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Name Proto-Germanic Old English
*Geƀō Gyfu Gār
"gift" "gift" "spear"
Shape Elder Futhark Futhorc
Runic letter gebo.svg Runic letter gebo.svg Runic letter gar.svg
Transliteration g ȝ g
Transcription g ȝ, g g
IPA [ɣ] [g], [ɣ], [ʎ], [j] [g]
Position in
7 7 33

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:

Gyfu gumena byþ gleng and herenys,
ƿraþu and ƿyrþscype and ƿræcna gehƿam
ar and ætƿist, ðe byþ 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 gs 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 gar rune[edit]

In addition to Gyfu, the Anglo-Saxon futhork have the Gār rune ⟨⟩, named after a species of medieval spear. It is not attested epigraphically, and first appears in 11th-century manuscript tradition. Phonetically, gar 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 introduced gar rune had the purpose of unambiguously expressing /g/.

Gar 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. By Caroline Smith, John Astrop. Page 24. Macmillan, Feb 1, 2005. 9780312321925

External links[edit]