Digging into the Harry Potter Names Part 1

Abhirup Panja
5 min readOct 9, 2019

Recently I came across a comment on Reddit that pointed out to me that the name Dolores means pain. When I dug a bit deeper I found that it is a Spanish word which means sorrow, taken from the Spanish title of the Virgin Mary María de los Dolores, meaning “Mary of Sorrows” [cite]. So it got me thinking about the Harry Potter character Dolores Umbridge, and I found that the second name of that character Umbridge is just one letter off of the word umbrage which means annoyance. So I put my weird logic to it and deduced maybe the like the character itself in the Harry Potter books her name maybe actually means pain and annoyance. I put this observation on my Instagram story and I gathered some interest among my followers. This motivated me to dig a bit deeper into the other names of the various Harry Potter characters, and I decided to come up with this article digging into the names of other characters of the series.

Disclaimer: All of these are my opinion, please don’t be offended by it. Though leave your thoughts and counter opinions in the comments.

  1. Severus Snape
    The often misunderstood beloved character who gave a new meaning to the word “always”, has always been the stern guy with a pointy nose. And no surprise the word Severus in Latin means severe, stern or strict [cite].
    The word Snape has two meanings both of which I found interesting. One of them is to taper, which can maybe point to the character’s pointy nose. The other meaning comes from the assumption that it is a variant of the archaic English word sneap which means a rebuke or snub, which is also one of the characteristics of Snape, given the number of times he can be observed chiding the Harry, Ron and Hermione trio throughout the series.
    2. Minerva McGonagall
    The stern but often witty professor is one of the characters who has a bag full of sarcastic comments in her inventory. Often seen unleashing them on unsuspecting students, she is one of the most loved characters of the series. The word Minerva is the name of the Roman goddess of wisdom, which is often considered the Roman counterpart of Athena the Greek goddess of wisdom. One can easily see the connection between this name and the wisdom exhibited by McGonaggal throughout the seven books (and eight movies).
    The word McGonaggal is made up of two words, Mc and Gonagall. Mc means the “son of” and Gonaggal is derived from the Celtic name “Conegal,” which means “the bravest. I found this [link] which has explained it way better than I can, you can visit it if you are interested.
    3. Xenophilius Lovegood
    Luna’s dad who enlightens the trio with his knowledge about the Deathly Hallows is a queer character and is often underestimated for his importance in the storyline of the series. But one thing that can be agreed upon is this character’s proclivity to the strange things even for the wizarding world and rightly the word Xenophilius means the lover of strange things. It is made up of the Greek word Xenos which means strange and Phile which means love.
    The word Lovegood is just a simple compound word made up of the words love and good. The character is an innocent dad who loves his daughter and is unmoved by the complexities of the world, thus fitting him and his daughter perfectly as someone who loves doing good or just loves being good for a matter of fact.
    4. Quirinus Quirrell
    Okay, so I am gonna admit this one took some thinking before I could come up with an explanation. I am gonna take up explaining the family name first because I think the first name has got a deeper and more interesting meaning to it than Quirrell. While I couldn’t find a proper meaning to the word Quirrell, but this link here suggests it may be linked to the animal squirrel, as the professor can be often seen being scared and quivering like a squirrel.
    Coming to the more interesting part, Quirinus is an early god of the Romans. While a lot of the blogs just point you towards the word meaning a spear and drawing parallelisms with the characters sinister motives being similar to a spear, I would like to point in some other way. So this roman god Quirinus has a rather queer history. Apparently when the kind of Rome Romulus disappeared a guy called Proculus Julius claimed that Romulus had come to him and told him that he Romulus, was Quirinus. Thus Quirinus soon came to be considered the legendary god in Rome. A lot of historians doubt that both Romulus and Quirinus were the same person or entity and were separated into two characters to keep the myth and reality separate. Coming to my observation that Quirrell can be seen living a dual life with Voldemort being hidden on the back of his head through the turban. So can Rowling be pointing to this same fact of two people being the same person?
    I don’t know but maybe just maybe.

Okay so I am gonna end this one here, but I would like to keep this series an open-source kind of thing, where I would love to know your comments, thoughts and more interesting theories than I have put up here. Please let me know in the comments or just drop me a message, I am always up for a good Harry Potter discussion. Maybe we can come up with a better second part together?
Also, I know you can find scores of articles stating the etymology of the Harry Potter character names, I am not the first one to do so, but I just found it interesting that I hadn’t thought about all this being an avid fan for so long. So I am hoping this article pushes you to wonder and find more fascinating stuff about our favorite fandom.
As always be curious!
p.s. Maybe leave a clap down there if you found this one fascinating. Also share please like really please share this one.