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Hidden Meanings you had no idea were in Harry Potter!

by Freya Taylor 5 months ago in pop culture

You didn't think JK Rowling did things by chance did you?

The Harry Potter books have been in circulation for over 20 years now (I know, I can't believe it either) but how many of these hidden gems did you know about the characters and spells that we've come to know and love?

The Original Order of the Phoenix - Credit: Harry Potter Wiki Fandom

1) Minerva McGonagall - Minerva was the Roman goddess of learning, intellect and wisdom. The perfect name for our favourite head of Gryffindor house. With her surname, McGonagall, reflecting her Scottish heritage. As a side note, Rowling has also confirmed McGonagall is actually a bit of a joke, referring to William McGonagall who was named as "the worst poet in the English language" by the newspaper The Independent. Rowling mentioned in the same article on Pottermore, that it would be funny that someone as brilliant as Minerva, could be related to 'that buffoon William McGonagall'.

2) Sirius Black - Sirius as we know, can turn himself into a loveable, shaggy, black dog. Did you know however, that Sirius is also the name of the 'Dog Star'? Sirius is the brightest star in the sky from wherever you are on Earth and it's also part of the constellation Canis Major, which means.... Great Dog! Not just a coincidence Sirius can turn himself into his namesake.

3) Bellatrix Lestrange - The darkest female character we see in the series, a pure devotee to Voldemort. Bellatrix is also named after a star, like her cousin, however it is only the 25th brightest in the sky. Bellatrix in Latin is also a term for 'war-like' which makes sense as she proves to be a fearsome opponent at the Battle of Hogwarts.

4) Sybill Trelawney - the slightly dramatic, pessimistic and wonderful divination teacher at Hogwarts, was named after 'Sibyl' who was the name of a prophetess in ancient Greece. Sibyl was known for delivering prophecies in a frenzied state (sound familiar?) This would explain why Sybill (in the movies) appears to have an out of body experience while delivering her prophecy to Harry. (For another reference, think the Doctor Who episode where they travel to Pompeii and meet the Sibylline Sisterhood who use the smoke and flames to tell the future).

5) Fenrir Greyback - One of the most vicious werewolves to have ever existed, Fenrir not only wanted to bite and infect as many people as possible, but he also preferred to bite children! Fenrir is the one who infected Remus Lupin when he was a child (We'll look at Lupin next). Fenrir was the name of Loki's son in Norse mythology, who kills Odin, the All Father. Greyback, is seen as a reference to the form he takes during a full moon.

6) Remus Lupin - One of the best teachers that ever graced the corridors of Hogwarts, Lupin was bitten by Fenrir Greyback as a child and spent most of his adult life shunned by the majority of the magical community. Remus is a nod to the twins in Roman mythology (Romulus and Remus) who were raised by wolves. Lupin, comes from the Greek word 'lupinus' which means 'of a wolf'. That means Rowling told us Lupin was a werewolf from the very beginning!

That's the characters, but how about the spells? Let's take a look:

Luna casting her Patronus - Credit: Hypable

Lumos - arguably one of the most well-known spells in the series. This spell gives the witch or wizard light. Therefore Lumos comes from the Latin 'lumen' put together with 'os' meaning to have. The witch or wizard is therefore saying 'to have light'. We see this spell in many occasions, but especially at the beginning of the Prisoner of Azkaban film where Harry is practising 'Lumos Maxima' under his duvet cover. The maxima being added of course to give maximum impact to the spell.

Nox - The opposite of Lumos, this spell will extinguish any light. Nox comes from the Latin word for night! A spell that comes in handy for Harry when he's roaming the school at night using the light from his wand to follow the footsteps on the Marauder's Map.

Expecto Patronum - A spell that was shouted loudly from the clifftop overlooking the dementors descending onto his godfather by Harry. This powerful spell has ancient roots, Expecto comes from the Latin 'expectum' meaning 'to await'. A patronus, funnily enough, was not an invention by JK Rowling, but in ancient Greek and Roman times a patronus was well known as a guardian. This spell therefore, is the summoner 'awaiting the guardian'. This is one of the spells Harry teaches the other members of the Order of the Phoenix. Side note: being able to produce a 'corporeal' or 'full-bodied' Patronus is something so impressive that the examiner asks Harry to produce one for him at the end of his Defence Against the Dark Arts O.W.L!

Accio - The one spell everyone wishes they could do... the summoning charm! Accio or accieo are both Latin for 'to summon' or 'to fetch'. Harry notably uses this spell to summon his broom during the first task of the Triwizard Tournament.

Finally, we'll end with the ultimate curse...

Avada Kedavra - The most powerful curse in the wizarding world, Avada Kedavra emits a green light that ends the life of its victim. Rowling explained the origin behind these words in an interview. She stated that Avada Kedavra is actually an ancient Aramaic spell and was essentially the original abracadabra! These ancient words mean 'let the thing be destroyed' and in this case, Rowling meant that 'thing' to be another person.

So there we have it! A look at a handful of the most impressive hidden meanings in the Harry Potter universe. The next time you're reading or watching the series, see if you can spot any more to add to the list.

Happy reading!

pop culture
Freya Taylor
Freya Taylor
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Freya Taylor

A proud Ravenclaw who happens to teach by day and who aspires to write, create and travel around the world. Lover of all things Harry Potter, The Lord of the Rings and ancient history (especially ancient Egypt).

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