Importance of Latin in Wizarding World:
When we talk about the fantasy genre in the world of literature, a language that plays an important role in Latin. Latin is a classical language and was used in medieval times by Romans and Greeks. Since then the language has been associated with literature and the Romantic age. Many contemporary authors have been fascinated by this ancient language and have incorporated it into their writing and fictional worlds. JK Rowling has also used Latin in the Harry Potter series to a big extent and you’ll be surprised to learn just how much. The classical language is everywhere in the wizarding world if you know where to look.
Something that a lot of people don’t know is that Latin is a dead language. A dead language is a language that no longer has any native speakers, especially if the language has no living descendants. In contrast, a dead language is “one that is no longer the native language of any community”, even if it is still in use. Therefore, it is even more interesting why some fantasy writers have found the language so mesmerizing. Authors like JRR Tolkien have also made use of the Latin language in their writing. Tolkien went to the extent of creating whole new languages for his middle earth stories such as ‘The Lord of the rings’, ‘The Hobbit’, and ‘Silmarillion’. Tolkien also made use of Latin for his self created languages in his works.
Even-though JK Rowling did not go as far as to create completely new languages in the Harry Potter series, she created a whole lot of spells that are not just random words. The spells are made from Latin words and have deep meaning in them. For example, “Accio” literally means “I summon.” “Lumos” was derived from “lumen,” which we still use to quantify light. “Nox” is “night, and “Crucio” is “torture.” Even some of the longer spells still narrate what they do, word for word. “Expelliarmus” translates to “I banish your weapons.” “Priori Incantatem” reveals the prior incantation. These are a few examples of how the language has been used to make the wizarding world seem even more real to the readers.
Spells are not the only way Latin has been incorporated into the wizarding world by Rowling. Many character names have Latin origins that are simply fascinating. Some are comparatively straightforward: ‘Severus’ means severe, ‘Lupin’ is the wolf, ‘Albus’ is white; all are good descriptors of their holders and capture the essence of the characters pretty well. ‘Bellatrix’ comes from a word that means ‘warrior’ and even though we hate the character we can’t deny that she was a good fighter. Another good example for the use of Latin language in the series is the Hogwarts motto ‘Draco dormiens nunquam titillandus’ which loosely translates to ‘never tickle a sleeping dragon’. Only Hogwarts school of Witchcraft and wizardry could have a mysterious yet humorous motto like that.
Most of the magical creatures that we meet in the series such as a phoenix, centaurs, Gryffins, and dragons are also part of the old literature canon of Roman and Greek literature. They perfectly capture the magical vibe of the Potter universe. Rowling was smart to rely on an ancient language and with wizards being old-fashioned, it’s not surprising that so many of their spells are rooted in a more archaic language.
Latin has long been magic’s favorite language, since at least the Middle Ages. It’s the language of alchemy and necromancy; both types of magic play important roles in the Harry Potter franchise. This shows the extent to which the author has gone to create a world that seems as real as it can be and shows her tremendous efforts to bring authenticity. Harry Potter is one of the most loved franchises of all time and these little details and efforts reveal exactly why the series is so popular.