Runic Love Quotes

The fire of 1955 destroyed part of Bryggen, the old quarter of Bergen (Norway). This made possible large scale excavations of a medieval town. Archeologists brought to light over 550 objects with runic inscriptions, dating to 1150-1350. The most of them are on wooden sticks with flattened sides. At a time when everyone had a knife, such sticks, called in Icelandic rúnakefli, served as both notebooks and a way to send a letter. Bergen inscriptions revealed much about everyday life in a society, in which runes played a very important role. Below are a few runic inscriptions from Bergen that deal with love. Throughout this post, first goes the Bergen Index number (it is also a link to a picture of the original inscription, if available) with the date, then the runic text, a transcription, the same text in normalized orthography, and an English translation.

B017, after 1248

Óst min, kyss mik
‘My love, kiss me’

Above is perhaps the most cute runic inscription I’ve ever seen.

B465, before 1198


Mun þú mik,
man ek þik.
Unn þú mér,
ann ek þér.

‘Remember me,
I remember you.
Love me,
I love you’.

A naive, but also a very sincere love poem. Next goes a much more down-to-earth saying:

B039, before 1332

smiþur:saarþ:uiktisi af:snæltu:benum
Smiður sarð Vigdisi af Snældubeinum
‘Smidur made love with Vigdis of the Snældubeinar’

Sounds a bit boastful. The following quote is of the same kind:

B390, before 1198

Ingibjörg unni mér þá er ek var í Stafangri
‘Ingibjörg loved me when I was in Stavanger’

The next message was possibly addressed by a worried wife to an errand husband:

B149, after 1248

Gyða segir at þú gakk heim
‘Gyda says that you are to go home’

The following lines are highly dramatic:

B644, before 1198


Ann ek svá konu mans at mér þykkir kaldr eldr.
En ek emi vinr vifs þessa.
‘I love that man’s wife so much that fire seems cold to me.
And I am that woman’s lover’

The final runic quote here shows that Scandinavians read Virgil. Isn’t it terrific to see his Latin verse written with runes:

B145, ca. 1248

Omnia vincit amor, et nos cedamus amori
‘Love conquers all; let us too yield to love.’

Images above are copyright © The Viking Rune

107 comments… add one
  • Don

    Enjoy the site very much! Was just wondering how you would write “Love that is true never grows old” Any help would be appreciated! Thanks

  • Mairav

    Hi, I am wandering where I can get help with translation? I have a character that uses Old Norse sometimes, he calls the person he loves “Beautiful Fire” as she is a redhead. I do have a English to Old Norse dictionary but there is more then one word for fire, so was wondering if you or someone you know could help?

    • Viking Rune

      Hello Mairav. Old Norse eldr is probably the right choice in this case.

      • Mairav

        Thank you so much for your help.

  • ingeborg

    What would: Love and gratitude
    be converted into (viking language?)

    Thank you!

    • Viking Rune

      Hello Ingeborg. The phrase ‘love and gratitude’ may be translated into Old Norse as ‘elskhugi ok þakklæti’.

  • Geir Kilen

    I am Norwegian, but lived in the states the passed 25 years. I am considering a Rune (my brother’s name – dead now) tattoo. I would like the “V” from the Vikings series on History channel and a strong phrase (such as: ydmyk men sterk! meaning humble, yet strong!). Any other suggestions?

    • Viking Rune

      Hello Geir. Probably this quote from the saga of Grettir (chapter 82):

      One’s back is vulnerable, unless one has a brother.

      In Old Norse:
      Ber er hver að baki nema sér bróður eigi.

      In Younger Futhark runes (long branch):

  • Johanna

    Hi All,
    I wanna ask you something. Does the linked picture at B145 really belongs to the sentence that you mentioned with “Omnia vincit amor, et nos cedamus amori”
    The runes you wrote seem different from the original picture

    • Viking Rune

      Hello Johanna. It’s only a part of B145 inscription. This segment begins in the middle of this side of the stick, after three dots arranged vertically.

  • Dallas Bartlett

    In the last quote, B-145, Is the “R” at the end a typo? I only ask because all other reseaching Ive done hasn’t shown the runes I’ve seen to have an R shape symbol of such roundness.

    • Ellen

      Did you ever figure this out? I want to get a tattoo of the runes for Omnia Vincit Amor but don’t want to put the wrong R on there!

      • Viking Rune

        Hello Ellen. It is not wrong. Rounded shapes of the runes were quite common.

    • Viking Rune

      Hello Dallas. Have you seen the Rök Runestone?

  • Sally Boyer

    I have a ring with the inscription –

    so the writing matches the 2nd quote you posted above except for the last 3 characters – I got the ring as a gift from someone who was unsure of its exact meaning and then I found your website. How would you translate given the last word being different? Is it a name?

    Mun þú mik,
    man ek þik.
    Unn þú mér,
    ann ek þér.

    ‘Remember me,
    I remember you.
    Love me,
    I love you’.

  • Katy

    Hi! I’ve been looking for ideas for runic inscriptions for a wedding ring and yours is by far the most interesting and authentic website I’ve found. I love the rune inscription above: Óst min, kyss mik ‘My love, kiss me’ and was wondering if you know how it would have translated into the Anglo-Saxon fuþorc runes?

    • JimmyLaser

      just write “ost min, kyss mik” into converter, it should be ok… but AngloSaxon futhorc is better suited for use with Old English, not Old Norse, so maybe translate it into Old English? Only my opinion…

    • Viking Rune

      Hi Katy. I agree with JimmyLaser. If you absolutely want to use Anglo-Saxon runes, it would be better to find some quote in the corresponding language.

      • Don

        My wife and I have matching “ost min kis mik” tattoos. i have nothing to add…i guess i am just telling on myself.

        • Viking Rune

          Hello Don. Thank you for sharing this.

  • Jimmy

    Hello there! First of all – very helpful sites, thanks for them! Im familiar with elder futhark and i know how to write and read it, but I had a hard time looking on net for informations about how exactly is used younger one. Your converter is nice thing and historical inscriptions with translation are even better. Thanks again. I have a question about word “love” in Old Norse, I hope you can help. I found in english-ON dictionary those words for it: ást (same as in modern icelandic), ástir and elska. No one of them I see here, so Im little confused. If Im not wrong, word unn or unni is used here? Im looking for word describing love between friends, family or man and pet, I dont want to confuse it with sexual love.

    • Viking Rune

      Hi Jimmy. Óst is actually a variant of ást.

      • JimmyLaser

        Yep, I figured it out allready, runes told me, thanks anyway. Unn þú mér,
        ann ek þér – i quess unn and ann is word for love used here, ann for first person, unn for second, like in German ich liebe, du liebst, is it like that? Can i use that for dog, friend, family? Dóttir min, ann ek þér, is that ok? My second question is about word Úlfhéðinn in runes – its ON so in Younger Futhark, will it be Úr-Lögr-Fé-Hagall-Óss(???)-Thurs-Íss-Naudhr-Naudhr(twice or not?). I must say I have real problem with this E thing in Younger Futhark.

        • Viking Rune

          Yes, dóttir mín, ann ek þér is okay (note the long vowel mín, not short min). Úlfhéðinn would have been written in runes as follows:

  • Nina

    Hi! If i were to tattoo the virgil quote just as it is spelled in runes further up,do you know for a fact that that would be completly authentic? Or should i use the converter to get it spelled in younger futhark runes?

    • Viking Rune

      Hi Nina. Follow this link for the actual authentic inscription. The quote begins towards the middle of the inscription after three vertical dots.

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