Critical Review of the Younger Futhark: An Historically Accurate Universal Rune Set

22 December 2019, 06h19:

Summer Solstice for the Southern Hemisphere

Today is the summer solstice – where we are at the peak of summer daylight hours in the Southern Hemisphere and the peak of winter hours applies to the Northern.

This is the last edition of the Runes Series; a follow-on post from these posts:

Summer is aligned with fire, an element that seemingly dances with life and youth. We notice how the young animals born in spring begin to establish their own identities and the spring seedlings become vigorous plants. In this context we see the reduction of the Elder Futhark into the it daughter system, the Younger Futhark as it takes on a new identity in meaning and form. Thus, during this summer solstice I will discuss the last feature on runes; the daughter system of the Elder Futhark runic alphabet, the Younger Futhark (Scandinavian Runes and technically a Futhork).


The runic alphabets have become a prominent feature on my blog and my designs, mostly due to my fascination with this ancient writing script and how it can be utilized to gain wisdoms from the depth of our own souls.

I have written an critical review of the Elder Futhark and the Anglo-Saxon Futhorc as well as discussing the flow of the runic languages from both an historic and linguistic perspective. During my extensive research into the subject I have read countless literary works in an attempt to determine both the original form of the Younger Futhark as well as creating a standardized and universal set of runes. I have listed the most informative references I discovered during my research (Ref 1-10). My research has subsequently been converted into an Younger Futhark Mini Oracle deck available for purchase from my MPC online store.

Here, I would like to focus on my research process for the Younger Futhark and how I came to choose the letter, rune script and meanings for each based on the most prominent and trustworthy information from hard-to-find expert runologist and runology sources. I will group the discussions around the potential origin of the Younger Futhark, the basic alphabet structure and the sorting of conflicting rune meanings as well as the diversity of runic symbols.

Younger Futhark Runes

  • Third Oldest Runic Alphabet (800-1100 AD)
  • Direct descendant of the Germanic Elder Futhark
  • Writing System for the Old West Norse (Old Icelandic, Old Norwegian and Greenlandic Norse) and Old East Norse dialects (Old Danish, Old Swedish and Old Gutnish)
  • A set of 16 letters
  • 2x Younger Futhark Poems; namely the Icelandic (13th century) and Norwegian (15th century) as reference point for the letters and their potential meanings.

Younger Futhark Origin and Expansion

An Old Norse daughter system with a direct linguistic inheritance from the Elder Futhark, which is a Proto Germanic/Norse runic alphabet. The Elder Futhark (400 – 800 AD) existed prior to the Younger Futhark (800 – 1100 AD), which overlaps 300 years with the Anglo-Saxon Futhorc (400 – 1100 AD) time frame. During this time; new languages arose between the Old Norse or Scandinavian tribes, such as Old Icelandic, Old Norwegian, Old Danish and Old Swedish.

Indo European Languages and the Runic Alphabets, Elder Futhark, Anglo-Saxon Futhorc, Younger Futhark, Lineage
Indo-European languages of the tribes and the development of the runic alphabets. Possible Elder Futhark lineage (linguistic evolution) in green, Younger Futhark lineage in red and Anglo-Saxon Futhorc lineage in Blue.

Due to changes in linguistic pronunciation and writing from Proto Norse to Old Norse the Younger Futhark reduces the number of Elder Futhark letters from 24 to 16 by merging several vowels/consonants. There is also vowel changes, due to the difference in pronunciation between Proto → Old Norse, known as a linguistic chain shift. Compare the two tables below, where Table 1 is the Elder Futhark and Table 3 is the Younger Futhark. Notice not only the change in the writing symbols, but also the change in pronunciation, especially considering the vowels.

For example:

  • Letter 3; Ansuz becomes Oss: a → o
  • Letter 12 and 13; Jera + Ihwaz seem to merge to Ar: j/ae → a
  • Letter 15; Algiz becomes Yr: z → y
Elder Futhark Rune Symbols Names Transliterations and Meanings Table
Elder Futhark Rune Symbols Names Transliterations and Meanings Table
Younger Futhark Rune Symbols Names Transliterations and Meanings Table
Younger Futhark Rune Symbols Names Transliterations and Meanings Table

The Younger Futhark has a bit more variation than the parental Elder Futhark system, however is far more consistent than the Anglo-Saxon Futhorc.

Younger Futhark Alphabet Structure

The final set of Younger Futhark runes is made up of 16 letters. It inherits its namesake from the Elder Futhark. However should you also derived its namesake from the sound values of its first 6 letters such as done for the Elder Futhark, i.e., “F U TH A R K” you would notice that due to the vowel changes pointed out previously, the “F U TH A R K” should actually be “F U TH O R K”, hence Younger Futhork.

The alphabet structure of the Younger Futhark not only changed due to pronunciation changes, but also the materials used to carve the letters. One rune represented more than one sound and, thus the shape simplified.

There are three versions of the Younger Futhark:

  • Long Branch (Danish), 8th century and dominant in all areas of Denmark until the 10th century – This is the one I used for the Deck
  • Short Twig (Swedish and Norwegian), 8th century and primarily used in Sweden and Norway
  • Hälsinge (Staveless), 10th century and used for a short period in the Hälsingland region of Sweden
Younger Futhark, Rune, Variants, Long branch, danish, short twig, swedish, norwegian, staveless, halsinge

Similar to the Anglo-Saxon Futhorc, the Younger Futhark also has runic poems (Icelandic and Norwegian). The Icelandic poem is the most concise and oldest of the two, whereas the version of Norwegian one available today is a copy from a destroyed manuscript – which may have been prone to translation/copy error.

The Icelandic Rune Poem plays a pivotal role in the structure, lettering and meaning of the Younger Futhark runes. It provides meaning to each rune through stanzas, a grouped set of lines within a poem, which may or may not rhyme. The Icelandic Rune Poem is recorded in four Arnamagnæan manuscripts (15th century). Considering that Old Icelandic is far easier to translate than Old Norse or Old English, the poem should be considered fairly representative of the Younger Futhark runes – there may be slight variation dependent on who translates the piece.

Therefore, by comparing several different old manuscript recordings, such as the Arnamagnæan and Runologia (1778), of the linguistic changes as described by runologists and linguists to find most common elements, you would have the following alphabet:

Younger Futhark, Mini, Oracle, Deck, Overview, Cards, Scandinavian, Danish, Futhork, 16 letters
Younger Futhark Mini Oracle Deck available from https://www.makeplayingcards.com/sell/marketplace/younger-futhark-futhork-mini-oracle-deck.html

Here the Younger Futhark has reduced variants of the 24 Elder Futhark letters.

Younger Futhark Alphabet Meanings

The meaning of each letter is connected to animals, plants and events related to the people and livelihoods of that time. As mentioned before, the most representative source for these meanings is the Icelandic Rune Poem, see below.

Younger Futhark Icelandic Rune Poem, Dickins 1915
Younger Futhark Icelandic Rune Poem, Dickins 1915
PDF Version with the Deck
Please note the use of unicode runes!

Younger Futhark Conclusion

After working through the runic literature I have created the following table below, it represents the most common Younger Futhark writing and name, the English transliteration as well as a comparison with the original Elder Futhark associated with of the letters.

Younger Futhark Rune Symbols Names Transliterations and Meanings Table
PDF Version with the Deck

The table above can be used in conjunction with my Younger Futhark Mini Oracle Deck, which is representative of the most accurate and universal Younger Futhark alphabet and can be purchased from Make Playing Cards!


“Oh how wonderfully exciting. I have just processed the order now. The kids are learning all about Norse Mythology at the moment and are so excited to have their own set of cards to learn the symbols and at that size… perfect.

Thanks so much for being so accommodating and for making such pretty cards.” – Elder Futhark Mini Deck

Customer Feedback

That concludes the entire Runic Alphabet Journey! 🎉

Top 10 Most Informative References

  1. Page, R., I. (1987) Reading The Past: Runes. University of California Press.
  2. McKinnell, J., Simek R. and Düwel K. (2004) Runes, Magic and Religion: a Sourcebook. Wien: Fassbaender
  3. Page, R. I. (2005) Runes, The British Museum Press, ISBN 0-7141-8065-3.
  4. Oswald, B. (2008) Discovering Runes. Chartwell Books Inc.
  5. Robertson, J. S. (2012) How the Germanic Futhark Came from the Roman Alphabet Futhark: International Journal of Runic Studies 2: 7-25.
  6. Van Renterghem, A. (2014) The Anglo-Saxon runic poem: a critical reassessment. Masters Dissertation, University of Glasgow.
  7. Daniels, B. (2015) Runes: Notes on Orthography and Pronunciation, as well as Some Thoughts on Using Runes to Write Modern English. http://www.yokoiscool.com
  8. Schulte, M. (2015) Runology and historical sociolinguistics: On runic writing and its social history in the first millennium. Journal of Historical Sociolinguistics. 1(1): 87-110
  9. Bong, J.C. (1996) Runes : Genealogy and Grammatology. Runes G&G til web 190303
  10. Antonsen, E. H. (2002) Runes and Germanic Linguistics. New York: Mouton de Gruyter.

My Other Oracle Deck: The Celestial Rune Sigils – The Metaphysician’s Toolbox

Read more about this deck: An Elder Futhark Bindrune Oracle

Celestial Bindrune Sigils, Elder, Futhark, bindrune, Anglo, Saxon, Frisian, Viking, Norse, Germanic, Scandinavian, Divination, Oracle, Deck, Cards, Metaphysician, Toolbox, Magick, Galdur, Magic, Bind, Rune
Celestial Rune Sigils – The Metaphysician’s Toolbox. Elder Futhark Bindrune Oracle Deck available from https://www.makeplayingcards.com/sell/All-Natural-Spirit

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