C (cé), the third letter, has all along been waning in Icel. The early Gothic Runes (Golden horn) use ᚲ for k, e. g. ᛖᚲ for ek, ego; the later common Runes have no c. The Anglo-Saxon Runes follow the Gothic, and use c tor k, as cén, a torch.
A. SPELLING.—The rule given by the first Icel. grammarian, Thorodd (A. D. 1140), is curious; he says that he will follow the Scots in using c with all the vowels, as in Latin, and then makes c serve instead of k; but, though in other cases he makes the small capitals serve for double consonants, e. g. uBi, braT, meN, haLar, döG, = ubbi, bratt, menn, etc., he admits k to mark a double c, and spells söc sake, but sök sank; lycia to shut, but lykja a knot; vaca to wake, but vaka vagari; þecia to thatch, but þekia to know. Thorodd gives as his reason that other consonants have different shapes as small or capital, but c is uniform, whereas he says that k suits well for a double c, being a Greek letter itself, and having a shape similar to a double c, namely, |(; this k or double c he calls ecc, but the single c he calls ce, Skálda 108. The second grammarian (about the end of the 12th century) only admits c as a final letter, ranking with ð, z, or x, which are never used as initials: all these letters he calls ‘sub-letters;’ he thus writes karl, kona, kunna, but vöc, söc, tac. Such were the grammatical rules, but in practice they were never strictly followed. As the Anglo-Saxon, in imitation of the Latin, used c throughout for k, so the earliest Icel. MSS., influenced by the Anglo-Saxon or by MSS. written in Britain, made free use of it, and k and c appear indiscriminately; k is more frequent, but c is often used between two vowels or after a vowel, e. g. taca, lécu, vica, hoc, etc. etc. In such cases, t and c (k) can often hardly be distinguished; and readings can sometimes be restored by bearing this in mind, e. g. in Bjarn. S. (all our MSS. come from a single vellum MS.) the passage ‘létu heim at landinu’ should be read ‘lécu (léku) honum landmunir,’ 16; ‘sáttvarr’ is ‘sacvarr,’ i. e. sakvarr, 51; cp. also such readings as bikdælir instead of Hitdælir, Gullþ. 3; drickin = dritkinn, id. In Ad. 20 it is uncertain whether we are to read veclinga- or vetlinga-tös, probably the former.
B. FOREIGN WORDS.—Throughout the Middle Ages the spelling remained unsettled, but k gained ground, and at the time of the Reformation, when printing began, c was only kept to mark the double k, ek (cut on one face), and in foreign proper names; but it was not admitted in appellatives such as kirkja, klaustr, klerkr, kór, kross, kalkr or kaleikr, church (Scot. kirk), cloister, clericus, choir, cross, calix, etc., or in kista, kastali, kerti, keisari, kær, kærleiki, kyndill, kórona or krúna, kurteisi, kumpan, kompás, kapítuli, cista, castellum, cern, caesar (as appell.), carus, caritas, candela, corona, courtesy, company, compass, chapter. All words of that kind are spelt as if they were indigenous. The name of Christ is usually in editions of the N. T. and Vidal. spelt Christus or Christur, but is always sounded as a native word Kristr or Kristur, gen. Krists, dat. Kristi; in modern books it is also spelt so, and almost always in hymns and rhymes, ancient as well as modern, e. g. Stríðsmenn þá höfðu krossfest Krist | skiptu í staði fjóra fyrst, Pass. 36. I, 19.1, 3, 10.1, 14.1, 15.2, 16.1, 49.4; Postula kjöri Kristur þrjá, 41; Stríðsmenn Krist úr kúpu færðu, 30.1; Framandi maðr mætti Kristi | hér má fínna hvern það lystir, 30.6, 46.12. Icel. also spell Kristinn, Kristilegr, Christian; kristna, to christen, etc. β. in the middle of syllables k for c is also used in words of foreign origin, Páskar = Pascha, Passover; dreki = draco; leikmenn = laici; Sikley or Sikiley = Sicilia; Gríkland or Grikkland = Greece. In modern books of the last fifty years ck is turned into kk; and even C in proper names is rendered by K, except where it is sounded as S; thus Icel. spell Caesar, Cicero, Cyprus; for Sesar, Sisero, Syprus, Silisia—although even this may be seen in print of the last ten or twenty years—is a strange novelty. There is but one exception, viz. the proper name Cecilia, which, ever since the Reformation, has been spelt and pronounced Sesselja; where, however, the name occurs in old writers, e. g. the Sturl. i. 52 C, it is always spelt in the Latin form. Latin and foreign words are spelt with c in some MSS. communis-bók, f. a missal, Vm. 52. concurrentis-öld, f. dies concurrentes, Rb. crucis-messa = kross-messa, K. Þ. K.
☞ A digraph ch = k is at times found in MSS., as michill = mikill, etc. C is used in nearly all MSS. to mark 100; the Arabian figures, however, occur for the first time in the Hauks-bók and the chief MSS. of the Njála (all of them MSS. of from the end of the 13th to the beginning of the 14th century), but were again disused till about the time of the Reformation, when they came into use along with print. An inverted c (ɔ̄) is sometimes in very early MSS. used as an abbreviation for con (kon), thus ɔ̄ugr = konungr, ɔ̄a = kona, ɔ̄or = konor = konur; hence the curious blunder in the old Kd. of Páls. S., Bs. i. 140, viz. that a bishop had to take charge of women and clergy instead of choir and clergy, the word cór of the MSS. being mistaken for ɔ̄or (konor). In MSS. of the 15th century c above the line is used as an abbreviation, e. g. tca = taka, tcr = tekr, mcill = mikill, etc.