Sadly, we didn’t meet much of Harry’s family in the books, but the etymology behind the Potter family names makes for fascinating reading…

Harry Potter

The whole charm of Harry is that he was an extraordinary wizard with a very ordinary name. But if you look a little deeper, Harry’s name is rooted in ideas of leadership and war. With everything Harry had to endure this certainly fits – and the name means something similar in different languages.

In Norse it means ‘war chief’ – well, he was a founder of Dumbledore’s Army – and in English it means ‘protector’, typically in relation to ‘home’. And what did Harry find himself defending so often? Hogwarts, of course. The place he knew as home more than anywhere else.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2

James Potter

Harry’s father was a pretty complicated guy and his name originates from the Latin for ‘supplant’ or ‘replace’. Thinking about this, James could be seen as Snape’s replacement because he became Lily’s closest friend and, later, husband and father of her child. After all, if Snape had not made friends with the people he did at Hogwarts, maybe he and Lily might have ended up together. Or… maybe not. Maybe James is just a very common name: the name of many kings and two Apostles. James Potter certainly had certain leadership qualities.

As for ‘potter’ – potter means, yes you’ve guessed it, someone who made pottery – but Harry’s particular surname is descended from his ancestor, an old wizard nicknamed the ‘Potterer’. His full name was Linfred of Stinchcombe, but his nickname was what he was known for, and through time it got reduced to ‘Potter’. The Potterer was considered to be the creator of multiple potions that went on to be heavily used in the wizarding world Harry knew – he even used Skele-Gro to mend his broken arm.

Illustration of James Potter from the first Order of the Phoenix infographic
James Potter. © JKR/Pottermore Ltd.™ Warner Bros.

Lily Potter

A very literal reading of Lily’s name is that she was elegant, pretty and pure like the flower, and, with what we know of her, this sort of fits. Lily was the object of James’s desire, Snape’s friendship and Petunia’s anger for all of the above reasons.

We love discovering little connections and there’s definitely something in Lily and Severus’s names. Lilies are a very beautiful flower when cut and Severus is only two letters off ‘sever’. And which particular relationship did Severus sever? Petunia and Lily’s, after the latter found so much in common with her magical new friend. The more you know.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2

Fleamont Potter

Harry’s grandfather on his dad’s side certainly wins the prize for weirdest Potter family name. It was his first name that got him into all manner of fights during his time at Hogwarts, and Fleamont was fighting to protect its honour. He was called Fleamont because of his own grandmother – so Harry’s great-great-grandmother – who insisted he continue her family name.

Fleamont earned his wealth by cooking up Sleekeazy’s Hair Potion, a very popular wizarding beauty product. As for Fleamont’s name, it’s difficult to find a meaning in such an unusual name but ‘mont’ is French for mountain and flea is obviously the bug with origins in the Latin word ‘fleon’, meaning ‘to flee’. So… err… ‘to flee mountain’? We’re not too sure about this one. But it’s still a great name.

Euphemia Potter

The name Euphemia originates from the Greek language with ‘eu’ meaning good and ‘phemia’ meaning ‘to speak’, therefore ‘well-spoken’. In history, Euphemia was a saint but her name was supposed to be interpreted as ‘well-spoken of’, so, as an ancient figure, Euphemia was praised after death, rather than her just being really nice to chat to.

In the Potter family, Euphemia was Fleamont’s wife, so she was Harry’s paternal grandmother, and for a long time she and Fleamont tried to have kids. Eventually, however, she gave birth to James Potter – and if she hadn’t, things could have ended up very differently for the wizarding world. Maybe Voldemort’s Prophecy would’ve still taken place and Neville would’ve had to deal with everything instead.

Henry Potter

Harry’s father’s own granddad, Henry Potter was known to the people around him as Harry. Yes, Harry was not the first Harry Potter – and owing to Henry’s own fascinating past, the pair were similar in many ways.

Henry was a high-ranking wizard on the Wizengamot, having entered politics much like his great-grandson would do later in life, and was best known for controversially speaking out against the then-current Minister for Magic, Archer Evermonde. Looking at the parallels, Harry himself wasn’t exactly fond of Cornelius Fudge when he held office.

The name Henry is, like Harry, associated with power, deriving from Germanic roots. ‘Heim’ means home and ‘ric’ is 'power' or 'ruler', so Henry was a ‘home ruler’. With a history and spirit so alike, this makes total sense.

James Sirius Potter, Albus Severus Potter and Lily Luna Potter

Well, these all seem fairly familiar. Harry and Ginny’s kids each have names we’ve seen before, honouring the legacy of great people that have come before them, and it’s a very sweet gesture by their parents.

James is obviously named after Harry’s father, and Sirius after Harry’s godfather. Then there’s Albus, who took Dumbledore and Snape’s forenames, and both boys resembled their namesakes in different ways. James inherited his grandfather’s confidence and cheeky spirit, and his teasing relationship with his much more introverted brother was similar to James and Severus’s.

Lily, on the other hand, was very similar to her mother, a bit more reserved and watchful of her brothers, due to her young age. Her bright red hair was also something she shared with her namesake and grandmother, Lily, and her mum, Ginny.

Deathly Hallows epilogue