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detail of inscribed runes
on a stone
near Källby, Sweden
a. Any of the characters in several alphabets used by ancient Germanic peoples from the 3rd to the 13th century.
b. A similar character in another alphabet, sometimes believed to have magic powers.
2. A poem or incantation of mysterious significance, especially a magic charm.
[Old Norse or Old English rūn.]
Word History: Among early peoples writing was a serious thing, full of magical power. In its only reference to writing, the Iliad calls it "baneful signs." The Germanic peoples used a runic alphabet as their form of writing, using it to identify combs or helmets, make calendars, encode secret messages, and mark funeral monuments. Runes were also employed in casting spells, as to gain a kiss from a sweetheart or to make an enemy's gut burst. In casting a spell the writing of the runes was accompanied by a mumbled or chanted prayer or curse, also called a rune, to make the magic work. These two meanings also appear in Old English rūn, the ancestor of our word. The direct descendants of Old English rūn are the archaic verb round, "whisper, talk in secret," and the obsolete noun roun, "whispering, secret talk." The use of the word to refer to inscribed runic characters was revived by Danish writers who adopted it from Old Norse toward the end of the 1600s and used it in discussions of Germanic antiquities.
A Finnish poem or section of a poem.
[Finnish runo, of Germanic origin.]
1. (Letters of the Alphabet (Foreign)) any of the characters of an ancient Germanic alphabet, derived from the Roman alphabet, in use, esp in Scandinavia, from the 3rd century ad to the end of the Middle Ages. Each character was believed to have a magical significance
2. (Literary & Literary Critical Terms) any obscure piece of writing using mysterious symbols
3. (Poetry) a kind of Finnish poem or a stanza in such a poem
[Old English rūn, from Old Norse rūn secret; related to Old Saxon, Old High German, Gothic runa]
1. any of the characters of certain ancient alphabets of Germanic languages, esp. of Scandinavia and Britain, from about the 3rd to 13th centuries.
2. something written or inscribed in such characters.
3. something secret or mysterious, as an aphorism with mystical meaning.
[1675–85; < Old Norse rūn a secret, writing, rune; c. Old English rūn (Middle English rune, obsolete E roun). compare round2]
a poem, song, or verse.
[1865–70; < Finnish runo poem, canto < Scandinavian. See rune1]
rune- An ancient alphabet letter, it is from Old English run, "secret, mystery."
See also related terms for mystery.
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|Noun||1.||rune - any character from an ancient Germanic alphabet used in Scandinavia from the 3rd century to the Middle Ages; "each rune had its own magical significance"|
grapheme, graphic symbol, character - a written symbol that is used to represent speech; "the Greek alphabet has 24 characters"
thorn - a Germanic character of runic origin