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Join Date: 29 Nov 2005
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Origin of the word Rune


The word "Rune" has cognates only in Germanic and Celtic languages. There is some evidence that it was originally a Celtic word which was borrowed and expanded by the early Germanic peoples. In all of the languages where it has a traditional meaning, that meaning is "mystery" (similar to "arcanum").

It is indeed only in Modern English where the word refers specifically to the symbols and not to a greater cosmological concept. Even in Old English, the word "Run" could refer to secret counsel as well as the staves of the Futhorc (Futhorc due to a vowel shift). In Irish Gaelic the word means "secret or mystery" as well as "beloved" or the object of one's devotion (for example a mother might call her son "A ru'n" (the ' denoting a long mark over the vowel it follows) as in the Se'an Nos song "A stor mo chroi." (A stor mo chroi means "treasure of my heart" and was a traditional song a mother might sing her son before he would depart Ireland on a boat bound for America). A similar cognate exists in Welsh: "Rhrin" (I am unsure whether it is connected to the name "Rhyannon" in the Mabinogion). (Update: Changed rhyn to rhin. Rhyn is a promontory, rhin is the cognate of ru'n)

In Old Norse, the word developed a number of close derivatives, including words for whispering and seeking.
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