As I promised last week, I’m going to let you in on a little interesting trivia concerning some names most of us are familiar with. If you haven’t read the Harry Potter series you may not know the names, but their meaning and how J.K. Rowling uses them is really quite intriguing.
I was planting a rose garden one summer for my husband. We both love roses, but he loves them more
I kept the care tags and stuffed them into my Western Garden Book in the page corresponding with the plant. When I got to the white roses, something caught my eye. The word albus. Now, who doesn’t think of Harry Potter when you hear “albus”? After a Wikipedia search, I discovered the Latin meaning of “albus” is white. The root “alb” actually means “dull white”. Hmmm. Professor Albus Dumbledore, Headmaster of Howarts is described as being at least a hundred and fifty years old with a very long, white beard. That touched on my curiosity and I decided to do some digging. Here’s what I found:
Albus (Dumbledore): Latin meaning “white”. Root “alb” translates “dull white”
Severus (Snape): “sever” Latin meaning severe, stern, serious. Root word, “severus” means “severity”. We all know everyone (except Draco) was terrified of Professor Snape because of his stern behavior towards the students and his obvious severe attitude toward Harry in particular.
(Dolores) Umbridge: The definition of “umbrage” is “offense, annoyance, displeasure; the slightest indication or vague feeling of doubt, suspicion, hostility.” In The Goblet of Fire, Professor Umbridge is the epitome of those things! How loud did you cheer when Harry and Hermione outwitted her and the centaurs carried her off?
Hermione: Greek meaning “well born”. And she is not short on brains, either!
Harry: English, meaning “army ruler”. He was the "Chosen One" who must defeat Voldemort. And Dumbledore’s army--he was indeed the leader!
Ronald: Hebrew, means “king’s advisor” Harry’s right-hand man and best friend.
(Remus) Lupin: Lupin comes from canis lupus which is the scientific name for wolf. Imagine that! We all know from The Prisoner of Azkaban that Professor Lupin is a werewolf!
Draco Malfoy: Draco is Latin for “dragon” and Malfoy comes from the French phrase mal foi meaning “bad faith”. Hmmm…a dragon of bad faith--couldn’t have said it better myself!
(Argus) Filch: Filch means to steal. The Hogwarts caretaker was always taking things from the students-remember the marauder’s map? Argus was a Greek monster with a hundred eyes. Filch seemed to have eyes everywhere and was always finding students out of bed.
Peeves (the poltergeist): to peeve means to bug or annoy—Peeves is a rather annoying pest!
Voldemort: French, means “fly from death”. Wow! How creepy is that?
Hagrid: Hagrid is the Keeper of Mount Olympus and Watcher of the Animals in Greek mythology. Hagrid loves his magical creatures doesn’t he?
Knocturn Alley: comes from “nocturnally”. If you split it into two words, it becomes “nocturn ally”.
Many of the places in the series also have interesting meanings. Lockhart is actually a town in Australia near Wagga Wagga (Gilderoy Lockhart-The Chamber of Secrets) And the list goes on. Rowling uses Latin root words for many of the spells, hexes, and charms in her novels. “patronus”-protector; “reparo” means to repair; “nox” is to darken; and “lumos” is light.
I found it quite interesting that nearly all of her character’s names have alternative meanings, oftentimes directly relating to their personality. Character’s name oftentimes directly coincide with some part of the plot, or a secret puzzle piece. I enjoy figuring out these special “keys” or puzzle pieces. But it took a chance discovery in a garden book to cultivate my curiosity about JK and Harry Potter! Speaking of gardens…how about Professor Sprout?—now that’s an easy one!
Next week I’ll be divulging a few secrets…ones from the home front that had me spewing a few interesting words of my own!
Do you have a favorite character’s name from the HP books? How about one from a different series? I’d love to hear about it.
Harry Potter Fan Zone