Going off the definition of a Lich given from Wikipedia:

A lich is a type of undead creature. Often such a creature is the result of a transformation, as a powerful magician or king striving for eternal life uses spells or rituals to bind his intellect and soul to his phylactery and thereby achieve a form of immortality. Liches are depicted as being clearly cadaverous, bodies desiccated or completely skeletal. Liches are often depicted as holding power over hordes of lesser undead creatures, using them as soldiers and servants. Unlike zombies, which are often depicted as mindless, a lich retains independent thought and is usually at least as intelligent as it was prior to its transformation. -Wikipedia

Voldemort is known to be an extremely powerful wizard who has utilized dark magic to unnaturally prolong his life, even going as far as trying to attain immortality though the creation of Horcruxes. Voldemort has accomplished this by binding parts of his will and soul to the various Horcruxes, very similar to how a lich utilizes a phylactery.

While Voldemort isn't depicted as being skeletal, his body has been transformed by his resurrection and does appear very ghoulish.

Voldemort does appear to hold unnatural power over hordes of lesser beings.

Looking further into the article on Wikipedia there is a small section that states:

In the Harry Potter book series, the primary antagonist Voldemort is a dark wizard who separates his soul from his body using magic, and then imbues these soul fragments into various objects, creatures, and people. He is thereafter unable to be killed until said vessels are destroyed, making him and his Horcruxes very similar to the concept of a lich and its phylactery. -Wikipedia

However, there are no sources cited to verify this.

Has J.K. Rowling made any indication that Voldemort is in fact a lich?

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    inurl:accio-quote.org "lich" - No results found. – Valorum Sep 29 '17 at 15:25
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    The word lich isn't used in any of the potter novels or supplementary books, nor is it used on Pottermore or the old JKR pottermore website. Whoever wrote that article may have been talking about it being a similar concept but there's zero indication that that's what JKR was thinking about. – Valorum Sep 29 '17 at 15:26
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    "Voldemort is similar to a lich" != "Voldemort is a lich". – F1Krazy Sep 29 '17 at 15:29
  • Very interesting. I think out of universe you might argue he is a Harry Potter variation of a lich. It looks like he fits many important details, especially if you squint. – BlackThorn Oct 10 '17 at 22:13

No, Voldemort is not a lich, and the justification is quoted in your question.

A lich is a type of undead creature

If you continue through the wiki entry for a lich, it is featured in many novels that predate the most commonly associated Dungeons and Dragons reference that many think of. The wiki also states:

Gary Gygax, one of the co-creators of Dungeons & Dragons, stated that he based the description of a lich included in the game on the short story "The Sword of the Sorcerer" by Gardner Fox.

However, in ALL of these, while the use of a phylactery to house the soul is common (and replicated to some degree by JKR), the main requirement is that the person becoming a lich actually die. The lich is an undead being. Voldemort did not die in the Potters' house.

No, the Dark Lord would not be considered a lich.

There are two main reasons why, despite the description of a lich being similar, he wouldn't be considered a lich.

A lich has to have died but the Dark Lord never did.

A lich is an undead creature, like a reanimated corpse. In fact, the word lich meant "corpse" in Old English, and a lych-gate was the word for the gate which corpses were carried through. In addition, a lych-house was the place corpses were stored before their burial.

The descriptions of liches nearly all require the lich to actually have died first, before considering it to be a lich.

Here's an example of one:

Former wizards, magicians or kings striving for immortality would use dark magic and spells to keep their spirits alive by joining them to their reanimated corpses.

Many others are much the same. In addition, the lich is generally tethered to its old corpse, and its body as a lich is its human body but decayed or otherwise degraded.

This doesn't describe the Dark Lord. When he killed the Potters, his Horcruxes tethered him to life and prevented him from ever actually dying.

“I was ripped from my body, I was less than spirit, less than the meanest ghost … but still, I was alive. What I was, even I do not know … I, who have gone further than anybody along the path that leads to immortality.” - Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Chapter 33 (The Death Eaters)

He was ripped from his body - but he had never died, something he mentioned more than once.

“You know my goal – to conquer death. And now, I was tested, and it appeared that one or more of my experiments had worked … for I had not been killed, though the curse should have done it.” - Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Chapter 33 (The Death Eaters)

He even tells Harry how he's never experienced death.

“Come out, Harry … come out and play, then … it will be quick … it might even be painless … I would not know … I have never died …” - Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Chapter 34 (Priori Incantatem)

A lich was tied to their body, the Dark Lord was ripped from his.

In addition, unlike a lich, he no longer had a body. When he was ripped out of his body at the Potter house, he existed in a bodiless sort of spirit form, and had to create a new body for himself using Dark magic.

“I settled in a faraway place, in a forest, and I waited … surely, one of my faithful Death Eaters would try and find me … one of them would come and perform the magic I could not, to restore me to a body … but I waited in vain …” - Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Chapter 33 (The Death Eaters)

A lich continues to exist in the same body it did when it was alive, and would not need to create themselves a new body, as the Dark Lord had to.

The term "lich" is never used anywhere connected to the Harry Potter series or its author.

Nowhere in the Harry Potter books, movies, supplementary books, the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them movie, or anything that's even slightly connected with the "official" Harry Potter series is the term lich mentioned or used. Nor does it seem to have ever been mentioned in any interviews with JKR.

The Dark Lord saying "What I was, even I do not know …" implies that he was, if not an entirely unique case, certainly he had done something that was quite rare and nearly if not entirely unprecedented.

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    Your second quote is the only bit of canon we'll get. Good answer Bella! – Möoz Oct 6 '17 at 4:37
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    @Möoz Thanks! :) I've looked everywhere, and that was all I had to go on. – Bellatrix Oct 6 '17 at 4:50
  • A lich has to have died but the Dark Lord never did. Didn't he? What I find interesting is this: he says that it might even be painless but he doesn't know; but what he does say is the rebounded curse was painful though whether that was to be figuratively painful or literal I do not know. Love the etymology you offer too and you're absolutely right that Rowling never used the term lich in the books. She did say Inferi also weren't like zombies and specifically made clear why (though I can't recall the reason exactly other than possibly she thought there were enough zombies in the world). – Pryftan Mar 3 at 2:29
  • @Pryftan No, he didn’t die (until the end). The piece of soul that resided in his body was ripped out but wasn’t actually killed - he lost his body but didn’t really die. He’d never have experienced actual death, so he wouldn’t know if it was painful. Thanks, I’m glad you liked the etymology, I worked really hard on that! The two other reasons JKR didn’t call Inferi “zombies” is because they weren’t a part of British folklore so wouldn’t be native to Britain, and that many zombie legends have the one who created them feed on their souls and she thought this would be confusing with Horcruxes. – Bellatrix Mar 3 at 2:42
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    @Pryftan Haha, okay! :) Thanks - I always read the situation that way, as him trying to make Harry resist less. Yes, I agree, giving Harry a chance to duel was a mistake. It always confused me that he didn’t just kill Harry, or torture and then kill him. However, he did also want to prove to the gathering of Death Eaters that he was stronger than Harry, and killing him instantly wouldn’t give him that chance. I certainly won’t be upset at you seeing the Dark Lord’s good traits. After all, I am Bellatrix. :) – Bellatrix Mar 3 at 23:27

Short answer, No

As Valorum notes, J.K. Rowling has not made use of that term, so no, she has not specifically noted him as a "lich". He is not a reanimated corpse (whether he is "undead" depends on on your interpretation on whether he every truly died). He is not from Dungeons and Dragons. Thus, it's pretty safe to say that no, he is not.

He does share some traits in common such as possibly having come back from the dead, and storing his soul in a safe place, but that's a general fairy tale trope, from The Giant Who Had No Heart in His Body to Koschei the Deathless, neither of which are reanimated corpses. And the corpse part is important because that's part of the root of the term, "lich", which specifically comes from the old English word for "corpse".

It is arguable

If Voldemort had not created his Horcruxes, he would have died in the Potters' house. The Horcruxes prevented him from dying. It is a common trope that immortality achieved with the aid of evil/dark magic is not immortality, but the state of undead (as shown in the comedy Death Becomes Her - sorry for a slight offtopic, but a very good example). So whether Voldermort is alive or undead, is debatable.

Another aspect of a lich is phylactery - a non-living(?) object that contains a part of their soul. This is very close to the description of a Horcrux.

Finally, not all liches are re-animated corpses, usually they choose this path of afterlife themselves. For example, Valindra from the Dark Elf saga was an elf wizardess, who was supposedly killed in a battle1, but appeared to be alive|not dead, because earlier her mentor had performed the rituals necessary to create phylacteries and make her and himself a lich.

So, unless there is a definite canon statement, such as 'Voldemort is not undead', it is all very perception-based and debatable.


1. These events are described in R.A. Salvatore's book "The Pirate King"

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