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NameProto-GermanicOld English
ShapeElder FutharkFuthorc
Transcriptiongȝ, gg
IPA[ɣ][g], [ɣ], [ʎ], [j][g]
Position in

Gyfu is the name for the g-rune in the Anglo-Saxon rune poem, meaning 'gift' or 'generosity':

Anglo-Saxon Rune Poem:[1] English Translation:

Gẏfu gumena bẏþ gleng and herenẏs,
ƿraþu and ƿẏrþscẏpe and ƿræcna gehƿam
ar and ætƿist, ðe bẏþ oþra leas.

Generosity brings credit and honour, which support one's dignity;
it furnishes help and subsistence
to all broken men who are devoid of aught else.

The corresponding letter of the Gothic alphabet is 𐌲 g, called giba. The same rune also appears in the Elder Futhark, with a suggested Proto-Germanic name *gebô 'gift'. J. H. Looijenga speculates[2] that the rune is directly derived from Latin Χ, the pronunciation of which may have been similar to Germanic g in the 1st century, e.g., Gothic *reihs compared to Latin rex (as opposed to the Etruscan alphabet, where X/𐌗 had a value of [s]).

The gyfu rune is sometimes used as a symbol within modern mysticism, particularly amongst those interested in Celtic mythology. It's described, for example, in the book The Runic Tarot as a representation of the giving-receiving balance in friendships.[3]

Anglo-Saxon gār rune[edit]

In addition to gyfu, the Anglo-Saxon futhorc has the gār rune , named after a species of medieval spear. It is attested epigraphically on the Ruthwell Cross, and also appears in 11th-century manuscript tradition. Phonetically, gār represents the /g/ sound. It is a modification of the plain gyfu rune .

Old English 'gār' means 'spear', but the name of the rune likely echoes the rune names ger, ear, ior: due to palatalization in Old English, the original g rune (i.e., the Gyfu rune ) could express either /j/ or /g/ (see yogh). The ger unambiguously expressed /j/, and the newly[when?] introduced gar rune had the purpose of unambiguously expressing /g/.

Gār is the 33rd and final rune in the row as given in Cotton Domitian A.ix.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Original poem and translation from the Rune Poem Page Archived 1999-05-01 at the Wayback Machine.
  2. ^ J.H. Looijenga, Runes Around the North Sea and on the Continent Ad 150-700, PhD diss. Groningen 1997, p. 56. Download PDF
  3. ^ The Runic Tarot. Gebo has no murkstave. By Caroline Smith, John Astrop. Page 24. Macmillan, Feb 1, 2005. 9780312321925

External links[edit]