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Quite a lot of the names have Latin or Greek origin, sometimes from mythology. Albus Dumbledore, for instance, has the name albus meaning white in Latin, which is a colour that is often associated with goodness, knowledge and truth, with perhaps also a nod at his long white beard. Severus Snape, obviously, has the Latin word for severe, which suits his personality. Minerva McGonagall has the name of the Roman goddess of wisdom, which suits her own knowledgeable and intelligent disposition. Sybil Trelawney has the name of the mythical human beings known as sybils, which are oracles in the temple of Apollo who have been granted the incredible gift of foresight. Other examples include Regulus Black, Lucius Malfoy, Draco Malfoy (dragon), Narcissa Malfoy (Narcissus) etc.

Rowling is also very fond of a little French allusion. Voldemort is a French combination of Vol de Mort, meaning theft of death, which makes sense since his entire purpose in life is to avoid the final fate of death (creating horcruxes etc.) , so he can be said in effect to have stolen death. Malfoy could be Mal-Foi, bad time. And of course, Fleur Delacour's name actually means flower of the field, which again works with her character rather well. Remus Lupin, besides having a first name that nods at Romulus and Remus, the twins who suckled from a wolf, has the surname which is the French for wolf.

Still other poems are from just plain English, albeit sometimes in older forms. Dumbledore's middle name Percival recalls the knight who aided in the retrieval of the Holy Grail, so long seen as a symbol of man's struggle toward Truth. Wulfric, another of his middle names, recall the Old Germanic Wulf-ric, or wolf power. He is also many times compared to the wolf in descriptions.

So what Rowling seems to have done is to match the name of a character with his or her personality, and then subtly hide this allusion within a mythological or linguistic reference. However, there still seem to be some names which are difficult to explain in this manner. There appear to be no explanation for the name of the title character, which is plain in the extreme, for instance.

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2014-01-19 13:44:24
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Q: Where does J.K. Rowling get the names for her characters?
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