Ansuz (rune)

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Name Proto-Germanic Old English Old Norse
*Ansuz Ōs Āc Æsc Óss
"god" "god" "oak" "ash" "god"
Shape Elder Futhark Futhorc Younger Futhark
Runic letter ansuz.svg Runic letter os.svg Runic letter ac.svg Runic letter ansuz.svg Long-branch Oss.svg Short-twig Oss.svg
Transliteration a o a æ o
Transcription a o a æ ą, o
IPA [a(ː)] [o(ː)] [ɑ(ː)] [æ(ː)] [ɑ̃], [o(ː)]
Position in
4 4 25 26 4

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 (EtruscanA-01.png), 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 Gothic a.svg 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), ac "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]

In the Icelandic rune poem, the name óss refers to Odin:

Óss er algingautr
ok ásgarðs jöfurr,
ok valhallar vísi.
Óss is aged Gautr
and prince of Ásgarðr
and lord of Vallhalla.