Spellbound: Magical History of Harry Potter Names

Petrificus Totalus!

Stay right there! You might be a Harry Potter superfan, but are you familiar with all of the fascinating history behind the names of your favorite characters? It turns out that J.K Rowling was pretty sneaky and creative when naming slimy villains like Draco Malfoy, or tragic heroes such as Remus Lupin. Grab your quills and turn to page three-hundred and ninety-four: we're studying magical name etymology.


WATCH: Harry Potter Redefines Identity

Ron Weasley

Let's start with Ronald Bilius Weasley. Of courseRon is Harry’s best friend. So it’s fitting that Ronald comes from the Old Norse name Rögnvaldr, which refers to a ruler’s most trusted adviser. Bilius sounds like bilious, which means ill-tempered. And finally, Weasley sounds an awful lot like weasel, which is a scrappy animal that's sometimes considered vermin. Indeed, while pure-bloods, the Weasley family is often looked down on for being poor.

Hermione Granger

In Greek mythology, Hermione, the daughter of Helen of Troy, is the feminine form of Hermes, the messenger god. That makes sense, because she has a knack for delivering crucial pieces of information that save Harry and Ron's lives throughout the series. Hermione's last name, Granger means farmer, a very Muggle-type profession for common people like her parents, who were dentists.

Rubeus Hagrid

Some HP fans note that Hagrid’s name may be derived from the term hagridden, which means worried - the way he often feels for Harry’s safety. Others have noticed the name Hagrid is pretty similar to the adjective haggard, which perfectly describes his wild and unruly appearance.

Draco Malfoy

Draco is likely a reference to draconian measures, which means cruel, harsh or severe actions. As for his last name, mal comes from Old French meaning evil, and foy from the French word foi meaning faith or belief. So Rowling is not-so-subtly telling us that the Malfoy family has impure beliefs. Shocker!

Sirius Black

Sirius is the name of the brightest star visible from the Earth. Sirius is also called the Dog Star -- and you may recall that his Animagus form is a black dog. His nickname is Padfoot, one of the many names for ghostly black dogs that roam the U.K. countryside.

Dolores Umbridge

Her name oozes cruelty, just as her magical black quills were objects of torture. If you recall, they didn’t require ink. Instead, these quills wrote with the blood of the person using it. In Latin, Dolores means sorrow or pain, which she inflicts on plenty of students at Hogwarts. Clearly, Umbridge alludes to the word umbrage, which means to become angry, spiteful and resentful. Sounds about right!

Remus Lupin

According to ancient mythology, Remus and his twin Romulus were orphans that were raised by a she-wolf. As the story goes, these twins went on to build the Roman Kingdom. Talk about humble beginnings! It can be no coincidence that Remus Lupin's last name comes from the Latin lupinus, meaning wolf. As all Potter fans know, this gentle professor transforms into a bloodthirsty werewolf at the full moon.

Sybill Trelawney

The divination professor’s name reflects her future-telling ability. In Roman mythology, a Sibyl was a priestess who could look into the future. Trelawney is an old Cornish name that means homestead. Rowling says she chose the name Trelawney because of her love of Cornish surnames. Cornish relates to the language and people of Cornwall, in southwest England.

Petunia Dursley

Like her sister, Lily, Petunia is a flower. But whereas lilies symbolize humility and devotion, petunias symbolize anger and resentment. And, of course, we learn that Petunia was jealous of Lily’s magical powers. Petunia’s married name is Dursley, which also is a town in Gloucestershire, England, which Rowling visited as a child. She recalls hating the place, and says she chose the name because it sounded “dull and forbidding.”

Pomona Sprout

Pomona Sprout is an expert at magical herbology. Pomona was a Greek goddess of fruit trees, gardens, and orchards. And sprout, of course, is a verb that describes growth and development. A fitting last name for a professor! 

 

Madam Poppy Pomfrey

Madam Poppy Pomfrey is the matron of Hogwarts who uses magical spells and ointments - Skele-Gro, anyone? - to heal Harry and his often-injured friends. Poppy calls to mind the poppy flower and its juice, or opium, one of the oldest known medicines. And Pomfrey cakes are small black sweets made with licorice, another medicinal ingredient.

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