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NameProto-GermanicOld English
ShapeElder FutharkFuthorc
Runic letter gebo.svgRunic letter gebo.svgRunic letter gar.svg
Transcriptiong?, gg
IPA[?][g], [?], [?], [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:

? Gyfu gumena byþ gleng and herenys,
?raþu and ?yrþscype and ?ræcna geh?am
ar and æt?ist, 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 ? 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 ?, 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/? 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 g?r rune

In addition to gyfu, the Anglo-Saxon futhorc has the g?r 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, g?r represents the /g/ sound. It is a modification of the plain gyfu rune ?.

Old English 'g?r' 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/.

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

See also


  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

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