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[roon] /run/
any of the characters of certain ancient alphabets, as of a script used for writing the Germanic languages, especially of Scandinavia and Britain, from c200 to c1200, or a script used for inscriptions in a Turkic language of the 6th to 8th centuries from the area near the Orkhon River in Mongolia.
something written or inscribed in such characters.
an aphorism, poem, or saying with mystical meaning or for use in casting a spell.
Origin of rune1
1675-85; < Old Norse rūn a secret, writing, runic character; cognate with Old English rūn (Middle English rune, obsolete English roun). See round2
Related forms
runelike, adjective


[roon] /run/
noun, Literary.
a poem, song, or verse.
1865-70; < Finnish runo poem, canto < Scandinavian. See rune1 Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for runes
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • Then Egil examined the bed, and found a piece of whalebone with runes on it.

  • Regin began to talk, but his speech was old and strange and filled with runes.

    The Children of Odin Padraic Colum
  • Here on a plaster cast is an inscription written in strange letters, 'runes' or 'mysteries' as they are called.

    Cheshire Charles E. Kelsey
  • Sighvat put a stone on the top, with runes on it telling whose grave it was.

    Viking Tales Jennie Hall
  • The runes told them of a heaven that was above Asgard, of Gimli, that was untouched by Surtur's fire.

    The Children of Odin Padraic Colum
  • runes were cut on the handle of the spear, telling the duties of foster-brothers.

    Viking Tales Jennie Hall
  • "Patience," said Hnir; and Odin again took out his book of runes.

    The Heroes of Asgard Annie Keary
  • No one could decipher the runes, but everybody suspected what they meant.

    This Giddy Globe Oliver Herford
  • The runes were sometimes used as ordinary letters, without any thought of the old connection with magic.

British Dictionary definitions for runes


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
any obscure piece of writing using mysterious symbols
a kind of Finnish poem or a stanza in such a poem
Derived Forms
runic, adjective
Word Origin
Old English rūn, from Old Norse rūn secret; related to Old Saxon, Old High German, Gothic runa
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for runes



Old English run, rune "secret, mystery, dark mysterious statement, (secret) council," also "a runic letter" (runstæf), from Proto-Germanic *runo (cf. Old Norse run "a secret, magic sign, runic character," Old High German runa "a secret conversation, whisper," Gothic runa), from PIE *ru-no-, source of technical terms of magic in Germanic and Celtic (cf. Gaelic run "a secret, mystery, craft, deceit, purpose, intention, desire," Welsh rhin "a secret, charm, virtue." Cf. also Runnymede.

The word entered Middle English as roun and by normal evolution would have become Modern English *rown, but it died out mid-15c. when the use of runes did. The modern usage is from late 17c., from German philologists who had reintroduced the word in their writings from a Scandinavian source (cf. Danish rune, from Old Norse run). The runic alphabet is believed to have developed by 2c. C.E. from contact with Greek writing, with the letters modified to be more easily cut into wood or stone.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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runes in Technology

1. Anything that requires heavy wizardry or black art to parse: core dumps, JCL commands, APL or code in a language you haven't a clue how to read. Not quite as bad as line noise, but close.
Compare casting the runes, Great Runes.
2. Special display characters (for example, the high-half graphics on an IBM PC).
[Jargon File]

The Free On-line Dictionary of Computing, © Denis Howe 2010
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