Harry Potter Latin Spells
Many people are aware that Latin spells are used in Harry Potter, but did you know it was because J. K. Rowling minored in Classics? Latin, Greek, and Mythology references are included throughout the books and movies. Some of my students’ favorites are learning that Albus means white or Lupus means wolf. Growing up, Cerberus was the only 3-headed dog I knew, but now when I teach Cerberus I hear “it’s Fluffy!” Harry Potter can be a huge attractor to Latin for students, so I enjoy embracing it and finding as many references as I can. If I’m being honest, I enjoy referencing Harry Potter more than movies like Percy Jackson because while the Latin in Harry Potter isn’t perfect or grammar-heavy, it is earnest and I’m not constantly defending that Perseus was not the son of Poseidon.
Harry Potter Latin Spells are fun on a magical level, but on an etymological level too. I frequently get asked what a “patronus” is as a Latin teacher— and while to my knowledge it wasn’t a super popular word in ancient Rome (Cicero uses it when he defends people legally, I believe), I use it as a gateway to reinforce pater which is a beginning Latin word for “father”. I also really appreciate that J. K. Rowling for the most part includes the right endings so her Latin is grammatically correct: “Expecto patronum” has a first person singular verb and an accusative direct object.
Some other Harry Potter Latin spells sacrificed a bit of grammar for Hollywood effect, I’m sure (side note— I went to USC and my college roommate was inspired to create her VFX company because of Harry Potter!). “Expelliarmus” isn’t quite Latin, but very very close and can open up discussions about root words “ex”, “pello”, and maybe even if J. K. Rowling was going for a subjunctive command!
You can find my TPT resource for Harry Potter Latin Spells here.