Name Origins

Now that the series has come to an end, MuggleNet has created a comprehensive list of all of our favorite character names, places, objects, and strange nouns that JKR appears to have created from nowhere. But where did these words originate? You can find out here!

This page serves as a reference for what some of the names and places in the Harry Potter series mean in other languages, what they might be named after, or some stories surrounding them in mythology. The names are in alphabetical order. To find someone, look for their first name or last name. If we have the etymology for both (or multiple parts) of the names, you will find them separated. For instance, Severus Snape is separated into “Severus” and “Snape.” If a name has meaning when left together, such as Fleur Delacour, it will be left that way. Titles are behind the character’s name (e.g., “Voldemort, Lord”).

Special thanks to Fronskie Feint for some of these origins and to Steve Vander Ark from the Harry Potter Lexicon for some help with the spells.

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Characters
A
  • Aberforth (Dumbledore) – In Gaelic, this means “from the river.” It is also the name of an investment management firm in Edinburgh.
  • Abraxas (Malfoy) – As the supreme Gnostic deity, Abraxas had the body of a man, the head of a rooster, and serpents for feet. This image depicts him holding a shield and whip. In some stories, he is referred to as a demon. It is believed that “Abracadabra” originated from his name.
  • Alastor (Moody) – Similar to Alistair or Alisdair, this is the Scottish (Gaelic) form of Alexander. It means “defender of mankind.” It is an appropriate name for an Auror and a character responsible for protecting the magical world by apprehending evil wizards.
  • Albus (Dumbledore) – In Latin, this means “white” (maybe for his white beard). Clodius Albinus was Governor of Britain upon the death of the Emperor Pertinax in the second century. Albinus attempted to seize the throne but ended up in alliance with another imperial contender, Septimius Severus. After Severus defeated two other rivals (Voldemort and… maybe Slytherin?), the now expendable Albinus was forced into another attempt at usurpation, an attempt that came to an end at the bloody Battle of Lyon.
  • Alecto (Carrow) – In Greek mythology, Alecto was one of the Furies. Her name is derived from the Greek alektos, meaning “unceasing in anger.”
  • Alphard (Black) – This is perhaps derived from the dominant star in the constellation Hydra, commonly represented as a water snake (a Slytherin reference?). Alphard can mean “the heart of the serpent” or in Arabic, “the solitary one.” It lies to the southwest of the brighter star Regulus.
  • Ambrosius Flume – As the founder of Honeydukes, his first name most likely comes from the word “ambrosia,” which is “especially sweet and delicious.” A flume is a narrow tunnel that usually has something flowing through it. Combining the names, he can be seen as a supplier of sweets. Coincidentally, there is also an underground tunnel that connects Hogwarts and Honeydukes.
  • Amos (Diggory) – In the Bible, Amos was a prophet who tried to make the people understand that without morals and prayers, salvation wouldn’t come.
  • Amycus (Carrow) – In Greek mythology, Amycus was the son of Poseidon and Melia, a champion boxer, and the king of mythical people.
  • Andromeda (Tonks) – In Greek mythology, Andromeda should be married to her uncle Phineus but marries Perseus, the famous hero, instead. (Andromeda Black marries Ted Tonks, a Muggle, and is erased from the family tree). “Phineus” sounds like “Phineas,” the name of Sirius’s great-great-grandfather. In the Old Testament, Phineas is a High Priest who kills an Israelite man for being in love with a woman who belongs to another ethnic group. Since our Phineas was a Slytherin teacher, this can’t be coincidence!
  • Arabella (Figg) – This name translates to “prayerful” and also means “eagle” or “heroine.” “Eagle eye” is slang for someone who is very attentive and watches over something or someone. She was possibly given this name since she watches over Harry.
  • Aragog – “Arachnid” means “spider,” and “Gog” was the name of a legendary giant. Combined, the name means “giant spider.” It is also possibly derived from the Greek word agog, meaning “leader.”
  • Arcturus – This is the fourth brightest star in the sky, located within the handle of the Big Dipper. Its name is derived from Ancient Greek, meaning “bear guard”; this refers to the story in Greek mythology that Zeus placed Arcturus in the sky to look after Arcas and Callisto, who were turned into bears and then into the constellations Ursa Major and Ursa Minor to protect them from Hera’s wrath.
  • Argus (Filch) – In Greek mythology, Argus was a monster that had a hundred eyes and was ever so watchful. The name “Argus” means “bright and watchful.” Sounds like Filch.
  • Ariana (Dumbledore) – This name is of Welsh origin and means “silver.” It is also a derivation of the Greek ariadne, meaning “most holy.”
  • Arthur (Weasley) – This could represent King Arthur. The legend presents Arthur as a leader in ancient times who defeated the Saxons and other enemies, thereby uniting the people of Britain in peace and harmony. “Arthur Weasley” sounds like “Arthur Wellesley,” the Duke of Wellington, who won the Battle of Waterloo.
  • Aurora (Sinistra) – “Aurora” is another word for “dawn.” She is also the Roman goddess of the dawn, equivalent of the Greek Eos, and sister of Luna and Sol. This is a very fitting name for a witch who teaches astronomy.
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B
  • Bagman – A bagman is a person who collects money, as for racketeers.
  • Bagshot – A town in Surrey, England, this name is thought to be derived from a tribe (Bacca) and the Anglo-Saxon word for “the place of” (sheatte), meaning “the place of Bacca’s tribe.” “Bag” could also mean “badger,” so the meaning could be “the place of the badger,” creating a reference to Hufflepuff.
  • Bane – This term means “nemesis,” “bringer of ruin,” “pernicious to well-being,” “the agent or instrument of ruin or woe,” or in Old English, “slayer” or “murderer.”
  • Bathilda (Bagshot) – The name Bathilda is of Old German origin, and its meaning is “woman warrior.” Saint Bathild was a young English girl who became queen of the Franks in the seventh century. She was canonized for opposing the then flourishing slave trade and also for founding a convent.
  • Bellatrix (Lestrange) – “Bella” is a construct of the word “bellum,” meaning “war,” and “trix” refers to “a woman in power.” Bellatrix is therefore known as the “female warrior” and is also the pale, yellow star indicating the left shoulder of the constellation Orion, the Great Hunter.
  • Binns, Cuthbert – “Bin” is what the British call a garbage can. Many students consider Professor Binns’s information to be rubbish. In Northern England, “binns” is a slang term for glasses, possibly referring to the professor’s academic nature.
  • Blaise (Zabini) – Blaise was the teacher of Merlin and is from the Roman name Blasius, which means “lisping,” and from the Latin blaesus. Another famous bearer of this name was Blaise Pascal, a French mathematician and philosopher.
  • Bode – This means “to be an omen” or “a stop or delay.” When things are said to not “bode” well for somebody, it usually implies dark times ahead.
  • Brian – This name is from Old Celtic bre, meaning “hill” or by extension, “high, noble.” Brian Boru was an Irish king who thwarted Viking attempts to conquer Ireland in the 11th century. He was victorious in the Battle of Clontarf, but he himself was slain.
  • Bullstrode – A bull is “an adult male bovine animal,” and “strode” means “to be astride of” or “straddle.”
  • Burke – Burke was most likely named after the famous murderer and body snatcher William Burke. He used to operate in Edinburgh around 1740, and considering J.K. Rowling comes from Edinburgh, this is too much of a coincidence. Burke and his partner suffocated sixteen people in their rooming house and sold the bodies to the local medical school. Following this, it became illegal to use cadavers in medical education. As a result, the process of killing someone to sell their body is known as “burking.”
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C
  • Cadogan, Sir – Cadogan is a Welsh name meaning “terrible and fierce in battle.” This name fits the fiesty knight whose portrait hangs on the seventh floor, very close to the South Tower.
  • Caractacus (Burke) – “Caratacus” is the Latin version of the old Welsh name Caradog, meaning ‘”beloved.”
  • Cassandra – The daughter of Priam, King of Troy, Cassandra was a prophetess who foresaw the fall of Troy. After spurning Apollo’s amorous advances, the sun god gave Cassandra the gift of prophecy (with the catch that no one would ever believe her).
  • Cedric (Diggory)Cedric is Old English for “chief” or “warleader.” There is a character named Cedric the Saxon in Sir Walter Scott’s epic Ivanhoe.
  • Charlie (Weasley) – Charlie is a diminutive of Charles, which means “manly” and “strong.”
  • Cho ChangCho is Japanese for “butterfly” and in Chinese means “autumn.” Chang is Chinese for “free” or “unhindered.” In Chinese, chou chang means “melancholy.”
  • Cole, Mrs. – Similar to the role she plays as head of Tom Riddle’s orphanage in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, in Jane Austen’s Emma, there is a character named Mrs. Cole whose character is much the same. Emma is one of J.K. Rowling’s favorite books.
  • Colin (Creevey) – “Colin” means “youth, child, or victor.” It also means “young dog,” which fits his devotion to Harry.
  • Cormac (McLaggan) – “Cormac” is of Irish (Gaelic) origin, meaning “charioteer,” and it also means “son of defilement.” Cormac was the son of a king in Celtic legend. He was on a mission when he was put under a spell by a jealous lover of one of his competitors. Funny how Hermione puts Cormac under a spell during Quidditch tryouts so that Ron can get on the team.
  • Cornelius – See Lucius (Malfoy).
  • Creevey – Creevey is a common surname of Irish origin, meaning “prolific” – possibly a reference to the Creevey brothers’ persistence or from creeve (“to burst”), suggesting the Creevey brothers’ excitability.
  • Crookshanks – “Crook” comes from “crooked,” meaning “bent or not straight,” and a shank is a “leg or a leg-like part.” J.K. Rowling said herself that she gave Hermione’s cat “bandy-legs,” and Crookshanks is often described as being “bow-legged.”
  • Cuthbert (Binns) – Cuthbert is an unusual first name but a common surname. Derived from the Olde English name Cuthbeorht, the name is composed of the elements cuth, meaning “famous, well known,” and beorht, meaning “bright.” Saint Cuthbert is regarded as the patron saint of Northern England.
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D
  • Dedalus (Diggle) – Daedalus was a famous Athenian inventor from Greek mythology who built the Labyrinth for King Minos and helped make wings for himself and his son, Icarus, among other things. Read more about Daedalus here.
  • Demelza (Robbins) – Demelza House is Daniel Radcliffe’s favorite charity.
  • Diggory – This could be an allusion to Digory Kirke, a character from The Chronicles of Narnia, specifically The Magician’s Nephew. He grew up to be the professor in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. This character had a strong sense of right and wrong, was loyal to his friends, kept his promises, and loved his mother.
  • Dobby – “Dobby” means “a fatuous or foolish person.” It is also a weave of cloth that is durable and natural looking. Finer stores still sell shirts made of dobby weave.
  • Dolohov – This Death Eater shares the name of a trouble-making character in Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace.
  • Dolores (Umbridge) – This name of Latin origin means “lady of sorrows or pain” (psychological or physical). In Greek, doleros means “deceitful.” In Spanish, dolor means “pain.”
  • Draco (Malfoy) – Draco is a constellation that looks like a dragon but is a snake. In Latin, draco means “dragon.” There was also a Greek ruler named Draco who developed a system of severe punishments for the smallest of crimes. “Draconian” means “harsh or cruel.” In Romanian, drac means “devil.”
  • Dudley (Dursley) – Dudly is an aristocratic surname used as a first name since the 19th century. It is also a town in the West Midlands of England.
  • Dumbledore – In Old English, this name means “bumblebee.” J.K. Rowling has said that she chose this name because she imagined Dumbledore walking around the castle, humming to himself.
  • Dursley – Dursley is the name of a town near J.K. Rowling’s birthplace.
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E
  • Elphias Doge – Doge was the title of the ruler of Venice from the 8th to 18th centuries. Corno, meaning “horn” in Italian, was the cap worn by the doge as a symbol, which is mentioned when Mad-Eye Moody shows Harry the photo of the Order: “Elphias Doge, you’ve met him, I’d forgotten he used to wear that stupid hat” (OotP 9). Also, Magus Elphias Levi was a French occultist from the 19th century.
  • Errol – In Old English, this means “wanderer.” This accurately describes the Weasley owl, who always seems to get off track when delivering the post.
  • Evans – Evans is a Celtic name that means “young warrior.”
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F
  • Fawkes – Guy Fawkes was an English Catholic who, in 1605, tried to blow up the House of Parliament as an act of rebellion against the new Protestant government. In England, November 5 is now known as Guy Fawkes Day (or Bonfire Night), where Guy Fawkes is burned in effigy. Every year, he is resurrected to burn again. It can also be noted that he is known as one of the most infamous traitors in English history.
  • Fenrir (Greyback) – Fenrir, or Fenris, in Norse mythology is a gigantic and terrible monster in the shape of a wolf. He is the eldest child of Loki and the giantess Angrboda. The gods learned of a prophecy that stated that the wolf and his family would one day be responsible for the destruction of the world. They caught the wolf and locked him in a cage, bound in chains made by dwarves. Fenrir then requested that one of the gods put their hand in his mouth before he was chained as a sign of good faith. Tyr, the god of war and justice, did, and his hand was bitten off. According to the myth, in the final battle, Fenrir will escape from his bindings and eat Odin, and Odin’s son Vidar will kill him by stabbing him in the heart or ripping his jaws apart. Other stories claim Fenrir will be killed by Vidar’s iron boot. Also, the evil wolf captain serving the White Witch in C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe was named Fenris Ulf.
  • Fifi LaFolle – The author of Enchanting Encounters, la folle translates to “the insane one.” This seems fitting since she’s claimed to have meetings with “other beings.”
  • Figg – “Fig” means “not literal,” and a fig leaf is something that conceals or camouflages. Arabella Figg keeps her identity a secret from Harry until Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and is able to conceal herself in the world of Muggles.
  • Filch – This verb means “to steal.”
  • Filius (Flitwick) – In Latin, filius means “son.” This could perhaps explain why Flitwick is such a short individual.
  • Firenze – Firenze is the Italian name for the city of Florence. Florence was the same city that the famous astronomer Galileo lived in for most of his life. In fact, he died in his estate while serving out his life-long house arrest issued by the Inquisition after they found him guilty of heresy.
  • Fleur Delacour – Her full name means “flower of the court” in French. It could also be a clever play on the similar French word coeur, meaning “heart” (Veela captivate men’s hearts).
  • Flitwick – Flitwick is a town in England. It could also be interpeted as the movement of a wand – “flit” (to move quickly from one spot to another) and “wick” (a stick-shaped cord of woven fibers).
  • Florean FortescueFlorean means “flower” in Latin. Adrian Fortescue was a martyr of the Catholic Church and cousin to Anne Boleyn. He was executed for disagreeing with Henry VII’s changes to church law.
  • Fluffy – Cerberus, the three-headed dog, was the guardian of the underworld in Greek mythology. Orpheus got past Cerberus by lulling it to sleep with music. You get past Fluffy by lulling him to sleep with music. The name “Fluffy” itself is just another way of J.K. Rowling showing how Hagrid does not view certain magical creatures and beasts as dangerous.
  • Fudge – “Fudge,” besides being a delicious chocolate confection, can mean “nonsense.” As a verb, it means “to evade” or “to falsify.” It also means “to perform in an incomplete but marginally acceptable way.” We’ve seen the former Minister of Magic fudge a story many times during the series.
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G
  • Gabrielle (Delacour) – In Hebrew, gabrielle means “hero of God.”
  • Gaunt – This adjective means “to be very skinny” or “to have a bony body,” especially because of hunger, disease, or cold.
  • Gellert (Grindelwald) – Gellert is the Hungarian variant of Gerard, which comes from the Germanic ger, “spear,” and hard, “brave, hardy.” Saint Gellert was an Italian-born missionary and martyr who worked in Hungary.
  • Gilderoy (Lockhart) – Gilderoy is a variant of the Irish Gaelic name Gilroy, meaning “son of the red-headed.” It was also the name of a famous highwayman of ballad fame who was reputedly handsome. Meaning may also be found in the word “gilded,” which is defined as “having a pleasing, showy appearance, which covers something of little worth.” This is very fitting considering Gilderoy’s supposed good looks covered up the truth about his inability to function as a powerful wizard. The name Roy is Old French for “regal one” or “king.”
  • Ginny (Weasley) – Ginevra is the Italian variant of the name Juniper, as in evergreen tree. There is an old myth about a bride named Ginevra who playfully hid in a trunk on her wedding day. The lid fell, burying her alive, and eventually, her skeleton was discovered. This could relate to Ginny being taken into the Chamber of Secrets, where her “skeleton would lie forever.” However, J.K. Rowling has also said that she picked the name because she wanted something different and special for the only Weasley girl.
  • Godric (Gryffindor) – Derived from the Old English god combined with ric, meaning “power” and “rule,” this name means “power of god.” The name became commonly used after the Norman conquest. Godric of Finchale is an Anglo-Saxon saint.
  • Granger – This name is possibly from the Granger movement in the 1800s, a movement to improve the lives of farmers. It could be a connection to Hermione’s desire to start SPEW, a movement to improve the lives of house-elves. A “granger” was also the name for a very common person, just like Hermione’s parents. Granger is the name of a character from the book Fahrenheit 451. He is the leader of a group of intellectuals known as the Book People, whose goal is the preservation of literature in the face of their government’s efforts to burn and destroy all books.
  • Greyback – Similar to the term “silverback,” this word is used for the dominant male in a band of gorillas. We all know Fenrir Greyback is the dominant werewolf in the wizarding world.
  • Grindelwald – This name was perhaps derived from the Anglo-Saxon epic Beowulf character Grendel, the demon. (Many theories in which the Dark wizard Grindelwald is compared to Hitler have been explored by Harry Potter fans in the past, especially since the date of his defeat, 1945, is the same as the end of WWII.) Grindelwald is the name of a beautiful village in the mountains of Bernese Oberaland, Switzerland, and is also the name of a well-known hotel chain in Germany.
  • Grubbly-Plank, Wilhelmina – The first part of the name, “grubbly,” is very likely from the English word “grubble,” which means “to grope” or “to feel about in the dark.” Considering Professor Grubbly-Plank was forever standing in for a disappearing Hagrid, she may have often felt as if she were kept in the dark. The second part of her surname, “plank,” can easily refer to a piece of wood, but it could also mean “something to cling to for support.” As a stand-in teacher, she was just that.
  • Gryffindor – A griffin is a creature in mythology with the body of a lion and the head of an eagle. Also known in Greek mythology as the “gryphon,” it was the protector of a god’s gold from mortal men. In Greek, gryphon means “protector of wealth.” In French, d’or means “of gold,” one of the Gryffindor House colors. The griffin is fitting, considering lions are characterized as brave and courageous and eagles are described as being noble birds, all traits of Gryffindor House.
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H
  • Hagrid – J.K. Rowling said, “Hagrid is also another old English word meaning if you were hagrid… you’d had a bad night. Hagrid’s a big drinker. He has a lot of bad nights.” Grid was a Norse giantess known for having a terrible temper. “Ha” is a variant of the Old West Norse name element “half.” So “Hagrid” may just mean “half-grid” or more notably, “half-giant.” “Haggard” can also mean “appearing worn and exhausted, gaunt,” “wild or distraught in appearance,” and “a disheveled individual.” From The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy, the Old English term hag-rid means “indigestion” and is found in the exact same paragraph as “Dumbledore.” Coincidence?
  • Hannah (Abbott) – This name means “grace” in Hebrew.
  • Harry (Potter) – Harry is J.K. Rowling’s favorite boy name. The name Harry is of Anglo-Saxon origin and means “power.” There was also a magician named Harry Houdini in the 1900s.
  • Hedwig – Hedwig was the Saint of Orphans who lived in Germany in the 13th and 14th centuries. The name also means “refuge in battle” and was mentioned in Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.
  • Hepzibah (Smith) – The name comes from the Hebrew cheftzibah, which, literally translated, means “my desire is for it” or “my will is in it.” In Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The House of the Seven Gables, there is an old spouse called Hepzibah Pyncheon. She has a remarkable lineage that she is aware of, and she shows her guest and cousin Phoebe some teaspoons bearing the family coat of arms as well as antique china cups that belonged to one of Phoebe’s ancestors. Also, at the beginning, we see old Hepzibah trying to beautify herself to no avail. This is almost identical to the Hepzibah Smith in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and her actions before and during her visit with Tom Riddle.
  • Hermes – Hermes was the Greek messenger and god of merchants, shepherds, thieves, and guardian of the roads.
  • Hermione (Granger) – This name means “well born,” “earthy,” or “stone” and refers to peony-type flowers. It is the feminine version of Hermes. In Greek mythology, she was often known as the patron saint of high magic (no surprise our Hermione is so gifted). Hermione was the daughter of Helen of Troy and King Menelaus of Sparta. In The Aeneid, Hermione was kidnapped by Pyrrhus, but her loving Orestes came and murdered Pyrrhus while he was praying. Hermione is also a character in Shakespeare’s A Winter’s Tale. The character is accused of adultery and dies before the intermission. Toward the end of the play, she is brought out as a statue and finally returns to life at the finale. Could this be a possible connection to her petrification in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets?
  • Hestia (Jones) – In Greek mythology, Hestia was the goddess of the hearth and domestic activity.
  • Horace (Slughorn) – The English and French form of Horatius, this Roman family name is possibly derived from the Latin hora, meaning “hour, time, and season.” A famous bearer was Quintus Horatius Flaccus, a Roman lyric poet in the first century BC. Horace’s poems often celebrated the pleasure found in good food, drink, and spending time with congenial companions – sounds like Slughorn.
  • Hugo (Weasley) – Of Germanic origin, this name means “bright in mind or spirit.”
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I - J - K
  • Inigo Imago – Inigo is the author of The Dream Oracle, a Divination textbook. Inigo is a male name meaning “ardent or fiery,” and “Imago” means “image.” Imago Therapy is also a psychoanalytic technique used for helping bring out meaning from the subconscious.
  • Irma (Pince) – Irma is the German short form of names beginning with the Germanic element ermen, which means “whole, universal.” It is also related to the name Emma, which is one of J.K. Rowling’s favorite books.
  • James (Potter) – “James” means “supplanter.” To supplant is “to take the place of, or substitute, especially through intrigue or underhanded tactics.” James was also an apostle of Jesus.
  • Joseph Wronski – In the Harry Potter series, Joseph Wronski was the Polish Seeker for which the Quidditch move, the Wronski Feint, is named. In the Muggle world, Josef Wronski was a Polish mathematician born in 1778 who was widely regarded as an eccentric by the greater academic community due to his work on perpetual motion machines, machines intended to predict the future, and attempting to square the circle (making a square and a circle have the same area using only a compass and a straight edge, which was later proven to be impossible). Wronski’s most famous and lasting contribution to mathematics was the Wronskian, a function used in linear algebra and differential equations. It can be found in many textbooks today.
  • Kreacher – This is reminiscent of the German Kriecher, derived from the verb kriechen, meaning “to creep, crawl, cringe, grovel, tuckle, or fawn upon,” and is also a play on the word “creature.”
  • Krum – In Swedish and Norwegian, krum means “curved,” which is interesting considering how he is described as being uncoordinated on land (as opposed to in the air) and having a curved nose. A famous Bulgarian tsar by this name circa 800 AD was known for killing the Byzantine emperor and making a goblet out of his skull.
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L
  • Lestrange – To be estranged means “to be removed from society.” In French, étrange means “strange” or “weird.”
  • Libatius (Borge) – Libatius Borge was the author of Advanced Potion-Making. A libation is a sacrifice to the gods. In Homer’s The Odyssey, among other Greek myths, it is used to bring up ghosts from the Underworld. After drinking the potion, they are then able to speak.
  • Lily (Potter) – A lily is a flower symbolizing purity and innocence. It is the flower commonly used during the Easter holiday and symbolizes immortality. The bulb decays in the ground, and from it, new life is released. It is Lily who gives her life so that Harry can keep on living.
  • Lockhart – As coincidental as the following information may be, J.K. Rowling stated in a radio interview with BBC 4 that she found the name Lockhart on a war memorial. Lockhart is a world-renowned cognitive psychologist whose particular interest is in the study of memory and levels of processing. He did a lot of research in this area in the late 1970s. The is the name of a town in Australia near Wagga Wagga (“Compose a poem about my defeat of the Wagga Wagga Werewolf“?) and is a possible play on words since he seems to have so many women’s hearts locked on him.
  • Longbottom – The name itself is considered quite humorous, but “bottom” is an old word for “staying power.” This seems to accurately fit Neville’s personality and overall devotion to Harry.
  • Lucius (Malfoy) – In Latin, the meaning of the name Lucius is “light.” A character in Shakespeare’s play Julius Casesar, Lucius is the servant of Brutus, the leader of the conspirators who plot against and assassinate Caesar. There is a possible connection to the similar-sounding “Lucifer” (the devil). “Lucifer” means “light-bearer.” In Romanian, lucios means “shiny,” a possible connection to his desire for the extravagant and valuable. A Roman general named Lucius Cornelius Sulla was usurped by the people of Rome but defeated them and seized control as a dictator. After doing so, he removed most of the popular say in the government and returned it to the Senate of Rome, which controlled the people, and founded a firm Republic.
  • Ludo (Bagman)Ludo is a Latin word meaning “I play.” It seems fitting since Ludo Bagman likes to “play his luck” by betting on sports and is the former head of the Department of Magical Games and Sports. He was also a professional Quidditch player for the Wimbourne Wasps.
  • Luna (Lovegood)Luna means “moon” in Italian, Latin, Romanian, and Spanish. Luna was also the Roman goddess of the moon. In Romanian, it also translates to “month.” The word “lunatic” is also derived from the word “lunar” since it was believed in old times that strange or odd behavior was caused by the moon. “Luna” is a term for “silver” in alchemy.
  • LupinLupus is the Latin word for “wolf.” Canis lupus is the scientific name for wolf. To be described as “lupine” means “resembling a wolf.”
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M
  • Malfoy – In Latin, malus means “bad,” and mal means “pale.” Mal foi means “bad faith, an act with bad intentions, or a malicious act” in French. Mal de foi means “loss of faith.” The similar French phrase mal fait can be interpreted as “badly made” or “evil deeds.” In Portuguese (J.K. Rowling taught English in Portugal for a few years), foi mal means “he/she/it was bad.” In Arthurian legends, Lancelot (King Arthur’s greatest knight and his betrayer) is sometimes called “Le Chevallier Mal Fait” (the mal fait knight). The English word “foy” means “a farewell feast, drink, or gift, as at a wedding.”
  • Marietta (Edgecombe) – This name means “little bitter.”
  • Marvolo (Gaunt) – This term implies “marvelous” but also contains the Latin root volo, meaning “I wish, want, will, ordain, suppose, maintain that, be willing, to mean, signify, or denote.” Volo also means “to fly, speed, or move rapidly.” Tom Riddle can be seen as a character who wants to achieve greatness very quickly. Marvolo was perhaps inspired by Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night character Malviolo. He was a Puritan who could not have fun and sought to stop the other servants from enjoying themselves. He is “sick with self-love” and dreams of getting power. He thinks he is better than the others because he believes he is “pure.” He is constantly the subject of practical jokes. It is here where the quote “Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them” comes from. At the end of the play, he swears revenge on the lot of them.
  • Mason – The Masons visit the Dursleys in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. A mason is an extremely skilled builder.
  • McDonald, Natalie – In Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Chapter 12), a girl named Natalie McDonald is sorted into Gryffindor. She was named after a real girl who was suffering from a terminal illness. She wrote J.K. Rowling a letter. J.K. Rowling wrote back to Natalie, and her letter included an outline of Goblet of Fire so that if Natalie died, she would know how the book went. Unfortunately, the letter was too late. In memory of Natalie McDonald, J.K. Rowling included her name in Goblet of Fire.
  • McGonagall, Minerva – The name is Scottish (also written as McGonigle or McGonegal) and is from the Celtic name Conegal, which means “the bravest.” The “Mc” in McGonagall means “son of.” The bravery fits well with her first name, Minerva, the goddess of wisdom and war.
  • Merope (Gaunt) – This name means “bee-eater” and also translates to “eloquent” and “mortal.” Meropia is a condition of partial blindess. The name Merope is used numerous times in Greek mythology. Additionally, Merope was a member of the Pleiades sisters (nymphs) and was shamed eternally for marrying a mortal (Sisyphus). Since her parents were angered, they made her star the weakest in the Pleiades constellation. Compare this to Merope Gaunt, a witch shamed for marrying a Muggle. A second Merope in Greek mythology is one of the Heliades, or daughters of Helios. The Heliades were turned into poplar trees and their tears turned to amber by Helios himself. A third Merope was the daughter of King Oenopion who was wooed by Orion, apparently with little success.
  • Millicent (Bulstrode) – Millicent is derived from the Norman French name Melisende, which was itself derived from the Germanic name Amalaswinth. It is composed of the Germanic elements amal, meaning “to work or labor,” and swinth, meaning “strength.” This was the name of a daughter of Charlemagne. Her name also means “ambitious.”
  • Minerva (McGonagall) – Minerva is the Roman counterpart of the Greek goddess named Athena. Both women in their respective mythologies represent war, handicraft, and practical reason or wisdom.
  • Moody – In Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Blithedale Romance, there is a character called Moodie who wears a patch over one of his eyes. There is, of course, the traditional meaning of “moody,” which simply means to “not be in a good mood.”
  • Morfin (Gaunt) – This name was probably taken from Celtic myth. Morfan was the son of the Celtic fertility god Ceridwen and was a fearsome warrior. Morfan fought with King Arthur in his last battle with Carlan. At first, none of Sir Mordred’s men would fight against Morfan because he was so ugly that they believed he might be the devil.
  • Mundungus (Fletcher) – “Mundungus” means “stinking tobacco” and is very similar to the word mondongo, which is Spanish for “tripe,” part of a cow’s stomach.
  • Myrtle, Moaning – Myrtle is a type of evergreen shrub that is often overlooked because of its plainness.
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N
  • Nagini – In Urdu, the word nagin means “female snake.” In Sanskrit and the ancient Buddhist language of Pāli, the word nāga refers to a great deity or entity that takes the shape of a large snake, and the female nāga is called a nāgini. In some Eastern religions, such as Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism, and Sikhism, the nāga is more specifically manifested as a king cobra. The name may also be a reference to Rudyard Kipling’s cobra character Nagaina in The Jungle Book, referred to as “Nagini” in some translations.
  • Narcissa (Malfoy) – “Narcissism” means “the excessive love of oneself.” In Greek mythology, Narcissus was a man who believed himself to be the most handsome man on the planet. He died of grief because he could not get love from his reflection in the water. When he was buried, a flower bloomed on his grave – a narcissus. Narcissa is often described as having a look like a nasty smell has been placed under her nose. Is this due to the nasty smell of the narcissus flower?
  • Neville (Longbottom)Neville is Old French for “from the new farmland.”
  • Nicolas Flamel – Nicolas Flamel was a real alchemist and supposedly created the philosopher’s stone. The tale was that he had spent decades of his life trying to create the philosopher’s stone, which could turn any metal into gold and unlock the secrets to immortality, but he could not figure it out.
  • Nigellus – Nigellus might be derived from the Latin word niger, which means “black, dark, and unlucky.” Nigellus is preclassical and medieval Latin, meaning “somewhat black.”
  • Norris, Mrs. – Mrs. Norris is a character in Mansfield Park by Jane Austen, one of J.K. Rowling’s favorite authors. The character is a busybody, always into everyone’s business and trying to run things the way she wants to even though she’s not really in a position of power. This definitely sounds like Filch’s favorite feline.
  • Nymphadora (Tonks) – “Nymphadora” translates to “gift of the nymphs.” A nymph in Greek mythology refers to “a member of a group of female ‘spirits’ found in different types of nature.” They are further classified by where they were found. They also have the ability to change shape, a very clear connection to Tonks’s own ability to shapeshift. In Latin, nympha translates to “bride” and nymphae to “nymphs.”
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O
  • Olympe Maxime – In French, olympe means “Olympus,” referring to Mount Olympus, the home of the gods in ancient Greece. Maxime could come from the French maxim, meaning “a succinct formulation of some fundamental principle or rule of conduct,” which is very appropriate for a headmistress. Both names give a sense of extreme size, with “maxime” also sounding like the word “maximum,” meaning “the largest in size.”
  • Orion (Black) – Sirius’s father, Orion, was named after Orion the Hunter, which is a constellation that rules the heavens from late fall to early spring with his hunting dogs (Canis Major, whose brightest star is Sirius, and Canis Minor) at his feet. His name means “dweller of the mountain,” and he is known for his prowess as a hunter and lover. Bellatrix forms one corner of the Orion constellation. In Greek mythology, Orion was in love with Merope. He was killed when he stepped on Scorpio the scorpion.
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P
  • Padfoot – This is a Yorkshire name for a large phantom black dog. It was as big as a calf and haunted lonely roads.
  • Padma (Patil)Padma means “lotus” in Sanskrit. In Hindu myth, this was another name of both the hero Rama and the goddess Lakshmi.
  • Pansy (Parkinson) – A pansy is a type of flower, derived from the Old French pensée, which means “thought.”
  • Parvati (Patil) – Parvati is a Hindu goddess married to the Hindu god Shiva the Destroyer. She gave birth to a baby boy named Ganesh, whom Shiva beheaded but replaced the old head with an elephant head after Parvati reamed him out. She was the sister of the goddess of the Ganges, Padma. There was a character named “Parvati the Witch” in Salman Rushdie’s novel Midnight’s Children, in which the names “Padma” and “Patil” were also significant. Parvati means “daughter of the mountain.”
  • Patil – The Patil surname is quite common in the state of Maharashtra in India. It is pronounced “PAH-till” and is completely different from “Patel,” other than them both being Indian surnames.
  • Peeves – “Peeve” means “little devil” or “something that gets on your nerves” (like a pet peeve).
  • Percival (Dumbledore) – Percival was one of the legendary Knights of the Round Table. The name itself means “pierces the veil,” “pierces the valley,” or “destroyer.” It also translates to “bringer of peace” and “from the pear tree.”
  • Perenelle (Flamel) – The wife of the famous inventor of the philosopher’s stone, Nicolas Flamel, “Perenelle” refers to “perennial,” meaning “continuing without interruption.” This is a very appropriate name for the wife of a man who created a stone of immortality.
  • Pettigrew – Pettigrew could be interpreted two ways: “petty” + “grew,” meaning he grew into a petty (narrow-minded) person, or “pet” + “I” + “grew,” foreshadowing the incident where Peter grew out of his rat form and back into a man in the Shrieking Shack. The name could also be from the French petit gros, or “little, fat person.”
  • Petunia (Dursley) – A petunia is a trumpet-shaped flower with white or purple blossoms. The petunia symbolizes anger and resentment.
  • Phineas (Nigellus Black) – In Hebrew, this means “serpent’s mouth” or “loudmouth.” In the Old Testament, Phineas kills an Israelite man for being in love with a woman who belongs to another ethnic group. For more, see Andromeda (Tonks).
  • Pigwidgeon – “Pigwidgin” is a term that means “a small fairy” and later, anything that was small. A widgeon is kind of duck. Pigwidgeon is the name of a mischievous fairy in the poems of Michael Drayton.
  • Pince, IrmaPincer is French for “to pinch.” Pince-nez is a style of glasses with no side earpieces, just lenses and their frames. They clip on the bridge of the nose. These type of eyeglasses are sometimes seen on stern or bookish people in literature, movies, and television.
  • Pius (Thicknesse) – From the Latin word pius, the meaning of which is similar to the English “pious,” from “piety,” meaning a desire and willingness to perform religious duties. The name is most commonly associated with popes, 12 of whom (including three in the 20th century and seven in the last 250 years) have taken the name Pius.
  • Pomfrey, Poppy – “Pomfrey” sounds like “comfrey,” a plant in the borage family that can be made into a soothing salve. Pomfrey cakes are small, sweet lozenges made from the roots of the licorice plant. Licorice also has been a medicinal ingredient for hundreds of years.
  • Pomona (Sprout) – Pomona is the name of the Roman goddess of fruitful abundance. According to Edith Hamilton’s book Mythology, “She cared for fruits and orchards and that was all she cared for. Her delight was in pruning and grafting and everything that belongs to the gardener’s art. She shut herself away from men, alone with her beloved trees, and let no wooer come near her.
  • Poppy (Pomfrey) – A poppy plant can be used to make opium and other drugs. It makes sense that the healer at Hogwarts would have a name related to a drug so often used for medicinal purposes.
  • Potter – Potter is a name J.K. Rowling has always been fond of since childhood. “Potter’s field” is often the name given to a cemetery where a city or town buries those who have gone unclaimed or unwanted (a community’s orphans). A potter’s field is also considered a cursed land because Judas hanged himself in one.
  • Prongs – “Prong” means “a slender pointed or projecting part” such as a point of an antler, clearly referring to the stag that represents Harry Potter’s Patronus and James Potter’s Animagus form.
  • Puddifoot, Madam – The word “puddifoot,” from the word “puddy,” meaning “round-bellied” or “fat,” is a name for someone shaped like a barrel. Those who are in love are often said to be “weak in the knees,” so it is not a far stretch to say they have “puddy feet.” Madam Puddifoot’s shop is often frequented by young couples.
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Q
  • Quirinus (Quirrell) – The name Quirinus is derived from the words “co” and “viri,” meaning “of two men.” Religious historians have argued that Quirinus and Romulus were originally the same divine entity that was split into a founder/hero and a god when Roman religion became de-mythicized. Furthermore, there is a connection between Quirinus and Janus Quirinus, the two-faced god. Janus was the god of both beginnings and endings and was depicted as having one face looking forward while the other watched behind, much like our dear Professor Quirrell.
  • Quirrell – This name was perhaps derived from the word “quarrel,” which means “an angry dispute or argument.” It also sounds like “squirrel,” a nervous, nut-eating rodent that lives in trees. The professor acted like a scared, shaky man to cover up his allegiance to Voldemort. The name could also be from “querulous” meaning “full of doubts and questions.”
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R
  • Rabastan (Lestrange) – “Rastaban” means “serpent’s head,” which is not very surprising for a Death Eater. Rabastan is also a star in the constellation Beta Draconis.
  • Ravenclaw – Ravens are known to be smart birds, so it makes sense that Ravenclaws are known as wise, quick learners.
  • Regulus (Black) – Regulus is the name of the brightest star in the Alpha Leo constellation. Although this might seem odd at first, considering he was not a Gryffindor, lions in mythology are often used to symbolize those fierce or pure of heart (pure-blood?). The name means “prince” and “heart of the lion.” During the First Punic War (264–242 BC), the Roman general Regulus was captured by the Carthaginians. He traveled to Rome with a party of Carthaginian ambassadors to help secure terms of peace, agreeing to return to Carthage to face death if he failed to gain acceptance of the Carthaginian terms. Once in Rome, however, Regulus urged the Senate to reject those terms; he returned to Carthage, where he was tortured and executed. Regulus Black quite possibly suffered a similar fate at the hands of Voldemort after trying to back out of being a Death Eater.
  • Remus (Lupin) – Remus was the twin brother of Romulus (founder of Rome). The King sent the two twin babies out to a river and tried to drown them, but a female wolf, instead of killing them, nursed them after finding the two boys. Remus was later killed by Romulus.
  • Riddle – A riddle is a form of word puzzle designed to test someone’s ingenuity in arriving at its solution. Riddles were used as a way to both puzzle the audience and teach them to understand poetic language.
  • Rodolphus (Lestrange) – This is a variation of the name Ralph. It is of Old English origins and means “wolf counsel.”
  • Ron (Weasley) – He is the advisor to the King, which is interesting when taken in conjunction with Arthur. Comparisons can be made here between Ron being an advisor to Harry on all of his choices and adventures. Both Ron and Hermione listen to Harry’s plan and then either agree with or tell them why they think his idea is not a good one.
  • Ronan – Ronan was an Irish saint. “Ronin” was a name given to a masterless samurai, a wanderer during the feudal period of Japan, which lasted from 1185 to 1868. Ronins were often the targets of humiliation and satires.
  • Rose (Weasley) – Originally, this was a Norman form of a Germanic name, which was composed of the elements hrod, “fame,” and heid, “kind, sort, type.” It was introduced to England by the Normans in the form Roese or Rohese. From an early date, it was associated with the word for the fragrant flower rose (derived from Latin rosa). When the name was revived in the 19th century, it was probably with the flower in mind.
  • Rosmerta, Madam – In Gaulish Celtic mythology, Rosmerta was the goddess of fire, warmth, and abundance.
  • Rowena (Ravenclaw)Rowena is Old English for “red hair,” which ties in with J.K. Rowling’s fascination for those with red hair. It means “rugged” in Gaelic. In Welsh poetry, Rowena is named “mother of the nation,” which could link to her being a founder of Hogwarts. She also is another character whose name surfaces in Ivanhoe.
  • Rubeus (Hagrid) – “Rubeus” means “red.” Ruber is also Latin for “red” and can mean “ruddy” – a perfect representation of our favorite gamekeeper.
  • Rufus (Scrimgeour)Rufus is Latin for “red-haired.”
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S
  • Salazar (Slytherin) – António de Oliveira Salazar was the fascist dictator in Portugal at the same time as Mussolini, Franco, and Hitler. He had the same extremist ideology as the others, exercised great prejudice, and ruled using fear.
  • SanguiniSanguis is the Latin word for “blood.” “Sanguinary” means “blood-thirsty,” so this is the perfect name for a vampire.
  • Scamander, Newt – Scamander was the son of Andromache and Hector. It sounds like “salamander,” and a newt is kind of salamander.
  • Scorpius (Malfoy) – Like Draco, Scorpius is a star constellation in the Southern Hemisphere. It is also closely related to the word “scorpion,” which refers to any of numerous arachnids of the order Scorpiones, widely distributed in warmer parts of the world, having a long, narrow, segmented tail that terminates in a venomous sting.
  • Scrimgeour – There is a possible connection to this Scottish Scrimgeour family crest since he so resembles a lion. A scrim is a curtain that nothing can be seen behind when there is light in the front. When the curtain is lit from behind, anything behind the curtain can be seen. Is the Minister hiding something? He is a possible relation to Brutus Scrimgeour, the author of A Beater’s Bible and the writer of the intro to Quidditch Through the Ages.
  • Septima (Vector) – “Septima” most likely comes directly from the Latin septima, which translates to “the seventh” (female form). Since 7 is the most powerful magical number, and Arithmancy deals with the numbers appearing in magic, this name suits the character well.
  • Severus (Snape) – “Sever” means “to cut off.” Snape appears to have “cut off” his ties with the Dark Lord through the first five books and then with Dumbledore and the Order of the Phoenix in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. “Severe” means “cruel, strict” – two characteristics that accurately describe the Potions professor. It sounds very similiar to the Latin word servus, meaning “servant.” Is he still a servant of Voldemort’s? In ancient history, Lucius Septimius Severus restored stability to the Roman Empire after the tumultuous reign of Emperor Commodus (see Albus (Dumbledore)) and the civil wars that erupted in the wake of Commodus’s murder. The name Severus is also mentioned in Mansfield Park by Jane Austen, one of J.K. Rowling’s favorite books. Additionally, a Saint Severus of Alexandria (Egypt) was martyred along with a Saint Peter and a Saint Lucius for publicly proclaiming the faith around 309 AD.
  • Shacklebolt – As an Auror, Kingsley is responsible for sending evil wizards to Azkaban. Both “shackle” and “bolt” refer to means of imprisonment.
  • Shunpike – A shunpike is a road people use to avoid paying a toll or fare.
  • Sinistra, Aurora – The Latin sinister means “on the left.” In ancient cultures (such as the Babylonians), the left side was often associated with evil, black magic, or bad luck. The left side of the brain is responsible for both logic and analysis – important qualities for astronomy.
  • Sirius (Black) – Sirius was named after the star Sirius, which is also known as the Dog Star or Great Dog (Canis Major). It is the brightest star in the sky, often called “scorching,” which quite suits his personality. In Egyptian mythology, the star Sirius is where it was believed the souls of humans traveled to after death. The star had such importance that all the temples were built to align with its path across the sky. Archaeologists have discovered that long tunnels or airshafts in the Great Pyramid make the stars visible in the daytime and that the view is the part of the sky where Sirius appears. It is thought that the shafts were meant to guide one’s soul to Sirius. This is very interesting considering the manner in which Sirius died.
  • Skeeter – “Skeeter” is short for “mosquito.” As most people can attest, mosquitoes are among the most annoying insects on this planet.
  • Slytherin – This word sounds like “slither,” as in “to slither like a snake.” It is no coincidence that Slytherin House is represented by a snake. Salazar Slytherin was also a Parselmouth (name for those who can speak to snakes). Slytherins are known to be “sly” individuals, and snakes are known to be very “sly” creatures.
  • Smith – Smith is the most common surname, derived from the Anglo-Saxon smitan, meaning “to smite” or “to strike.”
  • Snape – Snape is a town in England, and the name was also based on a person whom J.K. Rowling knew.
  • Sprout, Pomona – “To sprout” means “to spring up and grow,” making this a suitable name for an Herbology teacher.
  • Susan (Bones) – Susan is the short form of Susannah, derived from the Hebrew name Shoshana, meaning “lily or rose.”
  • Sybill (Trelawney) – Sybill comes from the Sibyls, who were famous prophets in ancient mythology. Their prophecies were often not decipherable until an event had come to pass. In Virgil’s Aeneid, the Sibyl was responsible for leading Aeneas to the Underworld.
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T
  • Thicknesse – This word may mean “thick-tongue” from the Proto-Germanic word nessye (or nessieh), meaning “tongue.” Otherwise, it may simply be a derivation of the “ness” place name, meaning a cape or headline. It is not a common surname.
  • Tom Marvolo Riddle – If you rearrange the letters, it spells “I am Lord Voldemort.” The name “Tom” means “twin.”
  • Tonks – “Tonk” means “a fool or an idiot,” “a powerful hit or stroke,” and “to strike.” This would definitely relate to Tonks’s clumsiness.
  • Trelawney – Trelawney is a Cornish family tracing back to Saxon days. In 1668, Jonathan Trelawney became Dean of St. Buryan, then Bishop of Rochester, and was one of the seven bishops imprisoned in the Tower of London. He was one of the subjects of the great Cornish song “The Song of the Western Men,” also known as “Trelawny,” which is the Cornish national anthem. The name may additionally be a combination based primarily on the predatory “magician,” occult revivalist, and self-publicist Aleister Crowley. Trelawney is also an area in Cornwall, England.
  • Trevor – Trevor is from a surname originally meaning “big village,” from Welsh tref, meaning “village,” and mawr, meaning “large.”
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U
  • Umbridge – This term sounds like “umbrage,” which is “to take offense, to feel resentment.” She certainly makes most individuals around her feel this way. In Latin, umbra means “shadow, shade, or ghost” and can also be interpreted as “jealous or suspicious of another” or “standing in one’s light or way.” In this context, it can be used as shadowing or following other individuals – just how Umbridge does with the Ministry of Magic.
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V
  • Vane – This certainly comes from the English word “vain” because that’s exactly what Romilda comes across as in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.
  • Vector, Septima – A vector is a mathematical quantity completely specified by a magnitude and a direction.
  • Victoire (Weasley)Victoire means “victory” in French. This is also the female derivation of Victor.
  • Viktor (Krum) – Viktor means “victorious one,” which is appropriate for the best Seeker in the Quidditch World Cup.
  • Voldemort, Lord – In Swedish, mord means “murder.” In French, mort means “death.” If you translate each section of the name in French, vol de mort means “flight from death” (meaning escaping death). Also, in French, vol translates to “the act of stealing,” giving Voldemort’s name the alternate meaning “stealing from death.” In Norwegian and Danish, vold means “violence.” In Danish, volde means “to cause” and could be derived from the Latin valde, meaning “great, exceedingly, strongly, powerfully.” Using these definitions, Lord Voldemort’s name would then mean “excessive, great, or extreme death.”
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W
  • Walburga (Black) – Walburga means “fortress of the forest,” from the German Wald, meaning “forest,” and Burg, meaning “fortress.” St. Walpurga was the name of an eighth-century saint who did missionary work in Germany. Walburga is also another form of the word “Walpurgis” (as in the Knights of the Walpurgis) – J.K. Rowling’s original name for the Death Eaters. Walpurgis Night (May 1) was the night that witches reveled in.
  • Weasley – From J.K. Rowling’s site, weasels were known to have a bad reputation, especially in Ireland, as an unfortunate animal. J.K. Rowling said, “Ron was the only one of three major characters whose surname never changed; he has been ‘Weasley’ from start to finish. In Britain and Ireland the weasel has a bad reputation as an unfortunate, even malevolent, animal. However, since childhood I have had a great fondness for the family mustelidae; not so much malignant as maligned, in my opinion.” The Weasleys and the weasel both share red hair. The Weasleys live near Ottery St. Catchpole, and it is interesting that a family with the sound of “weasel” in their surname lives near a town that has “otter” in its name (an otter is a member of the weasel family). Also, in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, the group goes to Stoatshead Hill to take the Portkey to the Triwizard Tournament. A stoat is another relative of the weasel family.
  • Weird Sisters, The – The Weird Sisters were three witches in Shakespeare’s play Macbeth who could foresee the future and elicited evil in Macbeth by means of equivocation.
  • Wilhelmina (Grubbly-Plank) – In German, this name means “desire to protect.” This would explain why she teaches Care of Magical Creatures.
  • Witherwings – Withers are the place on a horse where the neck and shoulder muscles join. It is the peak at the top of the shoulders and the base of the neck and is the tallest point of the horse. It is where measurements are taken from. It is where the wings would grow from if a horse had them. “Wings” refers to the wings of an eagle. “To wither” also means “to lose freshness, vigor, or vitality.” It is suiting that Buckbeak’s name is changed to this after Sirius dies.
  • Wulfric – St. Wulfric was born in Bristol, the same town Hagrid flew over from Godric’s Hollow. He was described as a hermit, a worldly man, and he supposedly had the gift of prophecy. All of these attributes could also be applied to Dumbledore.
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X - Y - Z
  • Xenophilius (Lovegood) – “Xenophilia” means “love or affection for alien things or people,” which explains Xenophilius’s love for all things strange.
  • Zabini – “Zabini” is derived from the Sabine tribe.
  • Zacharias (Smith) – This is the Greek form of Zechariah, from the Hebrew name Zekaryah, which means “remembers God.” Zechariah was a prophet in the Old Testament and the father of John the Baptist in the New Testament, who was temporarily made dumb because of his disbelief.
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Events, Places, and Mottos
  • Azkaban – Azkaban sounds very similar to and its description is very much the same as the former Californian prison known as Alcatraz, located on an island in the San Francisco Bay.
  • Beauxbatons – This is French for “beautiful wands.” While we do realize this literally translates as “beautiful sticks” in French, the actual term for “magic wands” (baguettes magiques) sounds far less appealing.
  • Diagon Alley – “Diagonally” refers to “a straight line at a slanted angle,” so this is most likely a play on words.
  • Draco dormiens nunquam titillandus – This is the Hogwarts motto, and the accepted translation is “Never Tickle a Sleeping Dragon,” although the precise English version is actually “A Sleeping Dragon Must Never be Tickled.”
  • DurmstrangSturm und Drang is a German phrase colloquially translated into “storm and stress.” The literal translation is “storm and urge.” Sturm und Drang was a German literary movement including plays and other stories that were famous for their sense of foreboding and ill-fate. Their influence even reaches into modern musical theater, as in the title song of Little Shop of Horrors.
  • Grimmauld Place – This is most likely a play on words for a grim, old place.
  • Gringotts – According to J.K. Rowling, the famous bank comes from the word “ingot,” as a reference to “an ingot of gold.” She added the “Gr” to the beginning to make it sound more powerful.
  • Hog’s Head – In Old English, a hoggshead was a medium-sized barrel holding 54 gallons of ale. This is also similar to the Boar’s Head Tavern in Shakespeare’s Henry IV.
  • Knockturn Alley – “Nocturnal” means “of or relating to the night.” This is the perfect name for a place where customers interested in the Dark Arts would shop.
  • Little Whinging – The house on Privet Drive is in the suburb of Little Whinging. “Whinge” is a British term for “whining and complaining.” That seems to be one of the Dursleys’ favorite activities, whether it is about Harry, the neighbors, or just the news in general.
  • Privet Drive – In England, a privet is a very common shrub planted as hedges in suburbia. Those with privet hedges are said to conform to the suburban identity, and privets are characterized as boring and unimaginative. “Privet” also means “prohibition.” Or the street name could possibly be derived from the word “private.”
  • Smeltings – This is the process used in producing iron ore to make it stronger and more suitable for use.
  • Toujours Pur – This Black family motto is French for “always pure.” This is appropriate since most of the Black family consider half-bloods to be beneath them.
  • Yule Ball – “Yule” refers to the time of the Winter Solstice, thus the reason for the dance taking place around Christmas time. Jul (pronounced “yul”) is the Danish, Norwegian, and Swedish name for Christmas. In the Danish translation of Goblet of Fire, the Yule Ball is written as juleballet, which means “Christmas ball or dance.”
Creatures, Jobs, and States of Being
  • Abraxan – Abraxus was the name of a flying horse that pulled Helios, the sun god’s, chariot through the sky in Greco-Roman mythology.
  • Animagus – This is a portmanteau of the Latin words animal and magus, meaning “animal wizard.”
  • Arthimancer – From the Greek arithmo, meaning “number,” and mancy, meaning “prophecy,” this is a method of fortune-telling based on names, numbers, and mathematical calculations. It is also known as numerology.
  • Auror – This term is perhaps derived from “aurora,” meaning “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 – In Celtic mythology, a boggart 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.” This is very suiting considering Buckbeak is a hippogriff.
  • Hippogriff – This word is 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, this term means “those down below; the dead.”
  • Kappa – Kappas are water demons that attack humans. To prevent one from attacking, a person must give it a cucumber engraved with that person’s name. This is fitting, considering kappa means “water spirit” in Japanese, and they feed 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.
  • Legilimens – This comes from the Latin legere, meaning “to read,” and mens, meaning “mind.” Therefore, it gives the caster the ability to read someone’s mind.
  • Metamorphmagus – In Greek, meta means “change,” morph means “shape,” and magus means “magic or wizard.” All together, it means a wizard who can change shape.
  • Muggle – Muggle comes from English slang. A “mug” is somebody who is easily fooled.
  • Mugwump – This is one who sits on both sides of an issue. Originally an Algonquian word, mugquomp, meaning “chief,” it became the word for a political party that wouldn’t make up its mind about something in the early to mid-1800s.
  • Occlumens – This is from the Latin words occludo, meaning “I close, shut up, or close off,” and mens, meaning “mind.” Hence, Occlumency means “the closing of the mind.”
  • Parselmouth – J. K. Rowling stated that she took the name Parselmouth from an “old word for someone who has a problem with the mouth, like a hare lip.”
  • Squib – Johnson’s Dictionary defines it as “any petty fellow.” The term has fallen out of use. It is also an epithet for somebody who wrote insulting articles and pamphlets. A quote from The Vicar of Wakefield by Oliver Smith (1766) states, “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 this word comes from the Vilia, a wild woodland sprite mentioned in Franz Lehár’s operetta The 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. Veela 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. It is interesting how it was the Bulgarian Quidditch team that brought Veela to the Quidditch World Cup.
  • Wizengamot – This is perhaps from “Witenagemot,” which was a council of wise elders (called witans) during the Anglo-Saxon period.
Potions, Spells, and Magical Objects
A
  • Accio (Summoning Charm) – In Latin, accio means “I summon.”
  • Alohomora (Unlocking Charm) – This is derived from the Hawaiian aloha, meaning “goodbye,” and the Latin word mora, meaning “obstacle.”
  • AmortentiaAmor is the Latin word for “love,” and “tentia” is derived from tentare, which means “the handling of,” “the making of an attempt,” or “the attack on.” Hence, it can mean “the handling of love,” “making an attempt to love,” or “the attack on love.”
  • Anapneo (Spell that clears throat) – In Greek, anapneo means “I breathe.”
  • Aparecium (Revealing Charm) – This is from the Latin word aperio, meaning “to uncover, lay bare, reveal, or make clear,” or apparere, meaning “to make clear.” It is spelled with only one p, perhaps because of apertus, which means “open, obvious, public.”
  • Avada Kedavra (Killing Curse) – This is an Aramaic phrase that means “I will destroy as I speak.” It is also similar to “Abracadabra,” which is an ancient spell (dates from the second century) used by conjurors to invoke spirits or supernatural powers for protection against disease or aid. Kedavra sounds like “cadaver,” which means “corpse.”
  • Avis (Bird-Conjuring Charm) – In Latin, avis means “bird.”
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B
  • Bezoar – A bezoar is indeed a ball of indigestable material that can be found in the stomach of certain animals, most notably the so-called bezoar goat (Capra aegagrus). And indeed it was believed in ancient times that a bezoar could serve as an antidote for most poisons.
  • Bluebottle (Make of broomstick) – This is a type of annoying fly with a loud buzz and iridescent body and also a small blue marine animal similar to a jellyfish (also known as a man o’ war). They appear on beaches after strong winds, and their sting is very painful.
  • Boomslang skin – A boomslang is actually a South African snake. Boomslangs live in trees and bushes and feed on small animals and bird eggs. They are greenish to brown or black in color and grow to about 5 feet long. Most members of the family (Colubridae) to which the boomslang belongs are harmless, but the boomslang has a potent venom that it delivers through large, deeply grooved fangs located at the rear of the mouth. The bite of the boomslang can be fatal.
  • Bubotuber pus – “Tuber” refers to the fact that the bubotuber is a plant, which extends perpendicularly into the soil. Its pus is dangerous to the skin. “Bubo” is an English word for an inflamed, tender swelling of a lymph node, especially in the area of the armpit or groin. It is characteristic of certain infections, such as bubonic plague and syphilis.
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C
  • Colloportus (Locking Spell) – Coller means “to stick together” in French, and portus means “door” in Latin.
  • Conjunctivitus Curse – “Conjunctivitis” is the scientific name for pink eye, the illness that children often get that makes their eyelids crust together.
  • Crucio (Cruciatus Curse) – Crucio is Latin for “I torture.”
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D
  • Deletrius (Eradication Spell) – This is Latin for “that which is erased.”
  • Depulso (Banishing Charm) – In Latin, depulso means “disappearance, removed, or expelled.”
  • Densaugeo (Tooth-Growing Spell) – Dens is Latin for “teeth,” and augeo is Latin for “I enlarge.”
  • Diffindo (Severing Charm) – In Latin, diffindo means “I split.”
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E
  • Engorgio (Engorgement Charm) – In French, engorgement means “swelling.”
  • Evanesco (Vanishing Spell) – This means “I disappear” or “I vanish” in Latin.
  • Expecto Patronum (Patronus Charm) – In Latin, expecto is “I await, desire, or hope for,” and patronus is “protector.” Hence, “I hope for a protector.” A Patronus is used to protect against a Dementor.
  • Expelliarmus (Disarming Spell) – This is a Latin combination of expellere, meaning “to expel,” and arma, meaning “weapon or upper arm.”
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F - G
  • Felix FelicisFelix is Latin for “lucky, fortunate, or happy.” Felicis is derived from two Latin adjectives, one for “lucky” and one for “of the lucky.” It translates as “lucky of the lucky,” but it seems more acceptable to write it as “luck of luck.” It could also have ties to the word “felicity,” which means “extreme happiness.”
  • Ferula (Spell that bandages and splits broken bones) – This comes from the Latin word ferula, meaning “a rod to beat children with.” In Spanish, the word férula refers to an object used to immobilize a limb, like a broken leg. The object can be either a stick to tie to the limb or a cover of plaster.
  • Fidelius Charm – In Latin, fidelus means “a person who is more faithful, devoted, loyal, earnest, true, trustworthy, dependable, reliable, constant, or lasting.”
  • Fiendfyre – Literally translated, a “fiend” is an enemy, and fyre is the Old English spelling of “fire.”
  • Finite Incantatem (General counter-spell) – “Incantatem” could be related to the Latin incantationem, which means “incantation.” Together, the phrase translates as “stop the incantation.”
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H
  • Homonculous Charm – This is a charm used in the creation of the Marauder’s Map, enabling the possessor of the map to track the movements of every person in the castle. A cognate of the word, homunculus, means “little man” in Latin. This is very appropriate for all of the little people shown on the map. Homunculi also have ties to alchemy. Carl Jung, a Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, equated the homunculus to the philosopher’s stone.
  • Horcrux – “Horcrux” when broken down in many languages means “outside the cross.” This is consistent with the very unholy nature of creating one and why it is stricken from the pages in a lot of textbooks. In Latin, cruciatus means “pain or torture,” and hor is representative of the noun horreum, which means “storehouse.” Thus, “tormenting storehouse.” A Horcrux is effectively a storehouse for the part of the soul that an individual destroys when killing someone. “Hor” can also remind readers of the words “horrible” and “horrid.” The English meaning of “crux” is “the critical feature or essence,” like the crux of an argument. Similar to the Latin translation, it then becomes understood as “critical essence storehouse.” Many consider the soul to be the essence of an individual. A “crux” is also defined as a “difficult puzzle,” so Horcruxes can then be seen as “horrible” or “tormenting puzzles.” In Egyptian mythology, Horus was the son of the god Osiris, who became the God of the Dead. Crux is also Latin for “cross.” If you combine these two words, you get the “cross of Horus,” also known as the “ankh” (a cross with a loop at the top). The ankh was the symbol of life. Thus, a Horcrux would ensure life.
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I
  • Impedimenta (Impediment Jinx) – Impedio is Latin for “I hinder.” In Latin, impedimenta means “obstacle,” as in creating an obstacle to impede one’s path or goal.
  • Imperio (Imperius Curse) – Imperio is Latin for “I control,” and imperium is Latin for “absolute control.”
  • Incarcerous (Spell that binds target) – In Latin, carcer means “prison.” The word “incarcerate” means “to imprison.”
  • Incendio (Fire-Making Spell) – In Latin, incendere means “to set fire to something.” Incendio also means “great fire” in Spanish.
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J - K - L
  • Legilimens – This comes from the Latin legere, meaning “to read,” and mens, meaning “mind.” Therefore, it gives the caster the ability to read someone’s mind.
  • Levicorpus (Spell that lifts people) – In Latin, levi means “to raise,” and corpus means “body.” Combining these words can be translated as “to raise the body.”
  • Liberacorpus (Spell that counteracts Levicorpus) – In Latin, libera means “to free,” and corpus means “body.” Combining these words translates to “free the body.”
  • Lumos (Wand-Lighting Charm) – Lumen is Latin for “light,” and “luminous” means “emitting light” in English.
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M
  • Mandragora – In medieval times, Mandragora, or the mandrake, was thought to have magical properties. It was thought to resemble the human figure and was known to cause sleepiness.
  • Mirror of Erised – “Erised” backward is “desire” (as in “you’ll see what you desire”). The inscription around the top of the Mirror of Erised, if shown backward with the spaces rearranged, says, “I show not your face but your heart’s desire.” Oddly enough, Eris was the Greek goddess of strife.
  • Morsmordre (Spell that conjures the Dark Mark) – This is a combination between mors (Latin for “death”) and mordere (Latin for “to bite”). This is very appropriate for a spell cast by Death Eaters.
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N
  • Nimbus – A nimbus is a rain or storm cloud. In classical mythology, it is a shining cloud sometimes surrounding a deity when on earth. “Nimbus” is also a derivative of “nimble,” meaning “quick, light, or agile in movement or action.”
  • Nox (Wand-Extinguishing Charm) – Nox is Latin for “night, darkness.”
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O
  • Obliviate (Memory Charm) – This comes from the word “obliterate,” meaning “to wipe out, erase, or remove all traces” and also sounds like “oblivious,” meaning “forgetful.”
  • Oppugno (Oppugno Jinx) – This means “I attack” in Latin.
  • Orchideous (Spell that conjures flowers) – An orchid is a type of flower.
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P
  • Pensieve – The verb penser in French means “to think.” Perhaps this is a combination of the English words “pensive” and “sieve.” “To be pensive” is to be wistful or thoughtful, and a sieve is a utensil of wired mesh used for sifting.
  • Protean Charm – This was most likely named after Proteus, a Greek god who could change his shape at will. Hermione uses this charm to alert members of Dumbledore’s Army of future meetings in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.
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Q
  • Quibbler – “To quibble” means “to evade the truth or importance of” an issue by raising trivial distinctions and objections. A “quibble” is an archaic term for a “pun.” This is also a term used to describe ancient Greek philosophers. The philosophers were referred to by the commoners as “quibblers,” and the act of philosophizing was known as “quibbling.”
  • Quietus (Quietening Charm) – Quietus in Latin means “to be quiet.”
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R
  • Reducio (Shrinking Charm) – “Reduce” means “to make smaller” in English, and also, reduco in Latin means “to reduce.”
  • Rennervate (Reviving Spell) – Possibly from the French revenir, meaning “to return,” it also means “to add nerve” (daring or strength) and sounds similar to “re-energize.”
  • Rictusempra (Laughing Spell) – In Latin, sempra is from semper, meaning “always” or “at all times,” and rictum, meaning “jaws” or “open mouth.” Together, the words mean “constantly laughing.”
  • Riddikulus (Spell used to get rid of boggarts) – “Ridiculous” means “absurd.”
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S
  • Sectumsempra (Spell used to seriously cut another person) – In Latin, sectum means “to cut, wound, or amputate,” and sempra is derived from the word semper, meaning “always” or “at all times.” Together, it means “to wound always or make a permanent wound.”
  • Serpensortia (Snake Summons Spell) – In Latin, serpens means “snake,” and ortus means “origin.” In French, sortir means “to go out.”
  • Silencio (Silencing Charm) – This was derived from the word “silence,” meaning “the state of being quiet.”
  • Sonorous (Amplifying Charm) – Sonorus is Latin for “loud.”
  • Stupefy (Stunning Spell) – “Stupefy” in English means “dull the senses of, daze.”
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T - U - V
  • VeritaserumVeritas is Latin for “truth,” and a “serum” is a potion.
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W - X - Y - Z
  • Wingardium Leviosa (Levitation Charm) – “Wingardium” is a combination of the English word “wing” and the Latin word arduus, meaning “steep.” “Leviosa” contains the Latin word levare, meaning “ease, lift, or pick up.”
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