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The Harry Potter franchise is perhaps one of the biggest cultural juggernauts of the last twenty years. It’s absolutely taken the world by storm, giving birth to not only a series of wildly successful best-sellers but some of the highest-grossing movies of all time and some of the world’s most popular theme park attractions. It’s a phenomenon like no other, one that has absolutely changed the way that people look at the world – and it can be pretty overwhelming, especially if you haven’t been into the series since it started decades ago.  I can tell you from a bad experience at a Harry Potter trivia night…you don’t want to be completely in the dark on these topics or you’ll inevitably be left out in the cold of a conversation at some point in your life.

Fortunately, there’s help available for you!

If you want to get fluent in Potter, you need to start out with the basic lingo. There are a few key words and phrases that will help you to sound more Potter-literate, especially among your more wizardly friends. Below is a quick Harry Potter glossary of terms you’ll need to know to keep up with Pottermania.

He Who Must Not Be Named

Also known as Lord Voldemort (and Tom Riddle), he’s the Big Bad of the Potter series. Saying his name is a taboo, so most wizard characters refer to him as He Who Must Not Be Named. The title has found its way into Potter fandom and is used as a reference to virtually anyone who you don’t want to mention in front of company.


Hogwarts is the Scotland-based school in which the series takes place. A riff on the traditional British boarding school, it’s the place that all Potter fans secretly wish they had gone to as kids. Though dangerous and often downright deadly, it’s nonetheless far more magical than your own alma mater. Children get a magical Hogwarts Letter to let them know that they’ve been accepted to the school, something that many fans are still waiting to receive.

Hogwarts is dived into four houses: Gryffindor (for the brave), Ravenclaw (for the brainy), Slytherin (for the ambitious), and Hufflepuff (for the rest). Potter fans tend to have strong opinions on the House in which they should be placed.


This is probably the most popular term spun out of the Potter franchise – so popular, in fact, that it’s got its own dictionary entry. A muggle is, in terms of the series, a person who doesn’t have magic (i.e., a normal human being). In terms of the fandom, a muggle can also be a person who isn’t into Harry Potter or who hasn’t kept up with the ins and outs of the fandom.


A spectral, light-based creature that represents the happiest emotions of the user. This spell was a major part of the series, and the form your Patronus takes is usually fairly important to Potter fans. It’s not quite as big a deal as your House, but Potter fans will usually want to know about this one, too.


The big sport of the Potter universe. Kind of a cross between soccer and rugby but played on flying brooms, it’s been adapted into a hilarious real-life sport that’s played at many colleges and at many conventions. The rules of Quidditch don’t make sense, but you should know that you need to catch the Golden Snitch to get the most points.


A person with magical abilities. Wizards are the main characters of the Harry Potter series, and every Potter fan secretly wishes that he or she was really a wizard. Wizards use wands to cast magical spells, usually through the incantation of a faux-Latin phrase. Impress your friends by intoning ‘Lumos’ when you turn on a light or ‘Alohomora’ whenever you go through an automatic door in order to get some serious wizard street cred.

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