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A letter of an ancient Germanic alphabet, related to the Roman alphabet; the original runic alphabet dates from at least the 2nd or 3rd century, and was formed by modifying the letters of the Roman or Greek alphabet so as to facilitate cutting them upon wood or stone.

In Scandinavian mythology, runes (supposedly won for humankind by Odin) were also seen as having magical powers; in current British usage, the phrase read the runes means to try to forecast the outcome of a situation by analysing all the significant factors involved.The word comes from Old English rūn ‘a secret, a mystery’, not recorded between Middle English and the late 17th century, when it was reintroduced under the influence of Old Norse rúnir, rúnar ‘magic signs, hidden lore’.

Subjects: Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500).

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