Playing the Harry Potter Name Game

Playing the Harry Potter Name Game

By Emily Cardoza

As a bookworm, I find that some of the most fun in reading comes after I finish the book – imagining the characters’ worlds, thinking up possible new storylines – and even new names! I’ve been giving the name treatment to a few works of fiction in my Literary Names series on Nothing Like a Name. My last post for Nameberry, New Names for The Secret Garden, prompted a couple of requests to give the same treatment to Harry Potter characters. But since the cast is so enormous, I’ve decided to try it out with just a select subset – the Defense Against the Dark Arts professors.

Remember that this is just a personal homage, and I’d be excited to hear how you would change up the names! Also – I’ll be using the names the characters went by so as not to spoil anything!

Quirinus Quirrell….. Gehry WileyThis substitute name is much less fanciful, but I’ve tried to stay true to the sound and meaning. While researching Quirinus, I found that it means “spear,” which the sharpness of Quirrell’s character justifies, so I kept the meaning and found Gehry. Quirrell is a made-up name by Rowling, but I was struck by how much it sounds like “squirrel” so I picked a squirrelly-sounding middle name – Wiley. Since I can picture a middle-aged frantic Muggle named Gehry Wiley pretty easily, I think Quirrell has been well-served.

Gilderoy Lockhart….. Aurelius BaldwinIn my mind, Gilderoy Lockhart picked his own name, one that would measure up to the greatness he hoped to achieve. I chose a “gilded” name that belonged to an emperor, one that I think he’d enjoy: Aurelius, “the golden one”. I wanted a brave but pompous middle name, so I picked Baldwin, meaning “brave friend.” The connection to the acting brothers affects it a bit, though. Both names have the same aural rhythm, to cement the connection.

Remus Lupin….. Zev DakotaThere are many analyses of Lupin’s name floating around online, most having to do with how much of the “wolf” meaning is imbued in his name. I decided to keep but tone down that connection with a short but unusual first name: Zev means “wolf” in Hebrew. I wanted a more natural middle name, so I picked Dakota. It’s underused for boys, and also has the plus of meaning “friend” – he was the only DADA professor to whom Harry was close.

Alastor Moody….. Vidar QuaronneDramatic and dark is how I think about Moody‘s character. His name means “avenger” and “ill-humored,” so again, I followed the meaning – Quaronne is Old English for “one who is haughty”; Vidar I stumbled across while looking for names related to vengeance. In Norse mythology, Vidar is the one who will avenge the death of his father, Odin, at the end of the world. And I couldn’t resist a father-son reference for Moody‘s new name!

Dolores Umbridge….. Bronagh AtgasBronagh is Irish and Atgas is Welsh, so at least that part of the world is well-represented. Dolores means “sorrow” as does Bronagh – with this character, it was important to me to underscore the sadness and evil attached to her. Atgas is Welsh for “hate”, which I thought pertinent given her intolerance and racism. The sound of the name, to me, is like a snarl.

Severus Snape….. Severus SnapePerhaps I’m too much of an HP fan, but it’s impossible for me to come uppwith a similar name for this very important character. Tell me how you’d do it in the comments!

Amycus Carrow….. Dexter ShararIt was always frustrating to me that his first name was Amycus, like the Latin word for “friend”, when this teacher was anything but friendly. I chose Sharar, a name of Hebrew origin meaning “enemy” to set things right. Carrow comes from Old Irish for “dexterous,” so I picked Dexter – and also because it has the related connotation to HBO’s serial killer.

What do you think? How would you change these names? Or is Harry Potter too sacred to edit?

Emily Cardoza, known on Nameberry as emilygc3, is a twenty-three year-old Bay Area resident who likes Netflix, birds, and names. When not unjamming copy machines at her day job, you can find her blogging at