J.K. Rowling has a knack for great names. Let’s talk about them.
Lupin: Turns into a Lupis (a wolf).
Weasely: The entire family is second-hand. It sounds like someone up the tree wanted a great name like Lion or Lynx and had to settle for that.
Moony: A werewolf.
Padfoot: A dog.
Prongs: A deer (antlers).
Wormtail: A rat.
Let’s talk about it and mention some spell names too. I took Spanish instead of Latin, so I don’t get many of them (Accio?).
Thanks to the Internet, here’s a fairly comprehensive list of character names (through Goblet of Fire):
Fred & George Weasley
Hogwarts Teachers, Staff & Ghosts
Professor Albus Dumbledore
Professor Kettleburn Professor Lockhart
Professor Remus Lupin
Professor Minerva McGonagall
Professor Alastor Moody
Professor Severus Snape
Professor Sybil Trelawney
Nearly Headless Nick
Peeves the Poltergeist
Mr. & Mrs. Riddle
Tom Riddle Sr.
Tom Marvolo Riddle aka Lord “Thingy”
Bartolomeus “Barty” Crouch
Barty Crouch Jr.
I think it’s interesting how the split between “normal” first names (to my Muggle ears – “Tom” probably sounds as eccentric in the wizarding world as “Mundungus” sounds to us) and bizarre ones is about 50-50. Furthermore, Rowling usually supplies or hints at some plausible explanation of how the handful of non-Muggle born wizards with “normal” names ended up that way. E.g., Tom Riddle is named after his Muggle father; Harry Potter may be named after one of Lily’s relatives; the whole Weasley brood were probably named by their father, who is in love with all things Muggle.
The big exceptions, so far as I can tell, are Vincent Crabbe, Gregory Goyle, and James Potter. I wonder if she’s going to do anything with this in future books. It would be interesting if the Crabbe and Goyle families turned out not to be as pure-blooded as they pretend to be.
I’ve always liked Rowling’s use of names as well. Each character seems aptly-named. Also, objects and spells have great names; I particularly like “Spell-O-Tape.”
The one I haven’t been able to figure out yet is in the new book, the judicial wizarding body known as the “Wizengamot.” I’m honestly not even sure how to pronounce it, but is that name a play on something else from our world? Seems like it should be, but I don’t recognize it if it is.
And just how the heck d’you say “Wizengamot,” anyway?
So the implication is that the Wizengamot is an ancient wizard’s tribunial that goes all the way back to the Anglo-Saxon days.
It’s not the case that all purebloods have weird first names and mudbloods have normal ones – note that the pureblood Weasley’s all have very ordinary first names, for example. (Even if Arthur named them all, that still doesn’t explain why his name is Arthur and his wife’s name is Molly.)
The rule seems to be that the people Harry looks upon as normal have normal first names, while the more special or unusual people have unusual first names. For example, the vast majority of Harry’s fellow students have normal first names (or, if they’re not normal, they’re merely old-fashioned: Millicent, Lavender, Hermione). So do the members of Harry’s surrogate family, the Weasleys.
On the other hand, the extraordinary people Harry runs across tend to have extraordinary names: Albus Dubledore, Sirius Black, Severus Snape, Draco Malfoy. So do the eccentric minor characters who flit in and out, like Cornelius Fudge and Rita Skeeter.
And then we have Delores Umbridge, who manages to have a name that is both perfectly normal and a whopping great pun (Delores Umbridge = dolorous umbrage = woeful offense).
I would pronounce it “wiz-en-ga-moot”, I think. I don’t know that it’s a play on anything in particular. It’s derived from “moot” or Old English “mOt”, which basically refers to a court–“a deliberative assembly primarily for the administration of justice”, according to Webster’s. (On preview, I see that Wumpus has already addressed this. Oh, well.)
As for other names:
Fawkes–Dumbledore’s phoenix shares a name with Guy Fawkes, along with the obvious bonfire link.
Arsenious Jigger–Author of the first year Potions text. “Arsenious” (containing arsenic, and therefore poisonous) + “jigger” (a drink-mixing measurement, about 1-2 ounces). Roughly, a shot of poison–just the sort of author one would expect Snape to pick.
Emeric Switch–Author of the first year Transfiguration text. “Switch” is obvious, and my brain keeps trying to make “Emeric” an anagram of “chimera”, but it doesn’t quite work.
Sybil Trelawney–“Sibyl”, a female prophet or fortuneteller, derived from Greek mythology, IIRC.
Cassandra Vablatsky–Author of the Divination text. “Cassandra” (Greek prophetess cursed by Apollo to speak true prophecy, and not be believed) + Vablatsky (anagram of Blavatsky–I assume this is a reference Madame Helena Blavatsky, Theosophical Society founder, former seance assistant, and psychic-about-town).
That’ll do for a start, anyway. I may post more when I get home and have the books at hand.
And of course the “riddle” is the real identity of T. M. R.
My mom, a big fan of the books, was excited when the character of Tom Marvolo Riddle appeared, because her maiden name was Riddle. Needless to say, she was a bit disappointed when she found out who Tom really was.
Neville Longbottom- Neville Chamberlain is a Prime Minister that is often, some night say unfairly, put down as is the books’ Neville. As he is a comical character he gets the comical last name Longbottom.
Luna Lovegood- I get a very hippie vibe from her and I can see a pair of hippies naming their child Luna. As for the Lovegood, is she a future love interest. Will she calm Harry down and teach him to “love good,” that is love in a good manner.
Draco Malfoy- A real Greek philosopher from whom the word “Dracoian” has its origin.
Lucius Malfoy- Lucius-light. Maybe a devil reference (Lucifer).
The Blacks- all star names. Narcissa serves a double purpose (a vain nymph).
I assure you there was no Greek philosopher named “Draco Malfoy”. There wasn’t even a Greek philosopher named just “Draco”, which is probably what you meant. The man whose name gives us the word “draconian” was an Athenian lawgiver known for his severity. “Draco” also means dragon or serpent, so it’s fitting for a Slytherin.
To expand on what Wumpus and Balance have already posted, the witenagemot was
A gemot was a council, the witenagemot was the Supreme National Council of the kingdom, and Rowling is probably alluding to that with her “Wizengamot”. (Also, she’s an English writer; the English, even English schoolkids, might be expected to be more familiar with the allusion. Fortunately, they refrained from pulling any “Sorceror’s Stone”-style changes to the “Wizard Congress” or anything like that.)
I think (based on two semesters of Old English and the fact that my department has a grad student colloquium called Mickelgemote) it’d be more like “wiz-en-ya-mote,” actually. In any case I loved the name.
don’t forget dumbledore! Albus Dumbledore…
“albus” is latin for white, or light - obviously, he is associated with “white magic” as opposed to the dark arts
i found this one really interesting - “dumbledore” means bumblebee (i’m not quite sure of the origins) - he is someone who is always doing something for the good of his “colony” (in this case, Hogwarts)
Minerva McGonagle - minerva was a goddess of knowledge
does anybody have anything to say on the flower names for sisters Lily and Petunia? i’m not quite sure what jkr meant by this, maybe perhaps that a Lily is seen as pure, and it is also the flower traditionally associated with death and funerals - a petunia is simply a common garden flower
ps…i now am kind of wondering if Remus Lupin has a brother named Romulus…hmm…maybe he has a twin somewhere?
and does anybody have any idea what the significance of prof. sinistra is? she (i think it’s a she…the names sounds almost like a feminine counterpart to severus snape) appears several times, sitting at the teacher’s table in the great hall, but what does she/he teach?