J.K. Rowling created history when she created the magical and exciting world of Harry Potter. The characters and the storyline come together and take us on an unforgettable and magical adventure whether you read the books or watch the movies. Of course, here at Day Translations we can’t help ourselves, and so we have to take you with us as we go on a journey to explore the creative and magical languages of Harry Potter. These languages help to make the Potterverse what it is today.
The uniqueness of the languages within Harry Potter is so that they aren’t necessarily considered to be constructed or fictional languages like in other fantasy/ sci-fi movies. This however doesn’t take away from the fact that Harry Potter has some rich and magical languages; many of which we’re about to explore right now.
Let’s get into it.
A Roundup of the Languages of Harry Potter
‘Gobbledygook’ is actually part of the English language and means “Language that is meaningless or is made unintelligible by use of excessive terms”.
In other words, gobbledygook means gibberish. But if you pay close attention, you’ll realize that there is a slight spelling difference for this word as a language. Instead of a ‘y’ following the ‘d’, it is replaced with an ‘e’ and we get Gobbledegook.
Here, Gobbledegook is the language of the Goblins from Gringotts Wizarding Bank in the Harry Potter Universe. Similar to the English language meaning of the word, Gobbledegook, when spoken has a very unrecognizable sound which means it has very unhuman-like sounds. It is described as being very harsh or rough, unmelodious and rasping. It’s also important to note that, like any other type of language, Gobbledegook has a written format and can be found in the Book of Spells.
We can only assume that because of the inhumane nature of the Gobbledegook language, this is the reason why the Goblins had to put lots of effort into learning ‘human languages’.
Just by the pronunciation of the language, you can take a lucky guess that Mermish is the language of the Merpeople. Of course, if you’re into mythical creatures or have heard fairy tales as a child, you know who or what a mermaid or Siren is; they’re the same thing as Merpeople.
In the Potterverse, the Merpeople inhabit the Hogwarts lake. A fun fact to take note of is that Harry understands Mermish, but only underwater. When he’s underwater, Mermish sounds like English. He’s able to understand and communicate with the Merpeople.
Mermish, when spoken outside of water, sounds kind of high-pitched and raspy at the same time. It’s not a very pleasant sound for human ears. We have evidence of this from the scene when in the Goblet of Fire, Harry opens the golden egg and everyone’s ears are met with the very unpleasant sound.
It is believed, however, that non-merpeople can actually learn Mermish. This is proven through Albus Dumbledore, who speaks Mermish as a non-merperson.
It isn’t uncommon that we see and hear words that may resemble real English words within the Potterverse. Parseltongue is one such word. According to J.K. Rowling, the word Parseltongue is inspired by the old English word Parselmouth, which would mean ‘cleft lip’ in modern English.
When translated to French, Parseltongue is understood in terms of the shape of a snake’s tongue. This is an interesting take because Parseltongue is the language of snakes and other types of serpentine creatures within the Potterverse.
The Parseltongue language is made up of very strong hissing sounds, much like that of a snake. When presented on the big screen, the Parseltongue language also includes vowel sounds, making it much more relatable to the human ear and understanding.
With this in mind, humans can in fact speak the Parseltongue language. We see this being displayed by Harry Potter, The Gaunt Family, Salazar Slytherin, and Lord Voldermort. Humans who can speak the Parseltongue language are known as Parselmouths. For a human to be able to speak Parseltongue, they must inherit it (from Salazar Slytherin). Harry, however, is not a descendant of Salazar but he can speak it. Harry developed this ability after Voldermort tried to kill him and the tables turned on him instead.
The trick to speaking the Parseltongue language as a human, is that you need to be facing any snake-type creature or a snake-like object to speak it. An exception to this technicality is the Gaunt family who can simply speak it freely. It also isn’t very difficult to imitate Parseltongue as Ron did so to open the Chamber of Secrets.
One final thing to know about the Parseltongue language is that within the Potterverse, it is considered to be somewhat evil and marked as the tongue of dark wizards.
If you know what a Troll is then you understand that they are very simple-minded creatures. Of course, they’re big and strong for the most part, but when it comes to their language it’s a simple matter of ‘pointing and grunting at things’. At least that’s what Fred Weasley thinks.
In the Potterverse, Mountain Trolls exist and of course, speak the Troll language. With the Troll language, only Trolls are really able to understand it. In addition to this, when it comes to ‘regular human language’, Trolls are only able to understand a few words and speak a few as well.
Humans, on the other hand, are known to understand and ‘speak’ the Troll language, to an extent. Because of this connection, humans are able to train Trolls (the smarter ones) to serve an even greater purpose and become Security Trolls, helping to protect territories.
Runes isn’t a spoken language. Instead, this language is made up of symbols that are part of an alphabet known as the runic language. Runes appear very often throughout the Harry Potter Universe and they take different shapes and forms depending on the scene.
Runes are also a subject of study at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The subject goes by the name ‘Study of Ancient Runes’. Ancient Runes is an advanced course that is taken in year 6 of Hogwarts.
If you pay close attention, you’ll be able to recognize Runes when they appear. For instance, Runes can be seen in Dumbledor’s office Pensieve as an inscription. Additionally, there’s a whole book that’s dedicated to the Runes language called ‘The Tales of Beedle the Bard’. The entire book is written using the Runic language.
A fun fact about Runes and Harry Potter is that he never learned to read them, even though it was an elective to be chosen while he was still attending school.
Some ‘Potterverse’ Vocabulary
The beauty of the Harry Potter series shows through the very creative and eventually trendy words that J.K. Rowling created through her writing and creativity. That said, let’s look at a few words and their meanings that are part of the Potterverse’s vocabulary:
This means that someone is a non-magical human. They are not descendants of magic, nor do they have any traces of magic in their blood. Mug is the root word for Muggle and means ‘someone who is easily fooled’.
A game that’s played using flying broomsticks. Quidditch is a popular and fun game at Hogwarts.
The name given to Harry’s house on the Hogwarts campus. It is represented by a roaring lion put up against a red background.
Voldemort means ‘the unspeakable name’ in English. It’s the name of one of the main antagonists within the Harry Potter series.
You may be familiar with this word from one of the movie titles, in particular ‘Prisoner of Azkaban’. By now you can guess that Azkaban is the name of a high-security prison that exists within the Potterverse.
A Horcrux is part of a soul that is stored in an object other than the body.
A portkey is basically a teleportation device. It is defined as an object that is used to transport people to different places.
Butterbeer is the popular drink of choice among the young wizards at Hogwarts.
As long as you’re a true Harry Potter fan you’ll know the other half of this very popular spell. Patronus standing on its own means ‘charm’. It is a spell often used by wizards to defend themselves against Dementors.
In the game of Quidditch, the Quaffle is an oversized red ball that is used to play the game.
This is also a spell but is used for the complete opposite of Patronus. Expelliarmus is a defensive spell the wizards use to protect themselves.
That’s a Wrap!
The magical world of Harry Potter is always an experience that anyone is excited to go on. We know we couldn’t capture all the magic of the languages of Harry Potter in just one blog post but it was still fun and exciting nonetheless. There’s so much more to learn about the Harry Potter Universe and of course, when the opportunity arises, the Day Translations team will be right here to make use of the opportunity.