#PotterVerse: Where Do Those Words Even Come From?!


I first realized that I memorized Harry Potter in my Ancient Greek class in college. Our professor tried to mix things up by letting us try our hand at translating the Ancient Greek version of Sorcerer’s Stone. While the dead language was devastatingly hard for me (part of the reason why I didn’t continue my pursuit in academia and another reason why Common Room exists) I was able to get the first few sentences down because I remembered “Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say they were perfectly normal, thank you very much. They were the last people…” With that in mind, let’s get on to some origin stories!

Here’s most of the article I wrote for my high school’s newspaper in sophomore year. Don’t judge younger Hadas too harshly. :)

Harry Potter Phoenix Article High School

You might have already read my original post on this topic, Heading to Hogwarts. There I covered my favorites. Here I’ll try to add more fun.

Missed Connections

Recently, I reread Crazy Rich Asians, which I’m obsessed with and realized that one of the character’s names was more than what it seemed. The super rich father of one of the character’s friends is named Ming Ka-Ching. Ka Ching. You guys! This took me 3 rereads to catch. Anyhoo, in Harry Potter there are a few too that you may not get the first time around:

Diagon Alley- Diagonally

Grimmauld Place– Grim Old Place
Little Whinging– Little Whining. (This one took some anglophilia to understand.)
Spellotape– Sellotape which is the British version of Scotch tape from what I can tell. What would be your variation of that?
Nagini– Thanks to World of Warcraft, I understand it probably comes from Naga, humanoid snake creatures.
Olympe Maxime– Redundant description of something large, over the top, bombastic, or just too much. :)
Crabbe and Goyle– Grab and Coil? (I also saw something that said Gregory Goyle sounds like gargoyle.)
Fawkes– Guy Fawkes… I wonder why Dumbledore would name him that? Was he a fan of revolutions or the thwarting of said revolutions?
Knockturn Alley– Nocturnally (also, really dark sounding on its own, right?)

The mothers in Harry Potter are the most important characters in the series. Most of the time they aren’t in the limelight, but they are responsible for their sons’ great contributions to the tale.

Alice Longbottom– Alice apparently means noble which in a way is indicative of her role. Unlike Lily, Alice is a magic born. There may be something there.
Merope Gaunt (Riddle?)– Merope is from Greek mythology. Actually one of my most favorite Ancient Greek Novels features a Merope (Daphnis and Chloe). JK Rowling was a Classics major and in Classics, the same names are used very often. The most probable Merope Jo emulated the character on would be the nymph who was embarrassed by her mortal (and criminal) husband. We know Merope Gaunt wasn’t embarrassed by her husband, but more possibly of the situation she put herself in and disappointed with her situation in life. Oh, Voldemort’s mother makes me so sad. (Recently read a forum post on Alohomora that I found interesting. Check it out!)

Harry Potter MothersNarcissa Black Malfoy– clearly from the myth of narcissus, but also a red herring in a sense. Black- has clear connotations and Malfoy is apparently French for bad faith. All of this point to Narcissa being pure evil, yet her role as a mother comes before everything else, and her love for Draco saves the Wizarding World.

Other Important Mothers Whose Names Aren’t as Clear:

Petunia Evans Dursley– Jo talked about the naming process on Pottermore. She did not plan anything specifically.
Lily Evans Potter– People talk about flower symbolism, but Jo never talked about that from what I can find.
Eileen Prince Snape– Unclear what Eileen means, but could be from Helen which has meanings regarding light. Very ironic for her character. Prince is clear. Snape has no clear intended meaning from Jo, she grabbed it from a location name.
Kendra Dumbledore– apparently power or prophecy are related to this name. Power might be related, but the sources I found aren’t too trustworthy in my opinion.

Bonus Jonas*: I wanted to investigate a name: Sturgis. In my Potter Ponderings post, I will talk about him so I wanted to see if there were any further clues to my crackpot theory. All I found was a Wikipedia source that claims one of the definitions is “hostage.” While fitting for the character as he was imperiused by the Death Eaters, it did not help my crackpot theory. Stay tuned. :)

*Ever hear something once and incorporate it into your vocabulary forever? Do you know where that term comes from? It’s so embarrassing.

Any favorites I missed?
Let me know in the comments below :)

Harry Potter JK Rowling
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For more #Potterweek check out the following posts!

Pre Potterweek Bonuses:
Twice Upon a Time: The One with All the Changes
Heading to Hogwarts

PotterVerse: Clever Naming and the Importance of Mothers
PotterPeeps: Severus Snape, Hagrid’s Birthday Cake for Harry, Least Favorite Character: Dumbledore, & Favorite Character: Draco
PotterPonderings: Mental Health, Circle Theory, CrackPot Theories, Lessons Learned from Dumbledore, Voldemort, Snape, and James
PotterHouse: Sorting Stories, Slytherin and Proud, CharmBomb
PotterParks: Potterhead Family Trip, Ashley and Debbie from You Haven’t Seen?!