Charms versus Spells

August 6, 2013

Dear Professor Flitwick,

I was wondering if you could tell me what the difference between a charm and a spell. Since you are the Charms teacher, I figured you would know a lot on the subject. Please write back.

An Inquisitive Ravenclaw

Dear An Inquisitive Ravenclaw,

A charm is a type of spell. All acts of magic cast with a wand and an audible or inaudible incantation are various types of spells. Charms in particular focus on changing the properties of what an object or person does. For example, a Flying Charm makes an object fly, or a Cheering Charm makes a person happier. This differs from other types of spells, such as transfiguration spells, which alter what an object actually is. For example, a transfiguration spell might turn a matchstick into a needle. Where a Levitation Charm might make a matchstick float, it remains a matchstick, unlike when it is transfigured into a needle. A Charm preserves identity. Of course, usage of the term is often used more lightly and in the incorrect sense, so can’t always rely on people to use the correct term for the spells they use. I hope that clears up the distinction.

Warm regards,
Professor Flitwick