Right from The Philosopher's Stone to The Goblet of Fire, as far as the magical community was concerned, "The Boy who Lived" had lived while Voldemort had been defeated.
It's understandable that Voldemort had created for himself quite a reputation as a evil wizard whose very name made people shudder.
But once he was "dead and gone" , why worry? Surely, his name wasn't "taboo" at that time. The Death Eaters couldn't track the people who said his name openly.


4 Answers 4


A few things to consider:

  1. Voldemort may have been defeated, but he still had a following of loyal Death Eaters, including a number of witches and wizards that were almost as evil and powerful as he was (that's paraphrased from one of the later books, though I can't recall exactly which, and don't have the books on hand to even begin searching for an exact quote).

  2. Not everybody believed he was gone for good. Dumbledore, some of the Death Eaters, and likely other knowledgeable/powerful members of the Magical community, all suspected that he was still alive in some form, and would attempt to return.

  3. Voldemort was the most powerful dark wizard of all time, and his memory alone was enough to terrify most witches and wizards. They felt safer not using his name when he was at the height of his power, and I imagine that same feeling of safety continued when he was gone as well.

  4. In one of the earlier books, Dumbledore says that fear of a name merely increases fear of the thing itself (again, paraphrasing); they weren't scared only of Voldemort, the name was enough.

  • Was he really the most powerful of all time? Or just of modern time?
    – Xantec
    May 22, 2012 at 16:52
  • 6
    Its incredibly hard to quantity magical power, but still, he was by no means the most powerful, even in the modern times. He was surely the most feared though. And sufficiently powerful so as to gather a loyal following.
    – Swanand
    May 22, 2012 at 18:23

Aside from excellent reasons discussed by Anthony, a fairly Medieval-thinking Wizarding society was also quite likely follwing the old English proverb of "Speak of the devil and he doth appear".


People were still scared - and many didn’t think he was dead.

Hagrid explains why most wizards don’t like saying the Dark Lord’s name - they’re still scared of him, even after his disappearance.

“Well – I don’ like sayin’ the name if I can help it. No one does.’

‘Why not?’

‘Gulpin’ gargoyles, Harry, people are still scared.”
- Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Chapter 4 (The Keeper of the Keys)

Although he seemed to be gone for a bit more than ten years when Hagrid said that to Harry, most adult wizards would still remember when the Dark Lord was at the height of his power and how terrifying he was then. Even if they truly thought he was gone, it might take a while for their residual fear of him to wear off enough for them to be willing to say his name.

In addition, the prevalent belief was that the Dark Lord lost his power after trying to kill Harry, not that he was dead. That means the people who believed that would have thought though he was gone, he wasn’t dead - so there was a possibility he could come back. McGonagall said that “everyone was saying” that the. Dark Lord lost his powers, so she seemed to be referring to the wizarding world in general, not just people in the Order.

“No one knows why, or how, but they’re saying that when he couldn’t kill Harry Potter, Voldemort’s power somehow broke – and that’s why he’s gone.”
- Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Chapter 1 (The Boy Who Lived)

That would mean people would have at least a small amount of fear that he could return, making them still a bit wary even if they were fairly sure he wouldn’t return. There would likely be an element, among many of them, of the superstitious fear that saying his name might bring him back or make him “more real” or more powerful somehow. They didn’t necessarily have to think he was ready to seize power to fear saying his name - all they’d need to feel is that he was “too terrible to speak of”, which they would.

Most of the wizarding world would feel like he was awful enough they wouldn’t want to say his name. People often don’t want to say the name of something they consider horrible, even if they don’t think it’s a threat, or real, or true - if it’s bad enough, it may feel “wrong” to speak of.

  • "Even if they truly thought he was gone, it might take a" Take a what? Apr 16, 2018 at 18:12
  • 1
    @DCOPTimDowd Oops! It’s supposed to say “Even if they truly thought he was gone, it might take a while for their residual fear of him to wear off enough for them to be willing to say his name.” I either accidentally deleted the end of the sentence or forgot to type it in.
    – Obsidia
    Apr 16, 2018 at 18:25
  • That's what I thought you meant to say, but didn't want to edit it in in case I was wrong. :) Apr 16, 2018 at 18:34
  • @DCOPTimDowd Thanks so much! :) Also, thanks for fixing my other answer where I had the same sentence twice.
    – Obsidia
    Apr 16, 2018 at 18:41
  • 1
    Behind every successful dark mistress there is a strong minion Apr 17, 2018 at 17:45

Technically, Voldemort wasn't dead until Harry finally finished him off during the Battle of Hogwarts. Although he didn't have any physical form, he still was alive and in exile. Of course, few actually knew about this, but all things considered, people knew he was quite powerful and probably even knew that his obsession during his life was to become the master of death, and by his definition this meant to never die, to achieve immortality. People were (rightfully) paranoid that he would return, and they didn't want to risk becoming his victims.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.