Welcome to the refurbished name origins pages! We have now reorganised our pages into four categories for your ease.
Potions, Spells and Magical Objects
Creatures, Jobs and States of Being
Events, Places and Mottos
This page is a reference as to the origins of the names of magical creatures, jobs and different states of being in the Harry Potter series mean in other languages, what they might be named after, and some stories surrounding them in mythology.
Special thanks to Fronskie Feint and MoHPCN for some of these origins, and to Steve from The Harry Potter Lexicon for some help with the spells.
Creatures, Jobs and States of Being
Abraxan (Powerful flying horse, mentioned in Fantastic Beasts) - Abraxus was the name of a flying horse that pulled Helios, the sun god's chariot through the sky in Greco-Roman mythology.
Animagus - Combination of the Latin words "animal" and "magus," meaning "animal wizard."
Auror - Perhaps derived from "aurora," meaning "the dawn." The Aurors may be seen as those who bring the light, vanquishing the darkness.
Basilisk - The history and evolution of the myth of the basilisk is detailed in this article. The Greek basiliskos means "little king" or "petty tyrant." Some myths describe the basilisk as a cockatrice, a giant bird with a serpent's tail that could breathe fire and kill with its stare. Others call it the king of all serpents and consider it as powerful as the gods.
Boggart - From Wikipedia, in Celtic mythology, a boggart (or bogart, bogan, bogle or boggle) is a household spirit, sometimes mischievous, sometimes helpful. In Northern England, at least, there was the belief that the boggart should never be named, for when it was given a name, it would not be reasoned with or persuaded and would become uncontrollable and destructive.
Buckbeak - To "buck" is the "action of a horse when it leaps upward and arches its back." A "beak" is the "mouth of a bird." Very suiting considering Buckbeak is a Hippogriff.
Hippogriff - Derived from the Greek word "hippos" meaning "horse" and the magical creature known as the griffin. In this case, it has the body of a horse as opposed to a lion, but keeps the head of an eagle.
Inferi - In Latin, means "those down below; the dead."
Kappa - A water demon that attacks humans. It is described in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. To prevent it from attacking a certain person, one gives it a cucumber engraved with the person's name. This is fitting, considering "kappa" means "water spirit" in Japanese and they feed themselves on blood and cucumbers. Japanese villagers used to write their names on cucumbers and throw them into a river, believing that this would keep the kappas from harming their families.
Metamorphmagus - In Greek, "meta" means "change," "morph" means "shape," and "magus" means "magic or wizard." Hence, a wizard that can change shape.
Muggle - Comes from English slang. A "mug" is somebody who is easily fooled.
Mugwump - One who sits on both sides of an issue. Referring to the "Supreme Mugwump." Originally an Algonquian word "mugquomp," meaning "chief," it became the word for a political party who wouldn't make up their mind about something in the early to mid 1800s.
Parselmouth - An old word for an individual who has problems with their mouth.
Squib - Johnson's Dictionary defines as "any petty fellow". The term has fallen out of use. Epithet for somebody who wrote insulting articles and pamphlets. A quote from the Vicar of Wakefield by Oliver Smith (1766): "I am too old now to be frightened with squibs." A "squib" is also "a small firework that fizzes out rather than doing anything exciting." "Damp squib" is "an expression for something that turns out to be a disappointment."
Veela - Perhaps comes from the "Vilia," a wild woodland sprite mentioned in Franz Lehar's A Merry Widow. The Vilia transfixed the huntsman so that he fell in love with her and as a result, he wanted her to love him, or he would die. The Veelas seem to make boys and men mesmerized. In Bulgarian myths, "villa" are mythological female creatures (also called samovilla and samodiva) that are very beautiful. They live near rivers and enchant every man with their dancing and singing. Interesting how it was the Bulgarian Quidditch team that brough the Veelas to the Quidditch World Cup.
Wizengamot - Perhaps from "Witenagemot," which was "a council of wise elders (called witans) during the Anglo-Saxon period."
Found a name origin that isn't listed here? Send an e-mail to noah at staff dot mugglenet dot com.