Younger Futhark: Rune Names and Rune Meanings

At the end of the 8th century an unknown rune-master reformed the Elder Futhark having reduced it to 16 runes. By the 10th century the new form of writing was accepted in the whole of Scandinavia. This variant of runic alphabet is known as the Younger Futhark. It is this set of runes that may be properly called Viking runes, since they were used by the Scandinavians during the Viking Age:

Younger Futhark runes

The spoken language of that period underwent serious changes. For instance, the number of vowels grew from 5 to 9. If the Agnlo-Saxon Futhorc multiplied the original Common Germanic runes to adapt them for the Old English, the Scandinavian solution was to reduce their number. The most of the runes could now designate a variety of sounds. The earliest Younger Futhark inscriptions were found in Denmark, that’s why they are sometimes called Danish runes (these are ‘normal’ Younger Futhark runes, see the first row above). However, very soon another variant of the Younger Futhark developed. These runes are sometimes called Norwegian-Swedish or Rök runes (see the second row above). Because of the obvious differences between the two, their more common respective names are long-branch and short-twig runes. The trend towards minimalism triumphed in another variant of the Younger Futhark, so called staveless or Hålsinge runes, which were used only in a restricted area (see the third row above).
Normal and short-twig runes were often mixed in inscriptions, which led to appearance of other regional variants. Later inscriptions were carved using so called Medieval runes. Basically, it is the same Younger Futhark with only a few changes, since propagation of the roman alphabet led to the addition of new runes that corresponded to letters, which had no counterparts in the 16-rune system (note that the nasalized /ã/ sound changed into /o/ and the corresponding rune now designated /o/, accordingly). Below, for the sake of convenience, the Medieval runes are arranged in ABC order:

Medieval runes

The rune-names of the Younger Futhark are given below, each with a verse from the Icelandic Rune Poem (15th century) that explains their meanings. The translation is by B. Dickins (published in 1915).

fé, ‘wealth’
source of discord among kinsmen
and fire of the sea
and path of the serpent.
úr, ‘shower’
lamentation of the clouds
and ruin of the hay-harvest
and abomination of the shepherd.
þurs, ‘giant’
torture of women
and cliff-dweller
and husband of a giantess.
ą́ss, ‘god’
aged Gautr
and prince of Ásgarðr
and lord of Vallhalla.
reið, ‘riding’
joy of the horsemen
and speedy journey
and toil of the steed.
kaun, ‘ulcer’
disease fatal to children
and painful spot
and abode of mortification.
hagall, ‘hail’
cold grain
and shower of sleet
and sickness of serpents.
nauð, ‘constraint’
grief of the bond-maid
and state of oppression
and toilsome work.
iss, ‘ice’
bark of rivers
and roof of the wave
and destruction of the doomed.
ár, ‘plenty’
boon to men
and good summer
and thriving crops.
sól, ‘sun’
shield of the clouds
and shining ray
and destroyer of ice.
týr, ‘Týr’
god with one hand
and leavings of the wolf
and prince of temples.
bjarkan, ‘birch’
leafy twig
and little tree
and fresh young shrub.
maðr, ‘man’
delight of man
and augmentation of the earth
and adorner of ships.
lögr, ‘water’
eddying stream
and broad geysir
and land of the fish.
ýr, ‘yew’
bent bow
and brittle iron
and giant of the arrow.

Images and charts above are copyright © The Viking Rune

181 comments… add one
  • Sarah

    I have a question, most websites I look at show 24-26 runes and they don’t mention any other variants. So where are the other two runes coming from, are they part of the Elder Futhark or are they additional runes?

    • Viking Rune

      Younger Futhark has 16 runes, Sarah.

  • Captain Thomas

    I wish to have the poem for odins ravens, converters to old norse Runic. I want to tattoo it between the 2 Ravens Mugin and Hunin
    Is this possible? How can it be converted and where can I get it converted

  • Ron

    I’m looking to tattoo my children’s names in the Younger Futhark style but wondered if it was common to use two of the same letters next to each other. Example: My son’s middle name is: “Aaron.” With the two “A’s” right next to each other, would both be written out or would just one of the “A’s” be written out based on phonetics? Any help you have would be greatly appreciated. My children’s names are: “Keith Aaron” and “Amber Rain.”

    • Declan

      Generally names are done in something called “bindrunes”. These runes are the combinations of the initials of the individual. In the case of your children this would be KAx and ARx (“x” being the initial of their last name). This would give a combined kaun-oss(as)-x and os-reið-x respectively. An example of bindrunes is given here: (this example uses the elder futhark, whereas I have used the younger futhark similar to this current page)

  • Marie

    I’ve been thinking of gettimg a tattoo. Something small, possibly on my wrist. Now the meaning or interpretation I want is something resembling reborn from fire, cleansed by water. What runes would give me the closest meaning. Alternatively is there a way I could add the rune “kaun” to it? It keeps appearing in my dreams.

    • Viking Rune

      Marie, runes are basically an alphabet. You may write the English phrase “reborn from fire, cleansed by water” in runes or try to translate it into Old Norse and then convert it into Younger Futhark runes.

    • olaf Gunnerson

      All you would need is berkana and uruz berkana is birth rebirth . Uruz is wild natural energy untamed like a fire

  • Ed

    I have a piece of jewellery I bought in Iceland about 40 years ago, supposedly a representation of a rune. It looks like the symbol for wealth but there’s a perpendicular leg sticking out to the side opposite the diagonal arm in the middle, plus another out on the same side as the two diagonals but at the base (i.e., away from the direction the diagonals are pointing. Anybody have any idea what this is?

    • Viking Rune

      I am not sure I can figure it out based on your description. Can you post an image on my FB Page?

  • Casey Johnson

    Maybe I’m not grasping this whole thing. I’m trying to write an inscription in short twig. Do I just go to the converter and write it in English and drop the double runes? The inscription is : The blood that runs through these veins.

  • Ben Bradshaw

    I am starting a business called Viking Concealment and want my logo to be as authentic as possible. Which runic alphabet is authentic to the times?

    • Viking Rune

      Hello Ben. Younger Futhark runes were the runes used in the Viking Age.

  • Sierra

    Hi, I am interested in getting my last name “Krog” tattooed in short twig as it is Norwegian in origin. Any advise? (Pronounced Cr-ohg)

  • Cody

    Hi there. I’m seeking help about which possible translation to use for me last name. Considering my last name is Jackson and the origin of my last name is Swedish, Danish, and Norwegian. I’m confused on which to use, either long branch or short twig runes. Thank you for the help!

  • Zachary

    I wanted to ask your assistance on a few things,
    I have been trying to translate “the bear” into old Norse but cannot find the correct conjugation anywhere so far. Also the word “fury” and the quote “for all I love, my life” and eventually put them all into long branch younger futhark. If you can help me with this and possibly point me in the right direction for research I would greatly appreciate it, I cannot make much progress with my current approach. You guys however have helped me tremendously! Thank you!

    • Viking Rune

      Hello Zachary. Old Norse for bear is bjǫrn. A possible translation for fury is móðr.

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