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Cirth word.png
The word "Cirth" written using the Cirth in the Angerthas Daeron mode
Script type
CreatorJ. R. R. Tolkien
LanguagesKhuzdul, Sindarin, Quenya, Westron, English
ISO 15924
ISO 15924Cirt (291), ​Cirth
 This article contains phonetic transcriptions in the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA). For an introductory guide on IPA symbols, see Help:IPA. For the distinction between [ ], / / and  , see IPA § Brackets and transcription delimiters.

The Cirth (Sindarin pronunciation: ​[ˈkirθ], meaning "runes"; sg. certh [ˈkɛrθ]) is a semi‑artificial script, based on real‑life runic alphabets, one of several scripts invented by J. R. R. Tolkien for the constructed languages he devised and used in his works. Cirth is written with a capital letter when referring to the writing system; the letters themselves can be called cirth.

In the fictional history of Middle-earth, the original Certhas was created by the Sindar (or Grey Elves) for their language, Sindarin. Its extension and elaboration was known as the Angerthas Daeron, as it was attributed to the Sinda Daeron, despite the fact that it was most probably arranged by the Noldor in order to represent the sounds of other languages like Quenya and Telerin.

Although it was later largely replaced by the Tengwar, the Cirth was nonetheless adopted by the Dwarves to write down both their Khuzdul language (Angerthas Moria) and the languages of Men (Angerthas Erebor). The Cirth was also adapted, in its oldest and simplest form, by various races including Men and even Orcs.

External history[edit]

Concept and creation[edit]

Rock carving in Cirth in the Sydney Harbour National Park, dating back to the 1980s at least

Many letters have shapes also found in the historical runic alphabets, but their sound values are only similar in a few of the vowels. Rather, the system of assignment of sound values is much more systematic in the Cirth than in the historical runes (e.g., voiced variants of a voiceless sound are expressed by an additional stroke).

The division between the older Cirth of Daeron and their adaptation by Dwarves and Men has been interpreted as a parallel drawn by Tolkien to the development of the Fuþorc to the Younger Fuþark.[1] The original Elvish Cirth "as supposed products of a superior culture" are focused on logical arrangement and a close connection between form and value whereas the adaptations by mortal races introduced irregularities. Similar to the Germanic tribes who had no written literature and used only simple runes before their conversion to Christianity, the Sindarin Elves of Beleriand with their Cirth were introduced to the more elaborate Tengwar of Fëanor when the Noldorin Elves returned to Middle-earth from the lands of the divine Valar.[2]

Internal history and description[edit]


In the Appendix E to The Return of the King, Tolkien writes that the Sindar of Beleriand first developed an alphabet for their language some time between the invention of the Tengwar by Fëanor (YT 1250) and the introduction thereof to Middle-earth by the Exiled Noldor at the beginning of the First Age.[3]

This alphabet was devised to represent only the sounds of their Sindarin language and its letters were mostly used for inscribing names or brief memorials on wood, stone or metal, hence their angular shapes and straight lines.[3] In Sindarin these letters were named cirth (sing. certh), from the Elvish root *kir- meaning "to cleave, to cut".[4] An abecedarium of cirth, consisting of the runes listed in due order, was commonly known as Certhas ([ˈkɛrθɑs], meaning "rune-rows" in Sindarin and loosely translated as "runic alphabet"[5]).

The oldest cirth were the following:[3]

Consonants Certh 1.svg p Certh 2.svg b Certh 5.svg mh Certh 6.svg m
Certh 8.svg t Certh 9.svg d Certh 12.svg n
Certh 18.svg k Certh 19.svg g Certh 22.svg ng
Certh 29.svg r Certh 31.svg l Certh 13.svg ~ Certh 15.svg h or s Certh 35.svg s or h Certh 36.svg ss
Vowels Certh 39.svg i Certh 42.svg u Certh 46.svg e Certh 50.svg o

The form of these letters was somewhat unsystematic, unlike later rearrangements and extensions that made them more featural.[3] The cirth Certh 13.svg and Certh 35.svg were used for ⟨h⟩ and ⟨s⟩, but varied as to which was which.[3] Many of the runes consisted of a single vertical line (or "stem") with an appendage (or "branch") attached to one or both sides. If the attachment was made on one side only, it was usually to the right, but "the reverse was not infrequent" and did not change the value of the letter.[3] (For example, the variants Certh 13.svg or Certh 15.svg specifically mentioned for h or s, also Certh 8.svg or Certh 10.svg for t, etc).

Angerthas Daeron[edit]

In Beleriand, before the end of the First Age, the Certhas was rearranged and further developed, partly under the influence of the Tengwar introduced by the Noldor. This reorganisation of the Cirth was commonly attributed to the Elf Daeron, minstrel and loremaster of King Thingol of Doriath. Thus, the new system became known as the Angerthas Daeron[3] (where "angerthas" [ɑŋˈɡɛrθɑs] is from Sindarin "an(d)" [ɑn(d)] + "certhas" [ˈkɛrθɑs], meaning "long rune-rows"[6]).

In this arrangement, the assignment of values to each certh is systematic. The runes consisting of a stem and a branch attached to the right are used for voiceless stops, while other sounds are allocated according to the following principles:[3]

  1. adding a stroke to a branch adds voice (e.g., Certh 1.svg [p]Certh 2.svg [b]);
  2. moving the branch to the left indicates opening to a spirant (e.g., Certh 8.svg [t]Certh 10.svg [θ]);
  3. placing the branch on both sides of the stem adds voice and nasality (e.g., Certh 18.svg [k]Certh 22.svg [ŋ]).

The cirth constructed in this way can therefore be arranged into series, each corresponding to a place of articulation:

Other letters introduced in this system include: Certh 48.svg and Certh 44.svg for ⟨a⟩ and ⟨w⟩, respectively; runes for long vowels, evidently originated by doubling and binding the certh of the corresponding short vowel (e.g., Certh 50.svgCerth 50.svg ⟨oo⟩Certh 51.svg ⟨ō⟩); two front vowels, probably stemming from ligatures of the corresponding back vowel with the ⟨i⟩-certh (i.e., Certh 39.svgCerth 42.svgCerth 45a.svg ⟨ü⟩, and Certh 39.svgCerth 50.svgCerth 52.svg ⟨ö⟩); some homorganic nasal + stop clusters (e.g., Certh 38.svg [nd]).

Back to the fictional history, since the new Certh 13.svg-series and Certh 23.svg-series encompass sounds which do not occur in Sindarin but are present in Quenya, they were most probably introduced by the Exiled Noldor[3] who spoke Quenya as a language of knowledge.

By loan-translation, the Cirth became known in Quenya as Certar [ˈkɛrtar], while a single certh was called certa [ˈkɛrta].

After the Tengwar became the sole script used for writing, the Angerthas Daeron was essentially relegated to carved inscriptions. The Elves of the West, for the most part, abandoned the Cirth altogether, with the exception of the Noldor dwelling in the country of Eregion, who maintained it in use[3] and made it known as Angerthas Eregion.

information Note: In this article, the runes of the Angerthas come with the same peculiar transliteration used by Tolkien in the Appendix E, which differs from the (Latin) spelling of both Quenya and Sindarin. The IPA transcription that follows is applicable to both languages, except where indicated otherwise.

Regularly formed cirth
Certh Certh 1.svg Certh 2.svg Certh 3.svg Certh 4.svg Certh 6.svg Certh 7.svg
Transliteration p b f v m[i] mh, mb
IPA [p] [b] [f] [v] [m] (S.) [ṽ]
(Q.) [mb]
Certh Certh 8.svg Certh 9.svg Certh 10.svg Certh 11.svg Certh 12.svg Certh 38.svg or Certh 38a.svg
Transliteration t d th dh n nd[ii]
IPA [t] [d] [θ] [ð] [n] [nd]
Certh Certh 13.svg Certh 14.svg Certh 15.svg Certh 16.svg Certh 17.svg
Transliteration ch[iv] j[v] sh[vi] zh nj[vii]
IPA (N.) [c⁽ȷ̊⁾] [ɟj] [ç] [ʝ] ɟ[ɲj][ɲɟj]
(V.) [t͡ʃ] [d͡ʒ] [ʃ] [ʒ] [nd͡ʒ]
Certh Certh 18.svg Certh 19.svg Certh 20.svg Certh 21.svg Certh 22.svg Certh 33.svg
Transliteration k g kh gh ŋ ng
IPA [k] [ɡ] [x] [ɣ] [ŋ] [ŋɡ]
Certh Certh 23.svg Certh 24.svg Certh 25.svg Certh 26.svg Certh 28.svg Certh 27.svg
Transliteration kw[7] gw[8] khw ghw nw[viii] ngw[8]
IPA (Q.) [kʷ₍w̥₎] [ɡʷw] [ʍ] [w] [nʷw][ŋʷw] [ŋɡʷw]
Additional cirth
Consonants Certh Certh 29.svg Certh 30.svg Certh 31.svg Certh 32.svg Certh 34.svg or Certh 35.svg Certh 36.svg Certh 54.svg
Transliteration r rh l lh s ss or z[ix] h[x]
IPA [r] [r̥] [l] [l̥] [s] [sː] or [z] [h]
Approximants Certh Certh 44.svg Certh 5.svg
Transliteration w hw[xi]
IPA [w] [ʍ]
Vowels Certh Certh 39.svg Certh 42.svg Certh 46.svg Certh 48.svg Certh 50.svg
Transliteration i, y u e a o
IPA [i], [j] [u] [e] [a] [o]
Certh Certh 43.svg Certh 47.svg Certh 49.svg Certh 51.svg or Certh 51a.svg
Transliteration ū ē ā ō
IPA [uː] [eː] [aː] [oː]
Certh Certh 45.svg or Certh 45a.svg Certh 52.svg or Certh 52a.svg
Transliteration ü ö
IPA [y] [œ]


  1. ^ According to the principles outlined above, the labial nasal would be assigned to the certh Certh 5.svg. However, archaic Sindarin had two labial nasals: the occlusive [m], and the spirant [ṽ][9] (spelt ⟨mh⟩). Since the ⟨mh⟩ sound could best be represented by a reversal of the sign for ⟨m⟩ (to indicate its spirantization), the reversible Certh 6.svg was given the value ⟨m⟩, and Certh 7.svg was assigned to ⟨mh⟩.[3] The sound [ṽ] merged with [v] in later Sindarin.
  2. ^ The certh Certh 38.svg was not clearly related in shape to the dentals.[3]
  3. ^ The Certh 13.svg-series, which represents the front consonants of Quenya, is essentially the Cirth counterpart to the Tengwar tyelpetéma (column III in the General Use).
    In this article, each certh of this series comes with two IPA transcriptions. The reason is that these consonants are realised as palatals in Noldorin Quenya, but as postalveolars in Vanyarin Quenya. Although the Angerthas Daeron was devised for the Noldorin variety, it is deemed necessary to show the Vanyarin pronunciation as well, given that the very transliteration used by Tolkien is more akin to the Vanyarin phonology.
  4. ^ The certh Certh 13.svg indicates Quenya ⟨ty⟩, which is pronounced [cȷ̊] in Noldorin[10] but is a voiceless postalveolar affricate [t͡ʃ] in Vanyarin.[11]
  5. ^ The certh Certh 14.svg represents Quenya ⟨dy⟩, formerly pronounced [ɟj].[12]
  6. ^ The certh Certh 15.svg stands for Quenya ⟨hy⟩, which is a voiceless palatal fricative [ç] in Noldorin[13] and a voiceless postalveolar fricative [ʃ] in Vanyarin.[11]
  7. ^ The certh Certh 17.svg denotes Quenya ⟨ndy⟩, formerly pronounced [ɲɟj]. In Noldorin, this cluster was later reduced to ⟨ny⟩[14] (articulated as [ɲj][15]). On the other hand, in Vanyarin, the cluster underwent assibilation, turning into [nd͡ʒ].[11]
  8. ^ The certh Certh 28.svg, much like the tengwa Tengwa nwalme.svg "ñwalme", formerly represented Quenya ⟨ñw⟩ (pronounced [ŋʷw]), occurring only in initial position. This sound later evolved into [nʷw], explaining the transliteration of this certh as ⟨nw⟩. Non-initial occurrences of [nʷw] are most probably interpreted as ⟨n⟩+⟨w⟩ (i.e., two separate cirth).[16]
  9. ^ The certh Certh 36.svg, the theoretical value of which is ⟨z⟩, is instead used as ⟨ss⟩ in both Quenya and Sindarin (cf. the tengwa Tengwa esse.svg "esse"/"áze").[3]
  10. ^ The new certh Certh 54.svg was introduced for ⟨h⟩: it is similar in shape both to the certh Certh 13.svg (formerly used for ⟨h⟩, then reassigned to ⟨ty⟩) and to the tengwa Tengwa hyarmen.svg "hyarmen".
  11. ^ The certh Certh 5.svg, the theoretical value of which was ⟨m⟩, was used for Sindarin ⟨hw⟩ for the reasons stated above[3] (cf. the tengwa Tengwa hwesta sindarinwa.svg "hwesta sindarinwa").

Angerthas Moria[edit]

According to Tolkien's legendarium, the Dwarves first came to know the runes of the Noldor at the beginning of the Second Age. The Dwarves "introduced a number of unsystematic changes in value, as well as certain new cirth".[3] They modified the previous system to suit the specific needs of their language, Khuzdul. The Dwarves spread their revised alphabet to Moria, where it came to be known as Angerthas Moria, and developed both carved and pen-written forms of these runes.[3]

Many cirth here represent sounds not occurring in Khuzdul[17] (at least in published words of Khuzdul: of course, our corpus is very limited to judge the necessity or not, of these sounds). Here they are marked with a black star ().

Certh Translit. IPA' Certh Translit. IPA Certh Translit. IPA' Certh Translit. IPA
Certh 1.svg p /p/ Certh 31.svg l /l/ Certh 46.svg e /e/
Certh 2.svg b /b/ Certh 17.svg z /z/ Certh 32.svg lh /ɬ/ Certh 47.svg ê /eː/
Certh 3.svg f /f/ Certh 18.svg k /k/ Certh 33.svg nd /nd/ Certh 48.svg a /a/
Certh 4.svg v /v/ Certh 19.svg g /ɡ/ Certh 34.svg h[A] /h/ Certh 49.svg â /aː/
Certh 5.svg hw /ʍ/ Certh 20.svg kh /x/ Certh 35.svg ʻ [A] /ʔ/ Certh 50.svg o /o/
Certh 6.svg m /m/ Certh 21.svg gh /ɣ/ Certh 36.svg ŋ /ŋ/ Certh 51.svg or Certh 51a.svg ô /oː/
Certh 7.svg mb /mb/ Certh 22.svg n /n/ Certh 37.svg ng /ŋɡ/ Certh 52.svg or Certh 52a.svg ö /œ/
Certh 8.svg t /t/ Certh 23.svg kw /kʷ/ Certh 38.svg or Certh 38a.svg nj /ndʒ/ Certh 53.svg n /n/
Certh 9.svg d /d/ Certh 24.svg gw /ɡʷ/ Certh 39.svg i /i/ Certh 54.svg s /s/
Certh 10.svg th /θ/ Certh 25.svg khw /xʷ/ Certh 40.svg y /j/ Certh 55.svg or Certh 55a.svg [B] /ə/
Certh 11.svg dh /ð/ Certh 26.svg ghw /ɣʷ/ Certh 41.svg hy /j̊, ç/ Certh 56.svg or Certh 56a.svg [B] /ʌ/
Certh 12.svg r , ʁ, r/ Certh 27.svg ngw /ŋɡʷ/ Certh 42.svg u /u/
Certh 13.svg ch /tʃ, c/ Certh 28.svg nw /nʷ/ Certh 43.svg û /uː/
Certh 29.svg j /dʒ, ɟ/ Certh 44.svg w /w/ Certh 59.svg +h[C] /◌ʰ/
Certh 15.svg sh /ʃ/ Certh 30.svg zh /ʒ/ Certh 45.svg or Certh 45a.svg ü /y/ Certh 60.svg &[D]


A. ^ The Khuzdul language has two glottal consonants: /h/ and /ʔ/, the latter being "the glottal beginning of a word with an initial vowel".[3] Thus, in need of a reversible certh to represent these sounds, Certh 54.svg and Certh 34.svg were switched, giving the former the value /s/ and using the latter for /h/, and its reversed counterpart Certh 35.svg for /ʔ/.
B. ^ These cirth were a halved form of Certh 46.svg, used for vowels like those in the word ⟨butter⟩ /ˈbʌtə/. Thus, Certh 55.svg represented a /ə/ sound in unstressed syllables, while Certh 56.svg represented /ʌ/, a somehow similar sound, in stressed syllables. When weak they were reduced to a stroke without a stem (Certh 55a.svg, Certh 56a.svg).[3]
C. ^ This letter denotes aspiration in voiceless stops, occurring frequently in Khuzdul as kh and th.[3]
D. ^ This certh is a scribal abbreviation used to represent a conjunction, and is basically identical to the ampersand ⟨&⟩ used in Latin script.
Runes in the upper inscription of Balin's tomb use Angerthas Moria, reading left-to-right:

In Angerthas Moria the cirth Certh 14.svg /dʒ/ and Certh 16.svg /ʒ/ were dropped. Thus Certh 29.svg and Certh 30.svg were adopted for /dʒ/ and /ʒ/, although they were used for /r/ and /r̥/ in Elvish languages. Subsequently, this script used the certh Certh 12.svg for /ʀ/ (or /ʁ/), which had the sound /n/ in the Elvish systems. Therefore, the certh Certh 22.svg (which was previously used for the sound /ŋ/, useless in Khuzdul) was adopted for the sound /n/. A totally new introduction was the certh Certh 53.svg, used as an alternative, simplified and, maybe, weaker form of Certh 22.svg. Because of the visual relation of these two cirth, the certh Certh 17.svg was given the sound /z/ to relate better with Certh 54.svg that, in this script, had the sound /s/.[3]

Angerthas Erebor[edit]

At the beginning of the Third Age the Dwarves were driven out of Moria, and some migrated to Erebor. As the Dwarves of Erebor would trade with the Men of the nearby towns of Dale and Lake-town, they needed a script to write in Westron (the lingua franca of Middle-earth, usually rendered in English by Tolkien in his works). The Angerthas Moria was adapted accordingly: some new cirth were added, while some were restored to their Elvish usage, thus creating the Angerthas Erebor.[3]

While the Angerthas Moria was still used to write down Khuzdul, this new script was primarily used for Mannish languages. It is also the script used in the first and third page of the Book of Mazarbul.[citation needed]

Certh Translit. IPA Certh Translit. IPA Certh Translit. IPA Certh Translit. IPA
Certh 1.svg p /p/ Certh 16.svg zh /ʒ/ Certh 31.svg l /l/ Certh 46.svg e /e/
Certh 2.svg b /b/ Certh 17.svg ks /ks/
Certh 3.svg f /f/ Certh 18.svg k /k/ Certh 33.svg nd /nd/ Certh 48.svg a /a/
Certh 4.svg v /v/ Certh 19.svg g /ɡ/ Certh 34.svg s /s/
Certh 5.svg hw /ʍ/ Certh 20.svg kh /x/ Certh 35.svg Certh 50.svg o /o/
Certh 6.svg m /m/ Certh 21.svg gh /ɣ/ Certh 36.svg ŋ /ŋ/
Certh 7.svg mb /mb/ Certh 22.svg n /n/ Certh 37.svg ng /ŋɡ/ Certh 52.svg or Certh 52a.svg ö /œ/
Certh 8.svg t /t/ Certh 23.svg kw /kʷ/ Certh 53.svg n /n/
Certh 9.svg d /d/ Certh 24.svg gw /ɡʷ/ Certh 39.svg i /i/ Certh 54.svg h /h/
Certh 10.svg th /θ/ Certh 25.svg khw /xʷ/ Certh 40.svg y /j/ Certh 55.svg or Certh 55a.svg /ə/
Certh 11.svg dh /ð/ Certh 26.svg ghw /ɣʷ/ Certh 41.svg hy /j̊/ or /ç/ Certh 56.svg or Certh 56a.svg /ʌ/
Certh 12.svg r /r/ Certh 27.svg ngw /ŋɡʷ/ Certh 42.svg u /u/ Certh 57.svg ps /ps/
Certh 13.svg ch /tʃ/ Certh 28.svg nw /nʷ/ Certh 43.svg z /z/ Certh 58.svg ts /ts/
Certh 14.svg j /dʒ/ Certh 29.svg g /ɡ/ Certh 44.svg w /w/ Certh 59.svg +h /◌ʰ/
Certh 15.svg sh /ʃ/ Certh 30.svg gh /ɣ/ Certh 45.svg or Certh 45a.svg ü /y/ Certh 60.svg &

Angerthas Erebor also features combining diacritics:

The bottom inscription of Balin's tomb is written in English using the Angerthas Erebor. It reads left-to-right: "Balin sʌn ov Fu[nd]in lord ov Moria"

The Angerthas Erebor is used twice in The Lord of the Rings to write in English:

  1. in the upper inscription of the title page, where it reads "[dh]ə·lord·ov·[dh]ə·riŋs·translatᵊd·from·[dh]ə·red·b[oo]k' ..." (the sentence follows in the bottom inscription, written in Tengwar: "... of Westmarch by John Ronald Reuel Tolkien. Herein is set forth/ the history of the War of the Ring and the Return of the King as seen by the Hobbits.");
  2. in the bottom inscription of Balin's tomb—being the translation of the upper inscription, which is written in Khuzdul using Angerthas Moria.

The Book of Mazarbul shows some additional cirth used in Angerthas Erebor: one for a double ⟨l⟩ ligature, one for the definite article, and six for the representation of the same number of English diphthongs:

Certh English spelling
Certh LL.svg ⟨ll⟩
Certh Article.svg ⟨the⟩[A]
Certh AI.svg ⟨ai⟩, ⟨ay⟩
Certh AU.svg ⟨au⟩, ⟨aw⟩
Certh EA.svg ⟨ea⟩
Certh 47.svg ⟨ee⟩
Certh 38a.svg ⟨eu⟩, ⟨ew⟩
Certh OA.svg ⟨oa⟩
Certh 51.svg ⟨oo⟩
Certh 38.svg ⟨ou⟩, ⟨ow⟩


A. ^ This certh is a scribal abbreviation used to represent the definite article. Although in English it stands for ⟨the⟩, it can assume different values according to the used language.
∗. ^ The cirth marked with an asterisk are unique to Angerthas Erebor.

Other runic scripts by Tolkien[edit]

The Cirth is not the only runic writing system used by Tolkien in his legendarium. In fact, he devised a great number of runic alphabets, of which only a few others have been published. Some of these are included in the "Appendix on Runes" of The Treason of Isengard (The History of Middle-earth, vol. VII), edited by Christopher Tolkien.[18]

Runes from The Hobbit[edit]

According to Tolkien himself, those found in The Hobbit are a form of "English runes" used in lieu of the Dwarvish runes proper.[19] They can be interpreted as an attempt made by Tolkien to adapt the Fuþorc (i.e., the Old English runic alphabet) to the Modern English language.[20]

These runes are basically the same found in Fuþorc, but their sound may change according to their position, just like the letters of the Latin script: the writing mode used by Tolkien is, in this case, mainly orthographic.[21] This means that the system has one rune for each Latin letter, regardless of pronunciation.[21] For example, the rune Certh 13.svg ⟨c⟩ can sound /k/ in cover⟩, /s/ in ⟨sincere⟩, /ʃ/ in ⟨special⟩, and even // in the digraph Certh 13.svgCerth 47.svg ⟨ch⟩.[22]

A few sounds are instead written with the same rune, without considering the English spelling. For example, the sound /ɔː/ is always written with the rune Certh 24.svg whether in English it is spelt ⟨o⟩ as in ⟨north⟩, ⟨a⟩ as in ⟨fall⟩, or ⟨oo⟩ as in ⟨door⟩. The only two letters that are subject to this phonemic spelling are ⟨a⟩ and ⟨o⟩.[21]

Finally, some runes stand for particular English digraphs and diphthongs.[19][21]

Here the runes used in The Hobbit are displayed along with their Fuþorc counterpart and corresponding English grapheme:

Rune Fuþorc English grapheme Rune Fuþorc English grapheme
Tolkien's Futhorc A.svg phonemic[i] Certh 2.svg ⟨r⟩
Certh 9.svg Certh 40.svg ⟨s⟩
Certh 6.svg ⟨b⟩ Certh 12.svg ⟨t⟩
Certh 13.svg ⟨c⟩ Certh 48.svg ⟨u⟩, ⟨v⟩
Certh 38.svg ⟨d⟩ Certh 1.svg ⟨w⟩
Tolkien's Futhorc E.svg ⟨e⟩ Certh 22.svg ⟨x⟩
Tolkien's Futhorc F.svg ⟨f⟩, ⟨ph⟩ Certh AU.svg ⟨y⟩
Certh 36.svg ⟨g⟩ Certh 17.svg ⟨z⟩[iii]
Certh 47.svg ⟨h⟩ Certh 57.svg ⟨th⟩
Certh 39.svg ⟨i⟩, ⟨j⟩ Certh 27.svg ⟨ea⟩
Tolkien's Futhorc K.svg [ii] ⟨k⟩ Tolkien's Futhorc ST.svg ⟨st⟩
Certh 8.svg ⟨l⟩ Certh 42.svg ⟨ee⟩
Tolkien's Futhorc M.svg ⟨m⟩ Certh 43.svg ⟨ng⟩
Certh 32.svg ⟨n⟩ Tolkien's Futhorc EO.svg ⟨eo⟩
Certh 24.svg phonemic[i] Certh 5.svg [ii] ⟨oo⟩
Certh 28.svg ⟨p⟩ Certh 41.svg [ii] ⟨sh⟩


  1. ^ This table summarises the transcription of English ⟨a⟩ and ⟨o⟩ in runes:[21]
English grapheme Sound value
⟨a⟩ /æ/ Certh 9.svg
every other sound Tolkien's Futhorc A.svg
/ɔː/ Certh 24.svg
⟨o⟩ every sound
⟨oo⟩ /ɔː/
every other sound Certh 5.svg
  1. ^ The three runes Tolkien's Futhorc K.svg, Certh 5.svg, and Certh 41.svg were invented by Tolkien and are not attested in real-life Fuþorc.
  2. ^ According to Tolkien, this is a "dwarf-rune" which "may be used if required" as an addendum to the English runes.[19]
  3. Tolkien commonly writes the English digraph ⟨wh⟩ (pronounced [ʍ] in some varieties of English) as Certh 47.svgCerth 1.svg ⟨hw⟩.
  4. There is no rune to transliterate ⟨q⟩: the digraph ⟨qu⟩ (representing the sound [kʷw], like in queen⟩) is always written as Certh 13.svgCerth 1.svg ⟨cw⟩, reflecting the Anglo-Saxon spelling cƿ.

Gondolinic runes[edit]

Not all the runes mentioned in The Hobbit are Dwarf-runes. The swords found in the Trolls' cave bore runes that Gandalf could not read. In fact, the swords Glamdring and Orcrist (which were forged in the ancient kingdom of Gondolin) bore a type of letters known as Gondolinic runes. They seem to have become obsolete and been forgotten by the Third Age, and this is supported by the fact that only Elrond could still read the inscriptions on the swords.[19]

Tolkien devised this runic alphabet in a very early stage of his shaping of Middle-earth. Nevertheless, they are known to us from a slip of paper that Tolkien wrote; his son Christopher sent a photocopy of it to Paul Nolan Hyde in February 1992. Hyde published it, with an extensive analysis, in the 1992 Summer issue of Mythlore, no. 69.[23]

The system provides sounds not found in any of the known Elvish languages of the First Age, but perhaps it was designed for a variety of languages. However, the consonants seem to be, more or less, the same found in Welsh phonology, a theory supported by the fact that Tolkien was heavily influenced by Welsh when creating Elvish languages.[24]

Labial Dentals Palatal Dorsal Glottal
Rune IPA Rune IPA Rune IPA Rune IPA Rune IPA Rune IPA Rune IPA
Plosive Gondolin rune p.svg p /p/ Certh 8.svg t /t/ Certh 57.svg k (c) /k/
Gondolin rune b.svg Gondolin rune b2.svg b /b/ Certh 12.svg d /d/ Certh 6.svg g /ɡ/
Fricative Gondolin rune f.svg f /f/ Certh 9.svg þ /θ/ Certh 35.svg s /s/ Gondolin rune sh.svg š /ʃ/ Certh 40.svg χ /x/ Certh 59.svg h /h/
Certh 27.svg Certh 22.svg v /v/ Certh 19.svg ð /ð/ Gondolin rune z.svg z /z/ Gondolin rune zh.svg ž /ʒ/
Affricate Certh 60.svg tš (ch) /t͡ʃ/
Gondolin rune j.svg dž (j) /d͡ʒ/
Nasal Certh 43.svg m /m/ Certh 54.svg n /n/ Certh 2.svg ŋ /ŋ/
Gondolin rune mh.svg (mh) /m̥/ Certh 28.svg χ̃ /n̥/? Gondolin rune ŋh.svg Gondolin rune ŋh2.svg (ŋh) /ŋ̊/
Trill Certh 29.svg r /r/
Certh 33.svg rh /r̥/
Lateral Certh 36.svg l /l/
Gondolin rune lh.svg Gondolin rune lh2.svg
Gondolin rune lh3.svg
lh /ɬ/
Approximant Certh 13.svg Tolkien's Futhorc K.svg
Gondolin rune y3 (consonant).svg
j (i̯) /j/ Certh 42.svg w (u̯) /w/
Certh 37.svg ƕ /ʍ/
Rune IPA Rune IPA Rune IPA Rune IPA Rune IPA
Gondolin rune a.svg a /a/ Gondolin rune e.svg e /ɛ/ Certh 39.svg i /i/ Certh 48.svg o /ɔ/ Gondolin rune u.svg u /u/
Certh 38.svg ā /aː/ Gondolin rune e-.svg Certh 38a.svg ē /eː/ Certh 31.svg ī /iː/ Certh 49.svg Gondolin rune o-2.svg ō /oː/ Gondolin rune u-.svg Gondolin rune u-2.svg ū /uː/
Gondolin rune æ.svg Gondolin rune æ2.svg æ /æ/ Certh AU.svg œ /œ/ Gondolin rune y.svg Certh 44.svg y /y/
Gondolin rune æ-.svg Gondolin rune æ-2.svg ǣ /æː/ Gondolin rune œ-.svg œ̄ /œː/ Gondolin rune y-.svg Certh 5.svg
Gondolin rune y-3.svg Gondolin rune y-4.svg
ȳ /yː/

Encoding schemes[edit]


Equivalents for some (but not all) cirth can be found in the Runic block of Unicode.

Tolkien's mode of writing Modern English in Anglo-Saxon runes received explicit recognition with the introduction of his three additional runes to the Runic block with the release of Unicode 7.0, in June 2014. The three characters represent the English ⟨k⟩, ⟨oo⟩ and ⟨sh⟩ graphemes, as follows:


A formal Unicode proposal to encode Cirth as a separate script was made in September 1997 by Michael Everson.[25] No action was taken by the Unicode Technical Committee (UTC) but Cirth appears in the Roadmap to the SMP.[26]

ConScript Unicode Registry[edit]

Cirth (in Private Use Area)
(128 code points)
ScriptsArtificial Scripts
Major alphabetsCirth
Assigned109 code points
Unused19 reserved code points
Source standardsCSUR
Note: Part of Private Use Area; possible conflicting fonts

Unicode Private Use Area layouts for Cirth are defined at the ConScript Unicode Registry (CSUR)[27] and the Under-ConScript Unicode Registry (UCSUR).[28]

Two different layouts are defined by the CSUR/UCSUR:

  • 1997-11-03 proposal[29] implemented by fonts like GNU Unifont[30] and Code2000.
  • 2000-04-22 discussion paper[31][32] implemented by fonts like Constructium and Fairfax.

Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols below instead of Cirth.

Cirth (1997)[1][2]
ConScript Unicode Registry 1997 code chart
  0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 A B C D E F
U+E0Ex      
1.^ As of 1997-11-03 version (differs from 2000-04-22 proposal)
2.^ Grey areas indicate non-assigned code points
Cirth (2000)[1][2]
ConScript Unicode Registry 2000 proposal
  0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 A B C D E F
1.^ As of 2000-04-22 proposal (differs from 1997-11-03 version)
2.^ Grey areas indicate non-assigned code points

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Simek, Rudolf (2005). Mittelerde: Tolkien und die germanische Mythologie [Middle-earth: Tolkien and Germanic Mythology] (in German). C. H. Beck. pp. 155–156. ISBN 3-406-52837-6.
  2. ^ Smith, Arden R. (1997). "The Semiotics of the Writing Systems of Tolkien's Middle-earth". In Rauch, Irmengard; Carr, Gerald F. (eds.). Semiotics Around the World: Synthesis in Diversity. Proceedings of the Fifth Congress of the International Association for Semiotic Studies, Berkeley, 1994. Vol. 1. Walter de Gruyter. pp. 1239–1242. ISBN 978-3-11-012223-7.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u Tolkien, J. R. R. (1955). The Return of the King. London: George Allen & Unwin. Appendix E.
  4. ^ "Sindarin Words: certh". Retrieved 2019-03-31.
  5. ^ "Sindarin Words: certhas". Retrieved 2019-03-31.
  6. ^ "Sindarin Words: angerthas". Retrieved 2019-05-11.
  7. ^ Tolkien, J. R. R. (2015-06-12). "The Feanorian Alphabet (Part 1) and Quenya Verb Structure: Qenya Grammar – Spelling and Transcription". Parma Eldalamberon (22): 66. ⟨q⟩ (⟨kw⟩) consists of a lip-rounded followed by a partly unvoiced w-offglide (more marked medially than initially).
  8. ^ a b Tolkien, J. R. R. (2015-06-12). "The Feanorian Alphabet (Part 1) and Quenya Verb Structure: Qenya Grammar – Spelling and Transcription". Parma Eldalamberon (22): 66. ⟨gw⟩ which only occurs in the medial group ⟨ngw⟩ is the voiced counterpart: a lip-rounded ɡ̊ followed by a w-offglide.
  9. ^ Tolkien, J. R. R. (2015-06-12). "The Feanorian Alphabet (Part 1) and Quenya Verb Structure: On Ælfwine's Spelling". Parma Eldalamberon (22): 67. But he knew the old sign for 'nasal ṽ' and sometimes represents this (espec. where it is an initial variant on m) by ⟨mh⟩.
  10. ^ Tolkien, J. R. R. (2015-06-12). "The Feanorian Alphabet (Part 1) and Quenya Verb Structure: Qenya Grammar – Spelling and Transcription". Parma Eldalamberon (22): 66. ⟨ty⟩ is pronounced as a 'front explosive' [c], as e.g. Hungarian ty; but it is followed by an appreciable partly unvoiced y-offglide.
  11. ^ a b c "Quenya pronunciation". Retrieved 2019-05-07.
  12. ^ Tolkien, J. R. R. (2015-06-12). "The Feanorian Alphabet (Part 1) and Quenya Verb Structure: Qenya Grammar – Spelling and Transcription". Parma Eldalamberon (22): 66. ⟨dy⟩ was formerly the voiced counterpart [ɟ] followed by a y-offglide.
  13. ^ Tolkien, J. R. R. (2015-06-12). "The Feanorian Alphabet (Part 1) and Quenya Verb Structure: Qenya Grammar – Spelling and Transcription". Parma Eldalamberon (22): 65. ⟨hy⟩ is an audibly spirant voiceless y, that is approximately [ç] as ch in German ich.
  14. ^ Tolkien, J. R. R. (2015-06-12). "The Feanorian Alphabet (Part 1) and Quenya Verb Structure: Qenya Grammar – Spelling and Transcription". Parma Eldalamberon (22): 66. ⟨dy⟩ ... only occurred in the group ⟨ndy⟩, which has become simplified to ⟨ny⟩.
  15. ^ Tolkien, J. R. R. (2015-06-12). "The Feanorian Alphabet (Part 1) and Quenya Verb Structure: Qenya Grammar – Spelling and Transcription". Parma Eldalamberon (22): 66. n in ⟨ny⟩ is 'palatal n' but followed by (cf. ⟨ty⟩) a y-offglide, more marked medially (where ⟨ny⟩ counts as a group), less so initially).
  16. ^ "Amanye Tenceli: Tengwar - The Classical mode". Amanye Tenceli. Retrieved 2021-01-02. ñwalme > nwalme. Only used for initial ⟨nw⟩, which developed from ⟨ñw⟩. Other occurrences of ⟨nw⟩ (originating in ⟨n⟩ + ⟨w⟩) are written númen + vilya.
  17. ^ Amram, Tess (2015). Aglab Khazad: The Secret Language of Tolkien's Dwarves (PDF) (BA). Swarthmore College.
  18. ^ Hyde, Paul Nolan (Summer 1990). "Quenti Lambardillion: Runing on Empty: Charting a New Course". Mythlore. 16 (4, no. 62).
  19. ^ a b c d Tolkien, J.R.R. (1937). The Hobbit. London: George Allen & Unwin.
  20. ^ Smith, Arden R. "Writing Systems". The Tolkien Estate. Retrieved December 30, 2020. The runic alphabet used on Thror's Map and elsewhere in The Hobbit is not the Angerthas, but is rather the futhorc used by the Anglo-Saxons in England over a thousand years ago, adapted by Tolkien for the representation of modern English.
  21. ^ a b c d e Lindberg, Per (2016-11-27). "Tolkien English Runes" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 2008-07-25. Retrieved 2019-03-27.
  22. ^ Tolkien, J.R.R. (November 30, 1947). "Letter 112". Letter to Katherine Farrer. Retrieved December 31, 2020.
  23. ^ Hyde, Paul Nolan (July 1992). "Quenti Lambardillion: The 'Gondolinic Runes': Another Picture". Mythlore. 18 (3, no. 69).
  24. ^ "Study explores JRR Tolkien's Welsh influences". BBC. 2011-05-21. Retrieved 2019-03-27.
  25. ^ Everson, Michael (1997-09-18). "N1642: Proposal to encode Cirth in Plane 1 of ISO/IEC 10646-2". Working Group Document, ISO/IEC JTC1/SC2/WG2 and UTC. Retrieved 2015-08-08.
  26. ^ "Roadmap to the SMP". 2015-06-03. Retrieved 2015-08-08.
  27. ^ "ConScript Unicode Registry". Retrieved 2015-08-08.
  28. ^ "Under-ConScript Unicode Registry". Retrieved 2015-08-08.
  29. ^ "Cirth: U+E080–U+E0FF". ConScript Unicode Registry. 1997-11-03. Retrieved 2015-08-08.
  30. ^ "GNU Unifont". Retrieved 2015-07-24.
  31. ^ Everson, Michael (2000-04-22). "X.X Cirth 1xx00–1xx7F" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 2003-03-12. Retrieved 2015-08-08.
  32. ^ "Cirth, Range: E080–E0FF" (PDF). Under-ConScript Unicode Registry. 2008-04-14. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2014-06-17. Retrieved 2015-08-08.