The main use of the term pseudo-rune is in reference to epigraphic inscriptions using letters that imitate the appearance of runes, but which cannot be read as runes. These are different from cryptic or magical runic inscriptions comprising a seemingly random jumble of runic letters, which cannot be interpreted by modern scholars, but can at least be read. In contrast, pseudo-runic inscriptions consist mostly of false letters (some pseudo-runes within a pseudo-runic inscription may coincidentally appear similar or identical to true runes), and so cannot be read at all, even nonsensically.
It has been suggested that pseudo-runic inscriptions were not made by specialist 'rune masters' as is thought to have been the case when carving traditional runic inscriptions, but were made by artisans who were largely ignorant of runes. According to Nowell Myres, pseudo-runes may have been "intended to impress the illiterate as having some arcane significance".
The term pseudo-rune has also been used by R. I. Page to refer to runic letters that only occur in manuscripts and are not attested in any extant runic inscription, for example the Anglo-Saxon runes ᛢ cweorth (q), ᛡ ior (io), and ᛥ stan (st).
Latin script written in runic-like letters
In modern usage, Latin text written with deliberately rune-like, angular letters has been described as pseudo-runic. For example, members of the Norwegian Legion who served on the Eastern Front during World War II had a badge with the word 'Frontkjemper' (front fighter) written in rune-like letters.
Other rune-like scripts
- Landwehr, Richard (1986), Frontfighters: The Norwegian Volunteer Legion of the Waffen-SS, 1941–1943, Merriam Press, ISBN 9781576383513
- Myres, John Nowell Linton (1977), A Corpus of Anglo-Saxon Pottery of the Pagan Period 1, Cambridge University Press, ISBN 9780521212854
- Page, Raymond Ian (2006) , An Introduction to English Runes (2nd ed.), Boydell Press, ISBN 0-85115-946-X
- Page, Raymond Ian; Parsons, David (1995), Runes and Runic Inscriptions: Collected Essays on Anglo-Saxon and Viking Runes, Boydell & Brewer, ISBN 9780851155999
- Rumble, Alexander R. (2006), Writing And Texts in Anglo-Saxon England, D. S. Brewer, ISBN 9781843840909
- Wilson, David Raoul (1992), Anglo-Saxon Paganism, Taylor & Francis, ISBN 9780415018975