Thurisaz

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NameProto-GermanicOld EnglishOld Norse
*ÞurisazÞornÞurs
"giant""thorn""giant"
ShapeElder FutharkFuthorcYounger Futhark
Runic letter thurisaz.svg
Unicode
U+16A6
Transliterationþ
Transcriptionþþ, ð
IPA[θ][θ], [ð]
Position in
rune-row
3

The rune is called Thurs (Old Norse Þurs, a type of entity, from a reconstructed Common Germanic *Þurisaz) in the Icelandic and Norwegian rune poems. In the Anglo-Saxon rune poem it is called thorn, whence the name of the letter þ derived. It is transliterated as þ, and has the sound value of a voiceless dental fricative /θ/ (the English sound of th as in thing).

The rune is absent from the earliest Vimose inscriptions, but it is found in the Thorsberg chape inscription, dated to ca. AD 200.

Name[edit]

In Anglo-Saxon England, the same rune was called Thorn or "Þorn" and it survives as the Icelandic letter Þ (þ). An attempt has been made to account for the substitution of names by taking "thorn" to be a kenning (metaphor) for "giant".

It is disputed as to whether a distinct system of Gothic runes ever existed, but it is clear that most of the names (but not most of the shapes) of the letters of the Gothic alphabet correspond to those of the Elder Futhark. The name of Gothic letter thiuth.svg, the Gothic letter corresponding to Þ is an exception; it is recorded as þiuþ "(the) good" in the Codex Vindobonensis 795, and as such unrelated to either þurs or þorn. The lack of agreement between the various glyphs and their names in Gothic, Anglo-Saxon, and Old Norse makes it difficult to reconstruct the Elder Futhark rune's Proto-Germanic name.

Assuming that the Scandinavian name þurs is the most plausible reflex of the Elder Futhark name, a Common Germanic form *þurisaz can be reconstructed (cf. Old English þyrs "giant, ogre" and Old High German duris-es "(of the) giant").

Rune poems[edit]

The Germanic rune ᚦ is mentioned in three rune poems:[1]

Rune Poem:[2] English Translation:

Old Norwegian
Þurs vældr kvinna kvillu,
kátr værðr fár af illu.


Thurs ("Giant") causes anguish to women,
misfortune makes few men cheerful.

Old Icelandic
Þurs er kvenna kvöl
ok kletta búi
ok varðrúnar verr.
Saturnus þengill.


Thurs ("Giant") is torture of women
and cliff-dweller
and husband of a giantess
Saturn's thegn. (the source of this line in the poem is unclear)

Anglo-Saxon
Ðorn byþ ðearle scearp;
ðegna gehƿylcum anfeng ys yfyl,
ungemetum reþe manna gehƿelcum,
ðe him mid resteð.


The thorn is exceedingly sharp,
an evil thing for any thegn to touch,
uncommonly severe on all who sit among them.

Saturn possibly refers to Ymir or Útgarða-Loki.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Bruce Dickins, 'Runic and Heroic Poems of the Old Teutonic Peoples (1915)', Cornell University Library, 12th June 2009, ASIN B003E7F8LW.
  2. ^ Original poems and translation from the Rune Poem Page Archived 1999-05-01 at the Wayback Machine.

See also[edit]