We love a name that has a good bit of alliteration, but there’s a lot more meaning behind ‘Filius Flitwick’ than that. The first part can be directly translated from Latin – it’s similar to the word ‘filial’, which means ‘of a son or daughter’. It is the masculine derivative of the Latin word and can be taken to mean ‘son of’. To understand the relevance of the Professor’s first name, we need to look at it in conjunction with his surname – Flitwick.
Fun fact: Flitwick happens to be a town in Bedfordshire which was once a dairy farm beside the river Flit. The name is derived from the old English words ‘fleot’, meaning river, and ‘wic’, meaning dairy farm. It seems a little odd to think of the Charms Professor as the ‘Son of River Dairy Farm’ so perhaps it is worth digging just a little deeper…
If you look at the words ‘flit’ and ‘wick’ individually, then it starts to make sense. A lot of the spells that we see Professor Flitwick perform require an adept flick of the wand and the first part of his name means just that – to flutter, or a light, swift movement. It comes from the Middle English word ‘flitten’ which translates to ‘fly’. And what is the first spell that Professor Flitwick teaches our class? Nothing other than Wingardium Leviosa – the spell to make things soar through the air. So here we have the ‘Son of Movement’, which is an accurate description of a very talented Charms professor, wouldn’t you say?
The sibyls of Ancient Greece were revered as oracles, women who had the ability to prophesise the future and were respected for their divine knowledge. The first sibyl was known as Sibylla, a woman who could ‘utter predictions in an ecstatic frenzy’. Not only is the name Sybill uncanny in its accuracy, but the way Professor Trelawney changes when she makes a real prophecy is very much a frenzy.
‘Her eyes started to roll. Harry stood there in a panic. She looked as though she was about to have some sort of seizure. He hesitated, thinking of running to the hospital wing – and then Professor Trelawney spoke again, in the same harsh voice, quite unlike her own.’
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
The professor’s last name is steeped in history and literature and adds more weight to her character. In Cornwall, Trelawney is an old family name which translates to ‘the open town near the water’. The family motto is ‘Sermoni consona facta’ which means ‘Deeds agreeing with words’. It is a very accurate description of our professorial oracle who not only predicted the rise of Harry Potter, but who used her own tools of the trade in the war against Voldemort. Flying crystal ball, anyone?
The name Horace is said to have its origins in the Latin word Horatius, with an Italian influence in the form of the name Orazio. It is thought to mean ‘timekeeper’ and it is whimsically apt in the case of this Professor. While he may not have a dazzling collection of clocks, he keeps a collection of people he has met and appreciated through time. He holds their history as a part of his own.
The name Slughorn, on the other hand, has a rich etymological story. It is often used to describe a fictional musical wind instrument in books such as Eneados, by Gavin Douglas, the Rowley Poems, by Thomas Chatterton, and a series of poems about the Battle of Hastings. These tales imply that the slughorn is used to signal the start of a battle, which is interesting, because many records point to the concept that slughorn is actually the original way to say ‘slogan’ (meaning ‘war cry’).
So Professor Horace Slughorn’s name can be translated to mean ‘Timekeeper’s War Cry’, and it is eerily accurate. He is the last key to unlocking what Voldemort has done to make himself immortal and allowing the last battle to commence. His revelation to Harry in Hagrid’s home is what sets in motion the events that signal the end of Voldemort’s tyranny and control.
Wilhelmina is a derivative of the German name ‘Wilhelm’, and this comes from the English name ‘William’, which has its roots in the Germanic name ‘Willahelm’. That’s all quite a mouthful, almost as much as the name itself.
Wilhelmina loosely translates to mean ‘will to protect’. It is a fabulous description of this Professor — not only did she protect Hagrid’s location and refuse to share any information with Harry while she stood in as a replacement for Care of Magical Creatures, but she was quick to stand up for Dumbledore when questioned by Dolores Umbridge.
Her surname is a gem – Grubbly-Plank. It conjures up images of reliable methods of creature control and pet storage. The first part of the name ‘grubbly’ is very likely from the English word ‘grubble’ which means to ‘grope’ or ‘feel about in the dark’. Considering that Professor Grubbly-Plank was forever standing in for disappearing Hagrid, she may have often felt as if she was kept in the dark. The second part of her surname ‘plank’ can easily refer to a piece of wood, but there is another meaning attached to it — ‘something to cling to for support’. As a stand-in teacher, she was just that, especially for some of the students who felt she was a less (ahem) terrifying teacher.
The only person to beat Professor Sybill Trelawney in the deliciously accurate name stakes is Professor Pomona Sprout, head of Herbology. Her first name ‘Pomona’ comes from the Latin word ‘pomum’ which means ‘fruit’. It is also the name of the Roman goddess of fruit – Pomona – who was the protector of the orchards.
Her surname ‘Sprout’ has Germanic roots and means ‘to sow’ or, ‘that which was scattered’, and is linked to the idea of new plant growth. It is also a term used in the botany specialism to describe the development of shoots and leaves on a plant – Professor of Herbology/botany specialist. Get it? Yeah? Genius.
Professor Pomona Sprout literally translates into ‘bearer of fruit and new growth’. A wonderful moniker for a woman who not only nurtures plants and uses them to save others (think Mandrake Restorative Draught), but who pays special attention to her students and encourages their personal growth (think Neville Longbottom).
‘I am sure Dumbledore would have wanted the school to remain open,’ said Professor Sprout. ‘I feel that if a single pupil wants to come, then the school ought to remain open for that pupil.’
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince