Harry Potter language question
August 25, 2016 5:35 PM   Subscribe

The spells in the Harry Potter books are in a kind of Latin. There is a Latin translation of the first Harry Potter book. What language are the spells in that? (PLEASE SAY GREEK!) What language are the spells in the Greek translation? (PLEASE SAY EGYPTIAN!)
posted by thatwhichfalls to Society & Culture (9 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: There is a Latin translation of the first Harry Potter book. What language are the spells in that?

After clicking on the "surprise me" button on the Amazon preview for the book too many times, I came across this passage that looks like Ron casting a spell (note: I'm neither a Latin speaker nor do I have a ton of Harry Potter knowledge):

p. 138: 'Wingardium Leviosa!' clamavit, bracchia longa iactans more molae venti.

The original in English is "'Wingardium Leviosa!' he shouted, waving his long arms like a windmill."

So, the spells in the Latin version are in Latin.
posted by zippy at 5:46 PM on August 25, 2016 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: That totally sucks
posted by thatwhichfalls at 5:53 PM on August 25, 2016 [59 favorites]

If it's any consolation, the spells in the Hindi version are apparently in Sanskrit.
posted by Paragon at 6:02 PM on August 25, 2016 [61 favorites]

Best answer: The Greek version of that same sentence is:

Οὐιγγαρδιὸν λεουιοσά κεκραγὼς τοὺς βραχίονας οὐ βραχεῖς ὄντας ἅμα ἀνέσεισεν ἀνεμομύλῳ ἐοικώς.

Οὐιγγαρδιὸν λεουιοσά is merely an attempt to transliterate Wingardium Leviosa into the Greek alphabet -- it's meaningless in ancient Greek.

Wingardium Leviosa and all the other spells in Harry Potter are also not really Latin -- they kinda look like Latin, but they don't actually mean anything in Latin either (e.g. 'wingardium' is not a Latin word but some kind of combination of English 'wing' and a Latin suffix -ardium). Clearly the translators thought it would be easier/better to leave the spells as is than try to recreate the feel of them in Latin & Greek.
posted by dd42 at 6:04 PM on August 25, 2016 [16 favorites]

Response by poster: That actually makes me a lot happier.
I suppose my Egyptian suggestion was a bit glib. It should be the spoken form of linear A. Still. Latin spells in a book in Latin. SAD! Amd now I promise the mods I'll shut up
posted by thatwhichfalls at 6:08 PM on August 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

The Japanese edition is just 'Wingardium Leviosa' phonetically. But they use a different font for the spells if that helps! LOL
posted by Caravantea at 6:26 PM on August 25, 2016

This is a great question, and I was SO HOPING that Hermine Granger would answer it.
posted by guster4lovers at 8:24 PM on August 25, 2016 [20 favorites]

Sorry for the late reply; European timezones.

The spells are not printed in proper Latin in the books so that muggles cannot just try them out and do damage. There will be a long article in the next Quibbler!
posted by LoonyLovegood at 10:26 PM on August 25, 2016 [56 favorites]

I once read that the spells have different linguistic roots depending on their function, just like the English language. Here's a link saying something to that effect.

"There’s a linguist’s saying about English speakers that we go to work in Latin and come home in Anglo-Saxon.

"...the wizarding world falls into the same patterns of speech, with many lower-level hexes and household charms in English, such as Scourgify. It’s in the higher-order spells that one sees the shift to Latin and Latinate phrases: Expecto Patronum, Cave Inimicum, Fidelius, Expelliarmus, Finite Incantatem.

"...there are only two Greek-based spells mentioned in all of the seven books: Anapeo and Episkey. The interesting thing to note is that both of these are spells with medical uses, which should not be surprising: in the ancient world, Greek was the language of physicians."
posted by segfault at 7:58 AM on August 26, 2016 [7 favorites]

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