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Ansuz (rune)

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NameProto-GermanicOld EnglishOld Norse
ShapeElder FutharkFuthorcYounger Futhark
Transcriptionaoaæą, o
IPA[a(ː)][o(ː)][ɑ(ː)][æ(ː)][ɑ̃], [o(ː)]
Position in

Ansuz is the conventional name given to the a-rune of the Elder Futhark, . The name is based on Proto-Germanic *ansuz, denoting a deity belonging to the principal pantheon in Germanic paganism.

The shape of the rune is likely from Neo-Etruscan a (), like Latin A ultimately from Phoenician aleph.


In the Norwegian rune poem, óss is given a meaning of "estuary" while in the Anglo-Saxon one, ōs takes the Latin meaning of "mouth". The Younger Futhark rune is transliterated as ą to distinguish it from the new ár rune (ᛅ), which continues the jēran rune after loss of prevocalic *j- in Proto-Norse *jár (Old Saxon jār).

Since the name of a is attested in the Gothic alphabet as ahsa or aza, the common Germanic name of the rune may thus either have been *ansuz "god", or *ahsam "ear (of wheat)".

Development in Anglo-Saxon runes[edit]

The Anglo-Saxon futhorc split the Elder Futhark a rune into three independent runes due to the development of the vowel system in Anglo-Frisian. These three runes are ōs (transliterated o), āc "oak" (transliterated a), and æsc "ash" (transliterated æ).

Development in Younger Futhark[edit]

Variations of the rune in Younger Futhark.

The Younger Futhark corresponding to the Elder Futhark ansuz rune is , called óss. It is transliterated as ą. This represented the phoneme /ɑ̃/, and sometimes /æ/ (also written ) and /o/ (also written ). The variant grapheme became independent as representing the phoneme /ø/ during the 11th to 14th centuries.

Rune poems[edit]

It is mentioned in all three rune poems:

Rune Poem:[1] English Translation:

Old Norwegian
Óss er flæstra færða
fǫr; en skalpr er sværða.

Estuary is the way of most journeys;
but a scabbard is of swords.

Old Icelandic
Óss er algingautr
ok ásgarðs jöfurr,
ok valhallar vísi.
Jupiter oddviti.

God is aged Gautr
and prince of Ásgarðr
and lord of Valhalla.

Old English
Ōs bẏþ ordfruma ælcre spræce
wisdomes wraþu and witena frofur,
and eorla gehwam eadnẏs and tohiht.

The mouth is the source of all language,
a pillar of wisdom and a comfort to wise men,
a blessing and a joy to every knight.

  • In the Icelandic poem, Óss refers to Odin.


  1. ^ Original poems and translation from the Rune Poem Page Archived 1999-05-01 at the Wayback Machine.