Character’s Names Meanings in Harry Potter
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, by J.K. Rowling uses a vast variety of words that are made up, but are secretly derived from Latin, Greek, Old English, and many other old languages to portray Rowling’s genius writing. Although many of the names, spells, potions, and even places seem like casual made up words, nearly all of them have a hidden meaning behind them. Understanding the meaning behind these words give even more insight into the thought and detail that went into making this series so outstanding.
A lot of the characters names in the books have a Latin origin. Rowling spent a lot of team researching names with Latin roots and finding their specific meanings. Then, Rowling implemented these names is some version into the series. For example, Albus Dumbledore’s first name is Latin for white. Many people take this as symbolic for the role Dumbledore plays, while others simply believe Rowling used this name because of Dumbledore’s long white beard. The main villain in the series, Tom Marvolo Riddle, aka Lord Voldemort, had part of his middle name derived from Latin. The Latin term volo means to want or to move quickly. This is representative of Voldemort as he had a desire for power and moved swiftly into the spotlight of being the most feared wizard. Draco Malfoy’s first name is Latin for dragon. This is symbolic of the level of power and strength Malfoy believed he possessed in the series. Remus Lupin’s last name is a version of the Latin word lupinus, which means of a wolf. This is symbolic as Lupin turns into a werewolf every month during a full moon. There are many more names in the series that are derived from Latin, all of which have meanings that give clues to the specific character’s purpose or qualities.
Rowling, being a very gifted and trained writer and researcher, also used greek words and mythology as origins for her characters’ names. For example, Narcissus Malfoy, the mother of Draco Malfoy, had her name from Greek Origins. Narcissus was a male character from Greek mythology, who loved his image so much that he looked at his reflection until he died. This reflects the arrogant attitude the entire Malfoy family had throughout the series. Because of their pure blood genes, the Malfoys believed they were better than most and were keen to portraying it. Another example of Greek origins playing a role in the names of Rowling’s characters would be Argus Filch. Filch is the caretaker at Hogwarts and is described as very strict and always keeping a close watch on the students of Hogwarts. His job likely has to do with the picking of his name as Argus was a ginormous hundred-eyed watchman in Greek mythology. Draco Malfoy’s best friend, Gregory Goyle, also had his name derived from Greek. She chose the name Gregory based on a Greek word that means observant and attentive. This could be representative of the fact that Goyle basically plays the role of Draco Malfoy’s bodyguard throughout the series.
Old and Middle English words were also a factor when Rowling was picking the names of her characters. One example of this would be with Godric Gryffindor. Godric is a version of the Old English name Godrich. In Old English, Godrich essentially meant good person. This can a nod at the fact that the characteristics Gryffindor wanted his students to possess were bravery, nerve, and daring. Rubeus Hagrid, everyone’s favorite character, also had part of his name derived from Old English. In Old English, Hagrid was a dialect word that basically meant you had a bad night. Considering Hagrid enjoyed drinking and did it a lot more than he probably should have, one can reasonably assume that he had a lot of bad nights. A final example would of course be the most important character in the series, Harry Potter himself. Rowling needed the perfect name as it is featured in every title and is a name that everyone around the world is familiar with. She ended up choosing the Middle English name, Harry. The name Harry is derived from Henry. Henry was the name of many kings of England and it is no coincidence that Rowling gave her main character a name of such stature.
It’s fascinating to know the amount of research that went into simply picking the names of the characters. Rowling truly expressed her genius and advanced knowledge of older languages through her character’s names alone. The ability of an author to provide history in all of the characters names while still writing one of the most popular book series of all time is incredible. It is extremely impressive that without even reading a single page, a reader could have a legitimate basis for all of the characters by simply looking at their names and doing a little research. Not many other book series, if any, could say the same.
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