Also found in: Dictionary, Wikipedia.






(all: ŏg`əm, ō`əm), ancient Celtic alphabet of one of the Irish runic languages. It was used by the druids and abandoned after the first few centuries of the Christian era. The ogham runesrunes,
ancient characters used in Teutonic, Anglo-Saxon, and Scandinavian inscriptions. They were probably first used by the East Goths (c.300), who are thought to have derived them from Helleno-Italic writing.
..... Click the link for more information.
 remain only in gravestone inscriptionsinscription,
writing on durable material. The art is called epigraphy. Modern inscriptions are made for permanent, monumental record, as on gravestones, cornerstones, and building fronts; they are often decorative and imitative of ancient (usually Roman) methods.
..... Click the link for more information.
 found mostly in W Ireland and also in England, Scotland, and the Shetland Islands. The origin of ogham is uncertain; it contained 25 letters formed of straight lines and may have been adapted from a sign languagesign language,
gestural communication used as an alternative or replacement for speech. Sign languages resemble oral languages in every way other than their modality. As with oral languages, sign languages are acquired spontaneously and have highly intricate, rule-governed
..... Click the link for more information.
. A treatise on ogham, The Book of Ballymote (15 cent.), confirms that it was a secret, ritualistic language.


See R. A. Macalister, The Secret Languages of Ireland (1937).

Enlarge picture
Ogham stone, Sperrin Mountains, County Tyrone. Courtesy Allen Kennedy/Fortean Picture Library.


(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

The oldest form of Goidelic writing used by the Celts and found in Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Cornwall, Devon, and the Isle of Man. The majority of examples have been found in Kerry and Cork counties of Ireland. The oldest of these inscriptions were composed of notches carved onto the edge of an upright stone.

The system would seem to be founded on the Latin alphabet. Some stones have bilingual inscriptions, which have helped in their translation. The main key, however, was found in a treatise on Oghamic writing contained in the fourteenthcentury Book of Ballymote.



a phonetic writing system used by the Celts and Picts of the British Isles (see Figure 1). It is known from fourth-century inscriptions in Old Irish (Ireland, Scotland, Western Brittany, and the Isle of Man) and in Pictish (inscriptions from Scotland, the Shetland Islands, and the Orkney Islands, which have not yet been deciphered). Ogham was displaced from regular usage by the Latin alphabet but survived in Ireland as a cryptographic device until the 17th century.

Figure 1. Ogham system

The core of an ogham inscription was a line (which could also be the edge or corner of a stone slab or a wooden object) on which dots were marked, with groups of dots representing the vowel sounds; groups of lines leading to one or both sides of the vertical line indicated consonants. A letter consists of a combination of one to five identical lines or dots. Additional letters of a more complex shape were introduced into the ogham system at a later date. The origin of ogham is unknown.


Ferguson, S. Ogham Inscriptions in Ireland, Wales and Scotland. Edinburgh, 1887.
Macalister, R. A. S. Studies in Irish Epigraphy, vols. 1–3. London, 1897–1907.
Vendryes, J. “L’Écriture ogamique et ses origines.” Etudes celtiques, 1939, vol. 4.


References in periodicals archive ?
For Meribah, 1970, named for the biblical site where Moses created water by striking a rock, O'Doherty brushed the wood edges with a bright sea blue and etched the word meribah in ogham in the aluminum twice: It appears running from top to bottom on the left-hand band and from bottom to top on the right-hand side, so that transliteration is possible no matter which side is hung facing upward.
Gemma is in Persian on my left wrist and Ronan on my right inner forearm in an ancient Celtic alphabet called Ogham.
And like opposition to the Hill of Tara excavations in 1899, another Gaelic League-led campaign to halt Windle's removal of ancient Ogham stones to university premises in 1913 marked the clash of an antiquarian ethic with the emerging voice of a nationalist and demotic public opinion.
Then there's the Sudbury Valley School established in Frami ogham, Mass, in 1968; and Windsor House School operating in North Vancouver since 1971 Toronto has Alpha Elementary School, established in 1972, and Alpha II Senior and Secondary School which opened its doors in 2006.
Alice Roberts, meanwhile, tries to decipher some of the earliest writing in the British Isles as she encounters the curious carvings on one of the mysterious Ogham Stones.
She said: "By making visual links with the written word, with the ancient literature of Wales, Ireland, Brittany and Scotland, with prehistoric carvings, the Ogham and Bardic Alphabet, I hope to draw attention to the issue of language loss.
It is handsomely produced and contains a number of (largely well-known) illustrations, though a few more showing generally unfamiliar alphabets such as Etruscan, the runic futhark, ogham, Old Hungarian (used in Transylvania as late as the 1850s), and the Korean Hangul would have been welcome.
A set of Marco Bicego 18ct white gold jewellery worth pounds 2200 from Ogham Jewellery of Ayr and Edinburgh.
From the basics of the Celtic Ogham and tree calendars to trees' roles in meditation practices, feng shui, spellcraft and ritual, WHISPERS FROM THE WOODS provides a satisfying survey of trees and their spiritual role in human affairs.
The most noted of the Cosmic Trees is Yggdrasil, which the Norse God, Odin, hung by one leg and found the language of the ruins on the face of the earth; providing the Ogham alphabet Each character corresponded to an individual tree, gem, and other earthly element to create the secret language of the Ancient Celtic Druids.
29 LANGUAGE experts have pointed out the amazing similarity of a fifth-century Irish alphabet known as Ogham - which consists of a series of horizontal lines and gaps - to modern-day barcodes.