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Title: Cirth  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Elvish languages (Middle-earth), Sindarin, Quenya, Tengwar, ISO 15924/wp-name
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


Languages Khuzdul, Sindarin, Quenya
Creator J.R.R. Tolkien
ISO 15924 Cirt, 291

The Cirth ([ˈkirθ]; "Runes") are the letters of a semi-artificial script which was invented by J. R. R. Tolkien for the constructed languages he devised and used in his works. The initial C in Cirth is pronounced as a K, never as an S. Cirth is plural and is written with a capital C when referring to the writing system—the runes themselves can be called cirth. A single rune is a certh ([ˈkɛrθ]). The words cirth and certh are Sindarin; the corresponding Quenya words are certar ([ˈkɛrtɑr]) and certa ([ˈkɛrtɑ]).[1] The Sindarin Certhas and Angerthas mean "runic alphabet" and "long rune-rows" respectively.[2] [3]

The runic alphabet used by the Dwarves of Middle-earth was adapted by J.R.R. Tolkien from real-life runes. In The Hobbit, the Anglo-Saxon futhorc was used in the publication with few changes; in The Lord of the Rings a new system of runes, the Cirth, was devised.


  • Writing system 1
  • Internal history 2
  • Concept and creation 3
  • Letters 4
  • See also 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7

Writing system

Since the Cirth are an alphabet, one rune generally stands for one sound (phoneme), and sounds that would be written with a digraph in English (such as "sh" and "th") are written with one rune.[4] Words are separated by a dot rather than a space, and double consonants are grouped together into one rune, the same as if it were a single consonant. Presumably this alphabet was meant to be used in conjunction with a Dwarvish language, but mostly it is used for transliterations.

Many letters have shapes also found in the historical futhark runes (used in The Hobbit), but their sound values are dissimilar. 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). A similar system has been proposed for a few historical runes (e.g. p ᛈ and w ᚹ as variants of b ᛒ), but is in any case much more obscure. There are a few identities between cirth and runic letters, i with runic ᛁ, k with Younger Futhark ᚴ and ch with the Futhorc ᚳ; p is furthermore reminiscent of Latin P (runic ᚹ w).

Cirth are written according to a certain mode specifically adapted for a language, and the values of individual cirth may vary greatly according to the mode used. Three modes for Cirth are described in detail in Appendix E of The Lord of the Rings, and others are known to exist or have been developed by enthusiasts.

The Cirth are not yet part of the Unicode Standard. However the ConScript Unicode Registry has defined the U+E080 to U+E0FF range of the Unicode "Private Use Area" for Cirth.

The inscriptions on the top of the title pages for The Lord of the Rings are written in Cirth.

Internal history

In the fictional history of Middle-earth, the original Certhas Daeron was created by the elf Daeron, the minstrel of king Thingol of Doriath and was later expanded into what was known as the Angerthas Daeron. Although the Cirth were later largely replaced by the Tengwar (which were enhanced and brought by Fëanor), they were adopted by Dwarves to write down their Khuzdul language (Angerthas Moria and Angerthas Erebor) because their straight lines were better suited to carving than the curved strokes of the Tengwar. An example of Cirth writings is the inscription on Balin's tomb in Moria. Cirth was also adapted, in its older and simpler form, by various kinds of Men and even Orcs. For example, it was used by the Men of Dale and the Rohirrim and the Orcs of Moria.

Concept and creation

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 Futhorc to the Younger Futhark.[5] 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 Sindar Elves of Beleriand with their Cirth were introduced to the more elaborate Tengwar of Fëanor when the Noldor Elves returned to Middle-earth from the lands of the divine Valar.[6]


The Angerthas Daeron consists of 60 letters:

p zh l e
b nj–z lh ē
f k ng–nd a
v g s–h ā
hw kh s–’ † o
m gh z–ŋ ō
mh°, mb ŋ–n ng* ö
t kw nd–nj n*
d gw i, y° h–s
th khw y* *
dh ghw, w hy* *
n–r ngw u ps*
ch nw ū ts*
j r–j w +h
sh rh–zh ü &

This chart showing the runes shared by the Angerthas Daeron and Angerthas Moria is presented in Appendix E of The Return of the King. Some of the cirth had different values for the Elvish and Dwarvish languages, and some were used in only one system or the other. Where two forms appear in the same cell they are simply variants or alternates, with no difference in sound.

  • Where two values are given connected with a dash, the first is that of the older Angerthas, the second that of the Dwarvish Angerthas Moria.
  • The ps and ts runes are not in general Dwarvish use but are confined to the mode of Erebor, which also modifies the values of numerous other cirth.

* Dwarvish use only
° Elvish use only
† The apostrophe marks "the clear or glottal beginning of a [Dwarvish] word with an initial vowel".

See also


  1. ^ "Certh" on Tolkien Gateway wiki. Accessed 2013-11-11.
  2. ^ "Certhas" on Tolkien Gateway wiki. Accessed 2013-11-11.
  3. ^ "Angerthas" on Tolkien Gateway wiki. Accessed 2013-11-11.
  4. ^ Solopova, Elizabeth (2009), Languages, Myths and History: An Introduction to the Linguistic and Literary Background of J.R.R. Tolkien's Fiction, New York City: North Landing Books, p. 87, ISBN 0-9816607-1-1 
  5. ^  
  6. ^  

External links

  • Article on Tolkien's Cirthic runes
  • - Explore the appearances of runes in Tolkien's work (in German)
  • Dan Smith's Cirth article Information and font to download
  • History of Elven writing systems
  • Official proposal to encode Cirth in Unicode
  • Cirth proposal for ConScript Unicode Registry
  • Generator for Cirth Runes and Tengwar
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