Runic (Unicode block)
(96 code points)
|Scripts||Runic (86 char.)
Common (3 char.)
|Assigned||89 code points|
|Unused||7 reserved code points|
|Unicode version history|
Runic is a Unicode block containing runic characters. It was introduced in Unicode 3.0 (1999), with eight additional characters introduced in Unicode 7.0 (2014).  The original encoding of runes in UCS was based on the recommendations of the "ISO Runes Project" submitted in 1997.
The block is intended for the representation of text written in Elder Futhark, Anglo-Saxon runes, Younger Futhark (both in the long-branch and short-twig variants), Scandinavian medieval runes and early modern runic calendars; the additions introduced in version 7.0 in addition allow support of the mode of writing Modern English in Anglo-Saxon runes used by J. R. R. Tolkien, and the special vowel signs used in the Franks casket inscription.
The distinction made by Unicode between character and glyph variant is somewhat problematic in the case of the runes; the reason is the high degree of variation of letter shapes in historical inscriptions, with many "characters" appearing in highly variant shapes, and many specific shapes taking the role of a number of different characters over the period of runic use (roughly the 3rd to 14th centuries AD). The division between Elder Futhark, Younger Futhark and Anglo-Saxon runes are well-established and useful categories, but they are connected by a continuum of gradual development, inscriptions using a mixture of older and newer forms of runes, etc. For this reason, the runic Unicode block is of very limited usefulness in representing of historical inscriptions and is better suited for contemporary runic writing than for paleographic purposes.
The original publication of the Unicode standard is explicitly aware of these problems, and of the compromises necessary regarding the "character/glyph" dichotomy. The charts published show only "idealized reference glyphs", and explicitly delegates the task of creating useful implementations of the standard to font designers, ideally necessitating a separate font for each historical period. Glyph shape was taken into consideration explicitly for "unification" of an older rune with one of its descendant characters On the other hand, the Younger Futhark era script variants of long-branch, and short-twig, in principle a historical instance of "glyph variants", have been encoded separately, while the further variant form of staveless runes has not.
The ISO Runes Project treated the runes as essentially glyph variants of the Latin script. Everson argued that the native futhark ordering is well established, and that it is unusual for UCS to order letters not in Latin alphabetical order rather than according to native tradition, and a corresponding sorting order of the runic letter Unicode characters was adopted for ISO 14651 in 2001.
The original 81 characters adopted for Unicode 3.0 included 75 letters, three punctuation marks and three "runic symbols".
The names given to the runic letter characters are "a bit clumsy" in a deliberate compromise between scholarly and amateur requirements. They list simplified (ASCII) representations of the three names of a "unified" rune in the Elder Futhark, the Anglo-Saxon and the Younger Futhark traditions, followed by the letter transliterating the rune (if applicable). The ordering follows the basic futhark sequence, but with (non-unified) variants inserted after the standard Elder Futhark form of each letter, as follows:
RUNIC LETTER …
|Elder Futhark||Anglo-Saxon||Younger Futhark
|16A0||ᚠ||FEHU FEOH FE F|
|16A2||ᚢ||URUZ UR U|
|16A6||ᚦ||THURISAZ THURS THORN|
|16B1||ᚱ||RAIDO RAD REID R|
|16B7||ᚷ||GEBO GYFU G|
|16B9||ᚹ||WUNJO WYNN W|
|16BE||ᚾ||NAUDIZ NYD NAUD N|
|16C1||ᛁ||ISAZ IS ISS I|
|16C8||ᛈ||PERTHO PEORTH P|
|16CB||ᛋ||SIGEL LONG-BRANCH-SOL S|
|16CF||ᛏ||TIWAZ TIR TYR T|
|16D2||ᛒ||BERKANAN BEORC BJARKAN B|
|16D6||ᛖ||EHWAZ EH E|
|16D7||ᛗ||MANNAZ MAN M|
|16DA||ᛚ||LAUKAZ LAGU LOGR L|
|16DE||ᛞ||DAGAZ DAEG D|
|16DF||ᛟ||OTHALAN ETHEL O|
The three "punctuation marks" are three variant forms of separators found in runic inscriptions, one a single dot, one a double dot and one cross-shaped.
|16EB||᛫||RUNIC SINGLE PUNCTUATION|
|16EC||᛬||RUNIC MULTIPLE PUNCTUATION|
|16ED||᛭||RUNIC CROSS PUNCTUATION|
The three "runic symbols" are the Arlaug, Tvimadur and Belgthor symbols used exclusively for enumerating years in runic calendars of the early modern period.
|16EE||ᛮ||RUNIC ARLAUG SYMBOL|
|16EF||ᛯ||RUNIC TVIMADUR SYMBOL|
|16F0||ᛰ||RUNIC BELGTHOR SYMBOL|
The eight additional characters introduced in Unicode 7.0 concern the Anglo-Saxon runes. Three are variant letters used by J. R. R. Tolkien to write Modern English in Anglo-Saxon runes, representing the English k, oo and sh graphemes.
|16F1||ᛱ||RUNIC LETTER K|
|16F2||ᛲ||RUNIC LETTER SH|
|16F3||ᛳ||RUNIC LETTER OO|
The five others are letter variants used in one of the Franks casket inscriptions, "cryptogrammic" replacements for the standard Anglo-Saxon o, i, e, a and æ vowel runes.
|16F4||ᛴ||RUNIC LETTER FRANKS CASKET OS|
|16F5||ᛵ||RUNIC LETTER FRANKS CASKET IS|
|16F6||ᛶ||RUNIC LETTER FRANKS CASKET EH|
|16F7||ᛷ||RUNIC LETTER FRANKS CASKET AC|
|16F8||ᛸ||RUNIC LETTER FRANKS CASKET AESC|
Numerous Unicode fonts support the Runic block, although most of them are strictly limited to displaying a single glyph per character, often closely modelled on the shape shown in the Unicode block chart.
Free Unicode fonts that support the runic block include Free Unicode fonts: Junicode, GNU FreeFont (in its monospace face), and Caslon Roman. Commercial fonts supporting the block include Alphabetum, Code2000, Everson Mono, Segoe UI Symbol and TITUS Cyberbit Basic.
Microsoft Windows did not support the Runic block in any of its included fonts during 2000–2008, but with the release of Windows 7 in 2009, the system has been delivered with a font supporting the block, Segoe UI Symbol. In Windows 10 the Runic block was moved into the font Segoe UI Historic.
Official Unicode Consortium code chart (PDF)
- "Unicode character database". The Unicode Standard. Retrieved 22 March 2013.
- Michael Everson and Andrew West,"Proposal to encode additional Runic characters in the UCS", ISO/IEC JTC1/SC2/WG2 N4013R, 10 May 2011.
- "At the Third International Symposium on Runes and Runic Inscriptions in Valdres, Norway, in August 1990, the need to represent runes by real graphic symbols in text production of various kinds was discussed. Project meetings were held in Oslo in March 1993 and in Stockholm in November 1994 and March 1995. The proposal from the "ISO Runes Project" (cf. Digitala runor, TemaNord 1997:623, København 1997) was accepted with some minor adjustments in 2001, and Unicode now includes runic characters in accordance with the proposal." Helmer Gustavson, Nytt om runer 17 (2002, publ. 2004), 45–46 Digitala runor, Nordisk ministerråd (Nordic Council of Ministers), 1997, see especially 29f. for the list of proposed characters.
- This is not to be confused with Tolkien's own Cirth script which is "runic" in appearance but has no direct relation to the historical runes. This alphabet has no official Unicode encodingg (although there is a proposed ConScript Unicode Registry encoding, Cirth: U+E080 - U+E0FF.
- "The known inscriptions can include considerable variations of shape for a given rune, sometimes to the point where the nonspecialist will mistake the shape for a different rune. There is no dominant main form for some runes, particularly for many runes added in the Anglo-Friesian and medieval Nordic systems. When transcribing a Runic inscription into its Unicode-encoded form, one cannot rely on the idealized reference glyph shape in the character charts alone. One must take into account to which of the four Runic systems an inscription belongs, and be knowledgeable about the permitted form variations within each system. The reference glyphs were chosen to provide an image that distinguishes each rune visually from all other runes in the same system. For actual use, it might be advisable to use a separate font for each Runic system."
- "When a rune in an earlier writing system evolved into several different runes in a later system, the unification of the earlier rune with one of the later runes was based on similarity in graphic form rather than similarity in sound value."
- "Two sharply different graphic forms, the long-branch and the short-twig form, were used for nine of the 16 Viking Age Nordic runes. Although only one form is used in a given inscription, there are runologically important exceptions. In some cases, the two forms were used to convey different meanings in later use in the medieval system. Therefore the two forms have been separated in the Unicode Standard. [...] Staveless runes are a third form of the Viking Age Nordic runes, a kind of runic shorthand. The number of known inscriptions is small and the graphic forms of many of the runes show great variability between inscriptions. For this reason, staveless runes have been unified with the corresponding Viking Age Nordic runes." The Unicode Standard 3.0, chapter 7.6 (January 2000), 174–175.
- "On 2000-12-24 Olle Järnefors published on behalf of the ISORUNES Project in Sweden a proposal for ordering the Runes in the Common Tailorable Template (CTT) of ISO/IEC 14651. In my view this ordering is unsuitable for the CTT for a number of reasons." Michael Everson, "Ordering the runic script", ISO/IEC JTC1/SC22/WG20 N809 (2001). Everson's proposal was accepted and the character sort order was changed in 2001. Final disposition of comments of ballot results on PDAM-1 to ISO/IEC 14651:2001 Alain LaBonté, Project editor, on behalf of SC22/WG20, "Final disposition of comments of ballot results on PDAM-1 to ISO/IEC 14651:2001", SC22/WG20 N882R, 10 February 2001. "Due to the summer holidays, one of our experts was unable to report back to us by the due date of 2001-09-01. While we voted positively on 2001-08-30, Ireland would like to change our vote to DISAPPROVAL, with the following technical comment: In the tailorable template, the Runic script is ordered according to Latin transliteration order. This produces ordering which does not fully satisfy any user community. The Runes should be reordered to the Futhark order in the tailorable template. Note that the SC22/WG20 minutes are ambiguous as to what should have been sent out for ballot: 'Runes were added after 14651 cut-off. Order of the Runes in N833 are according to the preference of the ISO Runes project (Sweden). Other people, such as Everson and Ken, disagree with the ISO project and prefer the current usage on the web. Reason: academic work is done in transliterations and the order is for the transliterated characters. Everson's proposal is very close to the binary order in 10646 (Futhark) for all extensions in various countries. Transliterated order would have to be a tailoring. Current draft table shows the ISO Runes order.... Discussion about the merits of either ordering. Decision that the order stays as in the table which is the Futhark order.' [...] We believe that ambiguities in transliteration ordering will mean that researchers in the Nordic countries and Britain and Ireland will have to tailor ANYWAY to get a correct transliteration ordering. Therefore the not-quite-perfect transliteration order in the tailorable template serves little purpose. On the other hand, the many non-researcher users of the Runes (who far outnumber the researchers), universally prefer the Futhark order, and require no tailoring for it. Since MOST users will not need to tailor, it seems only logical that the Futhark order should be the order used in the template."
- "The names given to the Runes in the UCS may be a bit clumsy, but they are intended to serve the needs of scholars and amateurs alike; not everyone is familiar with Runic transliteration practices, and not everyone is conversant with the traditional names in Germanic, English, and Scandinavian usage. So the names concatenate those three together with the scholarly transliteration letter." Everson, "Ordering the runic script" (2001) p. 1.
- modern innovation, intended as representing the Latin letter W in the context of medieval runic inscriptions.[clarification needed]
- the Anglo-Saxon æsc rune with the same shape is encoded separately, as 16AB.
- special case of a bind rune (ᚮ+ᚿ) being encoded, intended as representing the ǫ grapheme of Old Norse orthography in the context of medieval inscriptions.[clarification needed]
- The 1997 ISORUNES proposed name for this was "RUNIC LETTER YOUNGER K WITH DOT", intended as representing the /ŋ/ phoneme in medieval runic inscriptions (Elder Futhark already had a separate ng-rune, sometimes shown in ligature with the i-rune (the so-called "lantern rune"; Richard Lee Morris, Runic and Mediterranean Epigraphy, 1988, p. 130)
- The 1997 ISORUNES proposed name for this was "RUNIC LETTER YOUNGER N WITH DOT", transliterated as N.[clarification needed]
- The 1997 ISORUNES proposed name for this was "RUNIC LETTER YOUNGER L WITH DOT", transliterated as L.[clarification needed]
- The k rune was published with The Hobbit (1937), e.g. for writing Tolkien's own name, as ᛁ ᚱ ᚱ ᛏᚩᛚᛱᛁᛖᚾ. His oo and sh runes are known from a postcard written to Katherine Farrer (sic, the name is mistakenly given as Ferrer by Everson and West) on 30 November 1947, published as no. 112 in The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien (1981) ("A postcard, apparently written on 30 November 1947, using the system of runes employed in The Hobbit [...] Mrs Farrer, a writer of detective stories, was married to the theologian Austin Farrer, then Chaplain of Trinity College, Oxford."). Michael Everson and Andrew West,"Proposal to encode additional Runic characters in the UCS", ISO/IEC JTC1/SC2/WG2 N4013R, 10 May 2011.
- "Script and Font Support in Windows". Microsoft. Retrieved 2015-09-04.