Spellbinding: the classical roots of magical spells in Harry Potter | OxfordWords blog

Looked into the origins of spells and magic words. This is an article on the origins of spells in Harry Potter. They mostly have a Latin origin, probably because some of the English language itself comes from Latin and that J.K. Rowling took Latin classes in university as well. 

Spellbinding: the classical roots of magical spells in Harry Potter | OxfordWords blog

Spells could thus be viewed as symbolising the creative power of language. The choice of Latin or pseudo-Latin words for the spells is very important. First of all, this is a way of distinguishing the everyday ‘worn out’ words for things from the spells which could make these things appear or happen. Latin is the ideal language to draw from, but, since for a better effect the spells need to be understood by the reader without great difficulty, the option of pseudo-Latin words, which would still make a substantial difference and give the illusion of magical power (expelliarmus certainly sounds more like a spell than something like ‘weapon fly away’), is preferred. Latin has, rightly or wrongly, been connected with magic, since it brings to mind the medieval times and witch hunts, and is therefore the ‘expected’ language to be used. As Robert Sutherland points out,

In English, the long words which produce emotional responses are often Latinate in origin. Their effect perhaps lies in their carrying with them as a result of their derivation an air of scholarly authority — scientific, juridical, ecclesiastical — which, because of the words’ restricted use and magisterial sound, conveys to hearers ignorant of the words’ meanings a profound finality. (Sutherland 223)

Like names in Rowling’s work, spells are very specific and informative. Spells are in fact nothing more than the expression of a wish in a formulaic way and require nothing else apart from concentration and a flick of the wizard’s wand. There is no unintelligible ‘hocus pocus’; Reducio reduces the size of an object, Lumos produces light, Reparo repairs, and so on. The power of language is absolute since all one has to do to make something happen is to correctly pronounce the word.