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Gryffindor obviously is a reference to griffins, Slytherin obviously is a reference to snakes, Ravenclaw is both a raven and a claw all at once...

And then there's Hufflepuff.

Helga Hufflepuff of course was the founder of the house, contributing her last name and her affinity for...badgers. And while a complete nonsense word might make sense, given it's a person's last name, it seems unlikely that there's no meaning behind the name at all - with three perfectly good symbolic names right next to it.

What is the meaning behind the name "Hufflepuff", and why is it the house name for Hufflepuff House?

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I thought the names of the houses were just the names of the founders, no? –  Shevliaskovic May 28 at 14:33
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imho having a name that makes no sense at all, in itself makes a lot of sense, if you want to name a house, that has no meaning/sense at all. –  PlasmaHH May 28 at 14:36
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Naming the house after the founder is the obvious and logical reason for the name of the house. I feel like you should focus more on the possible significance or origin of the name "Hufflepuff". –  phantom42 May 28 at 15:12
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@phantom42 sure, but what was he asking was obvious anyway, I'm not sure why sometimes people focus with the letter throwing away the spirit of the question. –  Lohoris May 28 at 15:52
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@phantom42 Along that line, I always assumed it was onomatopoeic, as in "Huffing and puffing," connoting exertion (and Hufflepuffs are renowned for their dedication to hard work, see scifi.stackexchange.com/a/9926/12857). –  ValekHalfHeart May 28 at 20:53

4 Answers 4

up vote 16 down vote accepted

Because that was Helga Hufflepuff’s name. There’s no deep meaning to it.

Via Professor Binns, in Chamber of Secrets:

“You all know, of course, that Hogwarts was founded over a thousand years ago – the precise date is uncertain – by the four greatest witches and wizards of the age. The four school Houses are named after them: Godric Gryffindor, Helga Hufflepuff, Rowena Ravenclaw, and Salazar Slytherin.”

The other connections seem tenuous:

  • Ravenclaw’s emblem is an eagle, not a raven. Where’s the connection there?
  • Do we associate Slytherin with snakes because the word “Slytherin” inherently has a snake-like quality, or because of the myths surrounding Slytherin as a Parselmouth? (The fact that it sounds like “slithering” aside, because that’s clutching at straws.)
  • The word Gryffindor sounds like “griffin”, but I don’t think there’s more of a connection than that in canon.

I don’t think the fact that three of the four founders’s names are a bit like animals tells us anything important.

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It tells us that Rowling aimed the original book at a young audience who would resonate with this kind of whimsy. It tells us she is a great storyteller for her chosen audience. –  zipquincy May 28 at 15:20
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It's not that "slytherin inherently has a snake-like quality" in some vague onomatopoeia sense, it's that when prounounced the first part sounds just like "slither", which is a word usually used to describe how snakes move (See for example merriam-webster.com/dictionary/slither ). So all three of these names contain direct references to creatures associated with the house's emblem (it is odd that Ravenclaw's emblem is an eagle despite 'raven' in the name, but at least they are both birds and both have claws). –  Hypnosifl May 28 at 16:29
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@Hypnosifl - Actually, the raven's feet are not considered to be talons like an eagle or hawks. They are more omnivorous, whereas eagles/hawks are mostly carnivorous, with talons suitable for tearing/rending flesh of their prey. But yes, they are both birds with feet. –  JohnP May 28 at 16:40
    
@JohnP - but are the terms "talon" and "claw" synonymous for biologists? I searched google books for "corvid" and "toe" to try to find how experts described the nail, some described it as a "toenail" but there were also some books that described it as a "claw", see for example the paragraph titled "structure" at books.google.com/books?id=HTHT3DhnFAEC&lpg=PR1&pg=PR15 which says "Corvids have very strong feet, especially the toes and claws". –  Hypnosifl May 28 at 21:30
    
Is there any actual evidence in the canon that their names were, as listed, or was the story passed verbally? –  this May 28 at 22:45

Rowling chooses her names very carefully. I believe the names of the houses do have symbolic meaning. The Gryffindor represents the house of the brave (think Lion), and Ravenclaw represents intelligence.

I like the answer referring to the "huff and puff" idiom because I think that's on the right track, though I don't recall any references in the text to The Three Little Pigs.

The "huffing and puffing" refers the working class, or the 'blue collar' students. They may not be the smartest, nor bravest, nor do they use "any means necessary" to achieve success. Instead they achieve success through sweat, persistence, and diligence, and hard work.

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I think it is silly, but what you are looking for is the idiom "huff and puff" which means to breathe heavily, normally after exercise. It also means to complain noisily about something. It is probably most famously used in the story "The Three Little Pigs" where the Big Bad Wolf huffs and puffs to blow down the houses of the titular pigs.

Make of all that what you will.

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I thought I saw something on the topic in one of the interviews –  DVK May 28 at 18:57

In reality, the houses are all named after their founders: Salazar Slytherin, Helga Hufflepuff, Godric Gryffindor, and Rowena Ravenclaw. There really isn't much symbolism in terms of those names for the houses themselves, other than being the surname of the founders. However, each person or their family may have had something to do with the surnames.

Each founding member(aside from Hufflepuff) did create a list of criteria for joining their particular house. These things range from potential skill to type of character. Most of these resonate with what the founder of the house stood for, or character traits they found desirable.

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