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*Ehwaz is the reconstructed Proto-Germanic name of the Elder Futhark e rune ᛖ, meaning "horse" (cognate to Latin equus, Gaulish epos, Tocharian B yakwe, Sanskrit aśva, Avestan aspa and Old Irish ech). In the Anglo-Saxon futhorc, it is continued as ᛖ eh (properly eoh, but spelled without the diphthong to avoid confusion with ᛇ ēoh "yew").
The Proto-Germanic vowel system was asymmetric and unstable. The difference between the long vowels expressed by ᛖ e and ᛇ ï (sometimes transcribed as *ē1 and *ē2) were lost. The Younger Futhark continues neither, lacking a letter expressing e altogether. The Anglo-Saxon futhorc faithfully preserved all Elder futhorc staves, but assigned new sound values to the redundant ones, futhorc ēoh expressing a diphthong.
In the case of the Gothic alphabet, where the names of the runes were re-applied to letters derived from the Greek alphabet, the letter 𐌴 e was named aíƕus "horse" as well (note that in Gothic orthography, <aí> represents monophthongic /e/).
Anglo-Saxon rune poem
The Anglo-Saxon rune poem has:
- ᛖ Eh byþ for eorlum æþelinga ƿyn,
- hors hofum ƿlanc, ðær him hæleþ ymb[e]
- ƿelege on ƿicgum ƿrixlaþ spræce
- and biþ unstyllum æfre frofur.
- "The horse is a joy to princes in the presence of warriors.
- A steed in the pride of its hoofs,
- when rich men on horseback bandy words about it;
- and it is ever a source of comfort to the restless."
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