the Language Tag page to view information on where to insert it.

Unicode Entity Codes

Runic numeric Unicode entity codes can be used for small pieces of text or when other methods to not work.

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Runic Language

Runic Unicode Fonts

These feature anglular forms such as would be carved in wood or stone.

These feature curved Runic forms like a manuscript.

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Last Modified: Tuesday, 04-Jun-2013 12:40:04 EDT