8 Famous 'Harry Potter' Spells and Their Real-life Origins (2024)

Something that makes the "Harry Potter" books fun to read for adults — not just kids — is author J. K. Rowling's use of wordplay. Names are often literary references or jokes, and many of the "Harry Potter" spells provide a clear hint at their function for anyone familiar with Latin or Greek.

Some spells are straightforward: The confundus charm confuses (or confounds) its recipient, the lumos spell produces a light (or illumination) at the end of the caster's wand, avis is a bird-conjuring charm (note the connection to aviary) and the sonorus spell amplifies the sound of the caster's voice. Other spells have more obscure origins.

Here, we'll explore some of the most famous spells featured in the "Harry Potter" books and movies.

1. Accio

  • What it is: summoning charm

  • What it means: Accio is the first-person conjugation of the Latin verb accersere (to summon). So accio simply means "I summon."

  • Claim to fame: In "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire," Harry uses accio to summon his broomstick and fly away from a dragon during the Triwizard Tournament.

2. Alohom*ora

3. Avada Kedavra

  • What it is: killing curse accompanied by a flash of green light

  • What it means: In the Syrian dialect Aramaic, avada kedavra (אַבַדָא כְּדַברָא) means "let the thing be destroyed." It's also the origin of "abracadabra."

  • Claim to fame: Lord Voldemort used this curse — the most evil spell in the wizarding world — to kill Harry Potter's parents. When the curse failed to kill young Harry, he became known as "the boy who lived." It's one of the three Unforgivable Curses. The other two are the Imperius curse (mind control) and the Cruciatus curse (bodily torture).

4. Duro

5. Episkey

  • What it is: healing spell for minor injuries

  • What it means: In Greek, episkeví (επισκευή) means "to repair or refit."

  • Claim to fame: In "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince," Tonks uses episkey to heal Harry after Draco Malfoy petrifies him, causing Harry to break his nose. Healing spells can be tricky: Another spell used to heal broken bones, brackium emendo, caused Harry's bones to disappear when performed incorrectly by Gilderoy Lockhart in "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban."

6. Expecto Patronum

  • What it is: a way to drive away dementors

  • What it means: In Latin, exspecto means "I await," while patronum refers to a guardian or protector. In the wizarding world, your patronus (usually in the form of an animal) can protect you from dementors.

  • Claim to fame: In "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban," Harry decides to learn the patronus charm to protect himself against the dementors stationed at Hogwarts. When using Hermione's time turner, he sees a figure he believes to be his father casting a powerful patronus; Harry later realizes the spell caster was himself in the future.

7. Expelliarmus

  • What it is: disarming charm

  • What it means: Expelliarmus comes from the Latin words expellere (to expel) and arma (weapon). In the wizarding world, the weapon of choice is a wand, so expelliarmus removes your opponent's wand from their hand.

  • Claim to fame: Expelliarmus is notorious in the "Harry Potter" world for being Harry's go-to spell. Harry first learns expelliarmus in Gilderoy Lockhart's ill-fated dueling club from "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets." He eventually uses expelliarmus to kill Lord Voldemort, when it causes You-Know-Who's killing curse to backfire.

8. Wingardium Leviosa

  • What it is: levitation charm

  • What it means: This made-up word is a mashup of the English word wing (which implies flying) and the Latin word arduus, which means high or steep (it's also the source of the English word arduous). Leviosa likely comes from the Latin word levis, which means lightweight (and is also the origin of the words levity and levitate).

  • Claim to fame: One of the most famous scenes from the "Harry Potter" films involves Hermione correcting Ron's pronunciation of "leviosa" in "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone."

Original article: 8 Famous 'Harry Potter' Spells and Their Real-life Origins

Copyright © 2024 HowStuffWorks, a division of InfoSpace Holdings, LLC, a System1 Company

8 Famous 'Harry Potter' Spells and Their Real-life Origins (2024)


What is the most famous Harry Potter spell? ›

1. Expecto Patronum. Expecto Patronum was one of the most famous charms in the Harry Potter world. It was one of the most powerful defensive charms known to Wizardkind.

Where did Harry Potter spells originate? ›

The real scientific meaning behind 13 'Harry Potter' spells. J.K. Rowling used Latin as inspiration for the spells in "Harry Potter." Some translations are very literal; "avis" means "bird."

What are the 7 types of spells Harry Potter? ›

There are 7 types of spells in the Harry Potter universe: charms, curses, transfigurations, healing spells, jinxes, hexes, and counter-spells. Each of these types have their own properties and purposes, all being able to be cast by a single wand.

What is Hermione's famous spell? ›

Hermione's de facto signature spell is 'Bluebell Flames', also known as 'Cold Flames'. The incantation is unknown but is at least 2 words long. Hermione uses it 4 times: Once to set Snape's robe on fire in the Slytherin-Gryffindor Quidditch Match in their 1st Year.

What is Ginny's famous spell? ›

As the youngest Weasley, we're sure Ginny observed more than her fair share of unpleasant spells over the years but it was the Bat Bogey Hex she was famous for – and with good reason. This was the spell that overpowered Draco Malfoy and the Inquisitorial Squad, and also secured her an invite to the Slug Club.

What spell kills Bellatrix? ›

In the final movie, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows pt. 2, Molly first hits Bella with a spell that freezes her, most likely Petrificus Totalus. Then, she launches another one that shatters her entire body into pieces, which could be expelliarmus, bombarda, stupefy, or any spell that can produce such an effect.

What was Harry's first spell? ›

Harry did not cast any spells in first movie. We first see him casting spell “Rictesempra” while dueling in second movie. Fun fact: First verbal spell was “occulas reparo” by Hermione on train.. First non verbal was “Incendio” by Hagrid when he was there to fetch Harry in that cottage.

What spells are real in Harry Potter? ›

Answer: No, the spells in the Harry Potter books are not real. Like the books, they are fictional. Not only are they not actual spells from any culture or group, they are mostly not even actual words.

Did Dumbledore invent any spell? ›

Albus Dumbledore likely invented many magical spells and devices, but the most noteworthy in the Harry Potter series is the Deluminator. It was first introduced in the same chapter as Dumbledore himself, and it is used to trap the light of any lamp or candle and return it when prompted.

Who is Draco Malfoy's boyfriend? ›

What spell killed Voldemort? ›

The Disarming Charm became Harry Potter's signature spell, and it notably caused the final defeat of Lord Voldemort during the Battle of Hogwarts by rebounding his Killing Curse, because the Elder Wand recognised Harry as its master through the spell connection, and thus strengthened the Disarming Charm to the point ...

What spell did Snape use to heal Draco? ›

Vulnera Sanentur was the song-like incantation of a healing spell which was used to heal deep wounds, which could also be used as the counter-curse for the curse Sectumsempra.

What is Ginny Weasley's spell? ›

The spell was invented by Miranda Goshawk. The use of the Bat-Bogey Hex on a non-human target (such as a chicken) could be fatal, and may have resulted in punishment by the Wizengamot. It was also Ginevra Weasley's signature spell.

What is Ron's best spell? ›

  • 1 Wingardium Leviosa - The Levitation Charm. As A First Year, Ron Knocked Out A Fully Grown Troll With Its Own Club. ...
  • 2 Stupefy - The Stunning Spell. Ron Used Stupefy On Death Eaters In The Department Of Mysteries. ...
  • 3 Expecto Patronum - The Patronus Charm. ...
  • 4 Avada Kedavra - The Killing Curse. ...
  • 5 Imperio - The Imperius Curse.
Mar 27, 2024

What spell did Draco use on Hermione? ›

Densaugeo was the incantation of a hex which caused the front teeth to elongate at an alarming rate.

What is Harry Potter's signature spell? ›

Harry Potter has used many spells in his life, but Expelliarmus was his most important. His signature spell also showed the quality of his character. It's important to remember the ongoing controversial statements by the creator of the Harry Potter franchise.

What is the hardest spell to say in Harry Potter? ›

Patronus. The Patronus Charm is perhaps the most notorious difficult-to-cast spell in the wizarding world, and it's certainly the first one to come to mind for most fans. The Patronus Charm requires the caster to hold on to a moment of pure happiness—as in, they must think of their happiest memory.

What is Harry Potter's special spell? ›

Expelliarmus is a signature spell of Harry Potter, who uses it throughout the series, like in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban when Harry disarms Peter Pettigrew.

What is the most ridiculous spell in Harry Potter? ›

Perhaps the most famous silly spell in Harry Potter is the slug-vomiting charm, performed by Ron Weasley in The Chamber of Secrets, which backfired on him thanks to his wonky wand. As silly as the charm itself, the incantation is Slugulus Eructo and can get quickly cured with some treacle fudge.

Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Reed Wilderman

Last Updated:

Views: 6191

Rating: 4.1 / 5 (72 voted)

Reviews: 95% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Reed Wilderman

Birthday: 1992-06-14

Address: 998 Estell Village, Lake Oscarberg, SD 48713-6877

Phone: +21813267449721

Job: Technology Engineer

Hobby: Swimming, Do it yourself, Beekeeping, Lapidary, Cosplaying, Hiking, Graffiti

Introduction: My name is Reed Wilderman, I am a faithful, bright, lucky, adventurous, lively, rich, vast person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.