Sounds of the Futhark

The first thing you should know is that no-one is sure how the ancients pronounced the runes. The best guesses by experts are based on modern languages and a clever method of back-tracking.

How and why language changes over the centuries, and what effect this has on the sound of words is a specialized field known as "historical linguistics" Research has resulted in a variety of suggested pronunciations for the runes. Archaeological runologists have also contributed to our best guesses by studying inscriptions on rune monuments and artefacts. Because runes are a phonetic system, the way known words are spelled can often give a clue to the way they sounded - when spoken by the rune carver, that is!

And that is the main problem. Runes were used by people speaking several different native tongues, pronouncing things in different ways. Even within a single language/culture, there would be wide regional variations in dialect, just as there are today. Listen to an Australian talking to an Irishman and you will hear what I mean. In the USA compare the deep south with New England, or in the UK compare Cockney with Geordie - it's hardly obvious these as the same language!

The runes featured on the Runemaker website are those brought to Britain by Northern European immigrants in the 5th-6th centuries AD, and so the pronunciations I offer here are based on the probable Anglo-Saxon tongue of that time.

There are a few rune sounds that are a bit difficult to explain in writing, so I have prepared a "Sounds of the Futhark" guide that includes 24 WAV files of me speaking the rune names. Individual rune names can be heard on the Rune Reading pages of the Runemaker website..

Before you read the pronunciation table, I would just like to point out one or two sounds used in Anglo-Saxon (or Old English, as it is sometimes called) that do not equate to anything in modern English.


Pronunciation Table
Elder Futhark Rune Name Letter


F F as in fat


U U as in under, OO as in Booze


TH Th compound consonant as in thin, or in weather


A A as in add, AW as in awful


R R as in red


C (hard), K C as in cat; K as in king


G G as is good; Gh as in loch, but softer


W, V W as in wax; v as in van


H H as in hat


N N as in now


I (short) I as in sit


J, Y J as in jam; Y as in yap


I (long) I as in site, Y as in style


P P as in pot


Z Z as in zone. S as in cousin (may also have been the rolling RRR heard in Scottish dialect)


C (soft), S C as in nice; S as sit


T T as in top


B B as in bag


E E as in end, EE as in sheet


M M as in man


L L as in let


NG ng compound consonant as in finger


D D as in dog, DJ as in Django Reinhardt, DTH as in breadth


O O as in old, or as in cot

As well as the "Sounds of the Futhark" I also recorded a recital of the Anglo-Saxon Rune Poem, but my wife couldn't stop laughing when I tried it out on her, so I decided against offering you that!
Author Bob Oswald
Home Page
email click here
Copyright 1994-2015 Bob Oswald

You may freely reproduce the text and graphics of this article provided that the items in purple above are included on the same page of your publication.

You may not edit the article without permission. Any discovered copyright infringement will result in legal action. We scan the web regularly for key phrases in this article.

We always prosecute plagiarism and copyright theft, report it to service providers, domain owners and hosts, and we post the infringements on "name and shame" websites. These measures often result in account closure.

Download this article     back to the articles index     back to the home page