Harry Potter Names: Beyond Harry & Hermione
The Harry Potter 20th anniversary special Return to Hogwarts spotlights the impact of the books and films on our culture, including the lasting legacy of Harry Potter names.
J.K. Rowling is THE contemporary genius at character names, the modern equal of Charles Dickens. Along with George R.R. Martin of Game of Thrones and Suzanne Collins of Hunger Games, Rowling revived ancient Roman and mythological names that had been unused and unloved for centuries.
With a few exceptions, though, Rowling's influence is on the style of names finding new favor, rather than on the popularity of individual names themselves. Of the three authors, Rowling sticks the closest to actual historical names and doesn't have a Katniss or a Khaleesi to her credit.
Three Kinds of Harry Potter Names
Harry Potter names can for the most part be divided into three groups. The first is ordinary names like Ron, Ginny, and Harry itself that were already widely used and can't be identified specifically with the books. Harry also has the Prince Harry influence, so it's impossible to tell what of its popularity is Potter and what's the Prince.
Then there are the Harry Potter names that were quietly used in the Muggle world and whose popularity has exploded partly because of Harry Potter and partly because of other influences. The most notable of these are Luna and Arabella. Chrissy Teigen and John Legend's use of Luna and Ivanka Trump's daughter Arabella are probably bigger pop culture influences on those names than was Harry Potter.
Orion, Lucius, Blaise, Minerva, and Lavender are also in this group. They are all used a lot more now than in the time Before Potter, but for reasons that transcend Potter. Yes, Harry Potter influenced the popularity of mythological and botanical names. But those names are popular for other reasons too.
And then there are the true Harry Potter names, which may have been used in ancient times but have not for the most part transitioned from the books to real life. In this group are names such as Bellatrix, Severus, and Albus.
Top Harry Potter Names
Hermione and, surprisingly, Draco are the two Harry Potter-centric group that have seen the most use in the Muggle world. There were NO baby girls named Hermione in the US in 1997, the year before the first book was published here, and still none in 2000, but by 2011 there were 51 and in 2020, 91.
In the UK where Hermione was occasionally used -- Hermione Gingold was a well-known British actress -- there were 21 Hermiones born in 1996, the year before the first Harry Potter publication, and 64 in 2020. It peaked in 2004 when there were 162 baby girls named Hermione in the UK.
In the US, certainly, Hermione is still so closely identified with the Hermione of Harry Potter that it's difficult to see it escaping that association. But a generation ago we might have said the same thing about Scarlett, which has become a very popular baby name. Perhaps if one of the little girls named Hermione today grows up to be a major movie star, the name will have.a second important association and so become fair game for Muggles.
Draco has had the opposite trajectory in the UK and the US. There were zero baby boys named Draco in the UK in 1996 and still zero in 2020, with only a handful in between.
But in the US, where Lucifer is a trendy baby name thanks to the eponymous show and where Danger is one of Nameberry's most popular boys' names of the year, there were 8 boys named Draco in 1997 and 101 boys named Draco in 2020.
Harry Potter's Astronomical Names
Draco is an astronomical name, drawn from the constellation known as Draco the Dragon -- appropriate symbolism for that character. Like Dickens, Rowling takes delight in matching name to nature and uses many names from astronomy. Other examples:
ANDROMEDA –a constellation in the Northern sky
BELLATRIX — a star in the constellation Orion
CASSIOPEIA — another constellation in the Northern sky
LUNA — the moon
POLLUX — one of the twin stars of Gemini
SCORPIUS — a constellation representing a scorpion
SIRIUS — the brightest star in the night sky
Beyond these distinctive Harry Potter names –and certainly less extreme than such fanciful inventions as Mundungus, Nymphadora and Gwenog – the books and films include many perfectly usable, interesting and attractive names from the standard lexicon.
Harry Potter Girl Names