Rowling includes many significant details into the Harry Potter books, intricately woven clues that lead the reader deeper into meaning of her tale. In the tradition of Dickens, names provide a fun and important source of meaning in the stories.
Below is a list of names from the Potter books along with their sources and meanings. We hope this resource is helpful to you as you unpack the many treasures of meaning Rowling’s book have to offer. Enjoy!
Aragog – Arachnid means spider, and Gog was the name of a legendary giant. Combined, the name means “giant spider.”
Azkaban – A combination of Alcatraz and the Hebrew word for hell, abbadon.
Bagman, Ludo – Ludo comes from ludus, Latin for “game,” as in a spectator sport.
Beauxbatons – Beaux means “handsome” in French, batons means “sticks.” Together, “handsome sticks,” which is close enough to “handsome wands.”
Black, Phineas Nigellus – Nigellus comes from latin niger, meaning “black.”
Black, Sirius – Sirius, the dog-star, is part of the Canis Major (greater dog) constellation, and is the brightest star in the sky.
Carrow, Alecto – Alecto is from Greek Ἀληκτώ, meaning “implacable anger;” one of the vengeful goddesses; the Furies.
Crookshanks – George Cruikshank was a truth-revealing 19th-century artist and satirist who illustrated editions of Dickens and Grimm’s Fairy Tales.
Delacour, Fleur – “Fleur de la Cour,” which means “Flower of the Court” or “noblewoman” in French.
Dementor – From Latin, meaning “out from” and mens is latin for mind: drive-you-out-of-your-minders!
Diggory, Cedric – Cedric is the name of a famous knight. Diggory is an allusion to C. S. Lewis’s Narnian character, Diggory Kirke.
Dumbledore, Albus Percival Wulfric Brian – This extensive title translates to: “White knight of wolf-power; noble bumblebee; resplendent soul.” Percival was an Arthurian knight, and Wulfric of Haselbury was a saint, healer, and prophet. Dumbledore comes from Thomas Hardy’s The Mayor of Castlebridge where Elizabeth-Jane learns not to call bumblebees by their colloquial name ‘dumbledores’.
Dursley, Petunia – A flower often identified with resentment and anger.
Filch, Argus – A hundred-eyed giant whom the goddess Hera used as a watchman. Argus was a harsh watchman over Io, Zeus’s innocent lover. Filch means to pilfer or steal.
Fletcher, Mundungus – Mundungus means “world-filth” or “foul-stinking tobacco.” A fletcher is someone who adds feathers to arrows – a rather flighty and unreliable man, don’t you think?
Fudge, Cornelius – Cornelius is a Roman aristocratic name. Fudge can mean to evade or dodge.
Goyle, Gregory – Gregory means watchful or alert, and goyle is a reference to gargoyles or guardians of thresholds.
Granger, Hermione – Hermione is the feminine version of Hermes, or in Latin, Mercury, the messenger between heaven and earth and the god of language and wit. In Shakespeare’s Winter’s Tale, the character Hermione becomes a statue. Granger can mean farmer, and her initials HG are the letters for Mercury on the periodic table.
Grindelwald, Gellert – Grindel was an epic Beowulf character; the demon. Wald means “forest” in German. Grindelwald is often compared to Hitler since the date of his demise, 1945, is the same as the end of WWII.
Gryffindor, Godric – “God” + rick, or brave power (from Richard), and lord of heaven and earth.
Hagrid, Rubeus – Probably from ruber, “red, ruddy, blushing,” but rubeus technically means “of/related to brambles, bramble-overgrown.” Like Dumbledore, Hargid comes from Thomas Hardy’s The Mayor of Castlebridge where Elizabeth-Jane learns not to say she has “indigestion” rather than saying she has been “hag-rid.” In a 1999 interview, Rowling said, “If you were hag-rid – it’s a dialect word – you’d had a bad night. Hagrid is a big drinker – he has a lot of bad nights.”
Hedwig – This name comes from a book of medieval saints.
Karkaroff, Igor – Karkaroff means “jagged” or “sharp.” It is also the name of a giant hellhound in Tolkein’s Middle Earth mythology. “Karkaroth” is supposedly Elvish for “the red maw.”
Krum, Victor – Victor, “the victorious one.” Krum means “curved” or “bent.”
Lestrange, Bellatrix – Bellatrix is Latin for “female warrior.” It’s also the name of the third brightest star in Orion. Lestrange means to be “removed from society.” In French, etrange means “strange” or “weird.”
Lockhart, Gilderoy – Gilderoy means “gilded boy” – rather a dressy man, impressive on the surface but hollow inside, like a locket.
Longbottom, Neville – From the French ne ville it implies a “no-village, no-where, no-one” who is long at the bottom. Can also translate to “new city” and longbottom can be an English euphamism for enduring strength. Neville’s name has a double meaning which predicts his transformation from a struggling boy to co-victor over Voldemort. Of note, the Nevilles were the historical rivals of the Hotspur family in Shakespeare’s Henry plays.
Lovegood, Luna – Luna means “moon.”
Lovegood, Xenophilus – This wild name means “Lover of strange things.” How fitting!
Lupin, Remus – Remus, founder of Rome, was raised by a wolf, Lupin is latin for “wolf-like.”
Malfoy, Draco – “Dragon of Bad Faith”
Malfoy, Lucius – Lucifer, one of Satan’s names, means light carrier; in scripture Satan appears deceptively as an angel of light.
Malfoy, Narcissa – Narcissa is from Latin Narcissus, a mythical youth who fell in love with his own beauty and wasted away. Also the name of a flower.
Maxime, Olympe – Named after Mt. Olympus; Maxime is from the Latin maximus meaning “largest” or “greatest.”
McGonagall, Minerva – Latin for Athena, the cerebral and formidable goddess of war, wisdom, tactics, and crafts. McGonagall means “son of the bravest.”
Metamorphmagus – Named after Ovid’s Metamorphoses, mythic tales of people and gods who are transformed into strange creatures.
Moody, Alastor – Alastor means “avenger,” and he is definitely moody!
Pettigrew, Peter – Peter means stone. Peter’s last name implies lack of masculine strength; he only had “petty growth.”
Pigwidgeon – “Pigwiggen” is an Elizabethan term of contempt, probably deriving from Michael Drayton’s fairy tale Nymphidia. Inspired by Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream, the poem centers on Oberon’s fairy court and features the diminutive knight Pigwiggen, who is a rather silly and trifling man.
Pomfrey, Poppy – A flower whose juice has been used as a painkiller.
Porpington, Sir Nicholas de Mimsey – Mimsey comes from Lewis Caroll’s poem “Jabberwocky” and means “flimsy” or “miserable.”
POTTER, HARRY – Harry is a name of English royalty. In Shakespeare’s Henry plays, the young prince Hal is called Harry and the name connects him to his doppelgänger, Harry Hotspur. Also connotes “herald” or “heir.” Harry is the Heir of the Potter, Potter being a scriptural reference to God. Potter also sounds like Pater, which is Latin for “Father.”
Potter, James – St. James is the patron saint of Alchemists; Jesus’ brother; a royal name in England.
Potter, Lily – The lily is a flower associated with innocence, womanly virtues, and/or virginity. The name evokes a powerful female symbol of grace with overtones of sacrifice as lilies are the traditional flower of Easter.
Quirell, Quirinus – Quirinus means “of two men.” Quirrell is to “quarrel,” but it also sounds like squirrel, for a nervous, nut-eating rodent.
Riddle, Tom – “Twin enigma”
Scabbers – From “scabs” or “strike-breakers,” those who break a strike to join with a more powerful but unjust side of a fight.
Scrimgeour, Rufus – Rufus means “red”
Shunpike, Stan – A shunpike is a side road used to avoid the toll on/the speed and traffic of a superhighway.
Skeeter, Rita – The Latin rita means “event, business, fact.”
Slughorn, Horace – The Latin hora means “hour, time, or season.” Horace was a Roman poet famous for cultivating a circle of the rich, famous, and influential.
Slytherin, Salazar – Antonio Salazar was the fascist dictator of Portugal for 36 years until his death in 1968.
Snape, Severus – Latin for “strict, stern, grim, terrible, severe” or severe rebuke.” Not only is Snape’s name sharp and snippy like his personality, it also suggests the hidden nobility which we discover in him at the end of the series. Roman Emperor Severus Alexander “while not one of the better known Roman Emperors, was one of the most important in the history of Rome. He was a very capable man, a successful administrator, and an excellent general.” According to more legendary sources, Severus was sympathetic to Christians and prayed every morning in his private chapel where he placed images of Abraham and Jesus in his oratory, along with other Roman deities and classical figures.
Sprout, Pomona – Minor Roman nature-goddess; her name comes from pomp, meaning “fruit.” Sprout, well, that’s obvious!
Tonks, Nymphadora – Nymphadora means “Gift of the Nymphs.” A tonk means “a fool or an idiot,” “a powerful hit or stroke,” and “to strike.”
Trelawney, Sibyll – Sibyl was the standard title for a prophetess in the ancient Greek and Roman world.
Umbridge, Dolores – Dolores means grief or sorrow, while Umbridge means “offense” and in Latin umbra, “shadow” – a grievous shadow!
Voldemort – “Flight from death” or “willing death”
Weasley, Ginevra (Ginny) – Italian form of Guinevere, a clear Arthurian reference. Weasels are team players and ferociously loyal.
Weasley, Molly – Molly is a form of Mary which references bitterness, wish for child, mother and beloved.
Weasley, Percy – Percy’s middle name is Ignatius, the name of a saint who had a dramatic conversion.
Weasley, Ronald (Ron) – Ronald is from Old Norse Rögnvaldr, “having the [ruling] power of the gods.”
And this is just the beginning of the meaning hidden in every delicious detail of the Potter books. To learn more, sign up for one of Professor Crawford’s classes, or we heartily recommend the following fantastic books where we found much of this information:
- John Granger’s excellent books How Harry Cast His Spell and Harry Potter’s Bookshelf
- Beatrice Groves jammed packed and well-researched Literary Allusion in Harry Potter
- MuggleNet has a comprehensive list of names, although they do not pay attention to the alchemical symbolism present in several of the names.