Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Watch Video Donate Shop PBS Search PBS

Write Your Name in Runes

  • By Nicole Sanderson
  • Posted 04.28.11
  • NOVA

Runes are the characters of the alphabet used by the Vikings and other Germanic peoples from about the second to the 15th centuries A.D. Some runes vaguely resemble letters in our own alphabet; others look more like symbols. All had meaning to the Vikings, who carved them into their so-called rune stones—large monuments that honor the memory, and the names, of Norsemen past. In this interactive, see your own name spelled out in runes, and learn the meaning of each of the 24 runic characters.

Launch Interactive

See your name spelled in runes and learn the meaning of each of the letters in the Viking alphabet.

This feature originally appeared on the site for the NOVA program The Vikings.

runes

Nicole Sanderson is a former intern of NOVA Online.

Transcript

Write Your Name in Runes

The runic alphabet, or Futhark, gets its name from its first six letters (f, u, th, a, r, k), much like the word "alphabet" derives from the first two letters of the Greek alphabet, alpha and beta. Each rune not only represents a phonetic sound but also has its own distinct meaning often connected with Norse mythology. Scholars believe that early Germanic and Scandinavian peoples used the runes originally as a means of communication and only later for magical purposes.

Fehu

Fehu can mean cattle, gold, or wealth in general.

Uruz

Uruz represents strength, speed, and good health.

Thurisaz

Thurisaz refers to the giants of Norse mythology.

Ansuz

Ansuz could refer to any deity, but it was most often associated with Odin.

Raido

Likely an important rune for the Vikings, Raido signified a long journey.

Kenaz

Kenaz represents a torch or some other source of light.

Gebo

Gebo was used to denote a sacrifice to the gods.

Wunjo

Wunjo can translate as comfort, joy, or glory.

Hagalaz

Hagalaz is the rune for hail, either in terms of the weather or hailing projectiles in battle.

Nauthiz

Nauthiz means need or necessity.

Isa

Isa means ice.

Jera

Jera translates as year or harvest.

Eithwaz

Eithwaz is the rune for yew, a sacred tree used to make rune wands.

Perth

The meaning and/or translation of Perth remains unknown.

Algiz

Algiz denoted defense, protection, or self-preservation.

Sowilo

Sowilo represented the sun, an important element in pagan worship.

Tiwaz

The rune of the war god Tyr, Tiwaz was often carved on weaponry.

Berkano

Berkano was associated with the birch tree, with Idun, goddess of spring, and with fertility.

Ehwaz

Ehwaz is the rune for horse.

Mannaz

Mannaz means man or mankind.

Laguz

Laguz is associated with water.

Ingwaz

Ingwaz can refer either to the Danish hero Ing or to the Danes in general.

Dagaz

Dagaz is the rune for day or daylight.

Othila

Othila means inheritance or the passing on of property or knowledge.

Credits

Images

All images
© WGBH Educational Foundation
Producer:
Nicole Sanderson
Designers:
Anya Vinokour and Tyler Howe
Developers:
Molly Frey, Brenden Kootsey, and Daniel Hart

Related Links

  • Secrets of the Viking Sword

    A modern-day swordsmith reverse engineers the ultimate weapon of the Middle Ages—a sword both prized and feared.

  • Viking Runes Through Time

    Delve into the hoary history of the Norse writing system.

  • Who Were the Vikings?

    Smithsonian archeologist William Fitzhugh reveals what drove the Vikings on their adventures to distant shores.

  • Secrets of Viking Ships

    How did longships and other vessels help the Norsemen navigate distant waters so successfully?

Close

You need the Flash Player plug-in to view this content.