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Pseudo-runes are letters that look like Germanic runes but are not true runes. The term is not precise, and has been used with several different meanings.

Imitation runes[edit]

Reverse of an 11th-century Anglo-Saxon silver disc brooch with seven pseudo-runes on a silver strip in the centre

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.[1] 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.[2]

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.[3] According to Nowell Myres, pseudo-runes may have been "intended to impress the illiterate as having some arcane significance".[4]

Manuscript-only runes[edit]

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 cweorth (q), ior (io), and stan (st).[5][6]

Latin script written in runic-like letters[edit]

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.[7]

Other rune-like scripts[edit]

Other unrelated scripts that resemble runes, for example the Old Turkic and Old Hungarian scripts, have sometimes been referred to as pseudo-runes or pseudo-runic. [8]


  1. ^ Page & Parsons 1995, p. 305
  2. ^ Rumble 2006, p. 67
  3. ^ Wilson 1992, p. 149
  4. ^ Myres 1977, p. 66
  5. ^ Page & Parsons 1995, p. 4
  6. ^ Page 2006, p. 41-42
  7. ^ Landwehr 1986, p. 26
  8. ^ International Institute of Differing Civilizations (1952). Civilisations 2. Publisher Institut International des Civilisations Différentes. p. 47.