Learning Latin with Harry Potter
Just before Christmas I helped our language producer record Latin, which will be coming to uTalk later in the year. Whilst listening to the Latin speakers I found I recognised some of the words (although I have never learnt Latin before). And then I realised this was due to my love for/slight obsession with Harry Potter.
As a child I would read every Harry Potter book that came out (this could take some time, as my mum would read it first, followed by my sister, then my dad and then finally me; by which point my mum would have already disclosed a summary of the book including 100 different spoilers!). The extremely clever use of Latin has helped to allow the Harry Potter stories to become even more accessible worldwide, as Latin runs through many modern romance languages, such as French and English. It is also a language that isn’t as widely used or known in modern society anymore.
A few examples of J.K.Rowling’s use of Latin:
- ‘Protego’, which is a shield charm that creates a magical barrier, literally means ‘protect’ in Latin.
- ‘Lumos’, which produces a burst of light, is related to the Latin word lumen – which directly translates into light.
- ‘Crucio’ one of the ‘forbidden curses’ which causes a lot of pain, means ‘I torture’ in Latin.
- ‘Expecto Patronum’ which is used to produce a spirit animal to shield you from dementors, translates into ‘I wait for a patron’ in Latin.
- ‘Levicorpus‘, which is a spell that suspends someone from their ankles in mid-air, is a combination of two Latin words: levare, which means ‘lift’, and corpus translates as ‘body’.
These spells are pretty self-explanatory when you know Latin!
Again, the Latin theme can be found across names used in Harry Potter, often describing their personality or role in the books.
- Remus Lupin – his surname means wolf (which Hermione worked out early on in the third book).
- Draco – means dragon although the character’s surname, Malfoy, is actually French for ‘bad faith’.
- Severus (Snape) – means ‘stern’ in Latin, which is an appropriate word for Hogwarts’ meanest teacher!
- Sirius Black – it’s no coincidence that this character’s named after the Dog Star.
- Ludo Bagman – he’s the head of the Division for Magical Games and Sports, so it makes sense that his first name, Ludo, means ‘I play’ in Latin.
Can you think of any more examples of Latin in Harry Potter?