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Languages Khuzdul, Sindarin, Quenya
Creator J.R.R. Tolkien
ISO 15924 Cirt, 291
Direction Left-to-right

The Cirth ([ˈkirθ]; "Runes") are the letters of a semi-artificial script[further explanation needed] which was invented by J. R. R. Tolkien for the constructed languages he devised and used in his works. The initial C in Cirth is pronounced as a K, never as an S. Cirth is plural and is written with a capital C when referring to the writing system—the runes themselves can be called cirth. A single rune is a certh ([ˈkɛrθ]). The words cirth and certh are Sindarin; the corresponding Quenya words are certar ([ˈkɛrtɑr]) and certa ([ˈkɛrtɑ]).[1] The Sindarin Certhas and Angerthas mean "runic alphabet" and "long rune-rows" respectively.[2][3]

The runic alphabet used by the Dwarves of Middle-earth was adapted by J.R.R. Tolkien from real-life runes. In The Hobbit, the Anglo-Saxon futhorc was used in the publication with few changes; in The Lord of the Rings a new system of runes, the Cirth, was devised.

Writing system[edit]

Since the Cirth are an alphabet, one rune generally stands for one sound (phoneme), and sounds that would be written with a digraph in English (such as "sh" and "th") are written with one rune.[4] Words are separated by a dot rather than a space, and double consonants are grouped together into one rune, the same as if it were a single consonant. Presumably this alphabet was meant to be used in conjunction with a Dwarvish language, but mostly it is used for transliterations.

Many letters have shapes also found in the historical futhark runes (used in The Hobbit), but their sound values are dissimilar. Rather, the system of assignment of sound values is much more systematic in the Cirth than in the historical runes (e.g., voiced variants of a voiceless sound are expressed by an additional stroke). A similar system has been proposed for a few historical runes (e.g. p ᛈ and w ᚹ as variants of b ᛒ), but is in any case much more obscure. There are a few identities between cirth and runic letters, i with runic ᛁ, k with Younger Futhark ᚴ and ch with the Futhorc ᚳ; p is furthermore reminiscent of Latin P (runic ᚹ w).

Cirth are written according to a certain mode specifically adapted for a language, and the values of individual cirth may vary greatly according to the mode used. Three modes for Cirth are described in detail in Appendix E of The Lord of the Rings, and others are known to exist or have been developed by enthusiasts.

The inscriptions on the top of the title pages for The Lord of the Rings are written in Cirth.

Internal history[edit]

In the fictional history of Middle-earth, the original Certhas Daeron was created by the elf Daeron, the minstrel of king Thingol of Doriath and was later expanded into what was known as the Angerthas Daeron. Although the Cirth were later largely replaced by the Tengwar (which were enhanced and brought by Fëanor), they were adopted by Dwarves to write down their Khuzdul language (Angerthas Moria and Angerthas Erebor) because their straight lines were better suited to carving than the curved strokes of the Tengwar. An example of Cirth writings is the inscription on Balin's tomb in Moria. Cirth was also adapted, in its older and simpler form, by various kinds of Men and even Orcs. For example, it was used by the Men of Dale and the Rohirrim and the Orcs of Moria.

Concept and creation[edit]

The division between the older Cirth of Daeron and their adaptation by Dwarves and Men has been interpreted as a parallel drawn by Tolkien to the development of the Futhorc to the Younger Futhark.[5] The original Elvish Cirth "as supposed products of a superior culture" are focused on logical arrangement and a close connection between form and value whereas the adaptations by mortal races introduced irregularities. Similar to the Germanic tribes who had no written literature and used only simple runes before their conversion to Christianity, the Sindar Elves of Beleriand with their Cirth were introduced to the more elaborate Tengwar of Fëanor when the Noldor Elves returned to Middle-earth from the lands of the divine Valar.[6]


The Angerthas Daeron consists of 60 letters:

Certh 1.svg p Certh 16.svg zh Certh 31.svg l Certh 46.svg e
Certh 2.svg b Certh 17.svg nj–z Certh 32.svg lh Certh 47.svg ē
Certh 3.svg f Certh 18.svg k Certh 33.svg ng–nd Certh 48.svg a
Certh 4.svg v Certh 19.svg g Certh 34.svg s–h Certh 49.svg ā
Certh 5.svg hw Certh 20.svg kh Certh 35.svg s–’ † Certh 50.svg o
Certh 6.svg m Certh 21.svg gh Certh 36.svg z–ŋ Certh 51.svg Certh 51a.svg ō
Certh 7.svg mhᵉ, mb Certh 22.svg ŋ–n Certh 37.svg ngᵈ Certh 52.svg Certh 52a.svg ö
Certh 8.svg t Certh 23.svg kw Certh 38.svg Certh 38a.svg nd–nj Certh 53.svg nᵈ
Certh 9.svg d Certh 24.svg gw Certh 39.svg i, yᵉ Certh 54.svg h–s
Certh 10.svg th Certh 25.svg khw Certh 40.svg yᵈ Certh 55.svg Certh 55a.svg
Certh 11.svg dh Certh 26.svg ghw, w Certh 41.svg hyᵈ Certh 56.svg Certh 56a.svg
Certh 12.svg n–r Certh 27.svg ngw Certh 42.svg u Certh 57.svg psᵈ
Certh 13.svg ch Certh 28.svg nw Certh 43.svg ū Certh 58.svg tsᵈ
Certh 14.svg j Certh 29.svg r–j Certh 44.svg w Certh 59.svg +h
Certh 15.svg sh Certh 30.svg rh–zh Certh 45.svg Certh 45a.svg ü Certh 60.svg &

This chart showing the runes shared by the Angerthas Daeron and Angerthas Moria is presented in Appendix E of The Return of the King. Some of the cirth had different values for the Elvish and Dwarvish languages, and some were used in only one system or the other. Where two forms appear in the same cell they are simply variants or alternates, with no difference in sound.

  • Where two values are given connected with a dash, the first is that of the older Angerthas, the second that of the Dwarvish Angerthas Moria.
  • The ps and ts runes are not in general Dwarvish use but are confined to the mode of Erebor, which also modifies the values of numerous other cirth.

ᵈ Dwarvish use only
ᵉ Elvish use only
† The apostrophe marks "the clear or glottal beginning of a [Dwarvish] word with an initial vowel".


Equivalents for most but not all cirth can be found in the Runic block of Unicode.

Three J. R. R. Tolkien-specific letters were added in June, 2014 with the release of Unicode 7.0:

  • U+16F1 runic letter k
  • U+16F2 runic letter sh
  • U+16F3 runic letter oo

A formal Unicode proposal to encode Cirth as a separate script was made in September 1997 by Michael Everson.[7] No action was taken by the Unicode Technical Committee (UTC) but Cirth appears in the Roadmap to the SMP.[8]

ConScript Unicode Registry[edit]

Unicode Private Use Area layouts for Cirth are defined at the ConScript Unicode Registry (CSUR)[9] and the Under-ConScript Unicode Registry (UCSUR).[10]

Two different layouts are defined by the CSUR/UCSUR:

Cirth (1997)[1][2]
ConScript Unicode Registry 1997 code chart
  0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 A B C D E F
U+E0Ex      
1.^ As of 1997-11-03 version (differs from 2000-04-22 proposal)
2.^ Grey areas indicate non-assigned code points
Cirth (2000)[1][2]
ConScript Unicode Registry 2000 proposal
  0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 A B C D E F
1.^ As of 2000-04-22 proposal (differs from 1997-11-03 version)
2.^ Grey areas indicate non-assigned code points

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Certh" on Tolkien Gateway wiki. Accessed 2013-11-11.
  2. ^ "Certhas" on Tolkien Gateway wiki. Accessed 2013-11-11.
  3. ^ "Angerthas" on Tolkien Gateway wiki. Accessed 2013-11-11.
  4. ^ Solopova, Elizabeth (2009), Languages, Myths and History: An Introduction to the Linguistic and Literary Background of J.R.R. Tolkien's Fiction, New York City: North Landing Books, p. 87, ISBN 0-9816607-1-1 
  5. ^ Simek, Rudolf (2005). Mittelerde: Tolkien und die germanische Mythologie [Middle-earth: Tolkien and Germanic Mythology] (in German). C. H. Beck. pp. 155–156. ISBN 3-4065-2837-6. 
  6. ^ Smith, Arden R. (1997). "The semiotics of the writing systems of Tolkien's Middle-earth". In Rauch, Irmengard; Carr, Gerald F. Semiotics Around the World: Synthesis in Diversity. Proceedings of the Fifth Congress of the International Association for Semiotic Studies, Berkeley, 1994 1. Walter de Gruyter. pp. 1239–1242. ISBN 3-1101-2223-5. 
  7. ^ Everson, Michael (1997-09-18). "N1642: Proposal to encode Cirth in Plane 1 of ISO/IEC 10646-2". Working Group Document, ISO/IEC JTC1/SC2/WG2 and UTC. Retrieved 2015-08-08. 
  8. ^ "Roadmap to the SMP". 2015-06-03. Retrieved 2015-08-08. 
  9. ^ "ConScript Unicode Registry". Retrieved 2015-08-08. 
  10. ^ "Under-ConScript Unicode Registry". Retrieved 2015-08-08. 
  11. ^ "Cirth: U+E080–U+E0FF". ConScript Unicode Registry. 1997-11-03. Retrieved 2015-08-08. 
  12. ^ "GNU Unifont". Retrieved 2015-07-24. 
  13. ^ Everson, Michael (2000-04-22). "X.X Cirth 1xx00–1xx7F" (PDF). Retrieved 2015-08-08. 
  14. ^ "Cirth, Range: E080–E0FF" (PDF). Under-ConScript Unicode Registry. 2008-04-14. Retrieved 2015-08-08. 

External links[edit]