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In the Potterverse, the names of characters, objects and places often have a fascinating meaning and can reveal a lot about their attributes or characteristic. As for the names of the spells, they are usually constructed from (pseudo-)Latin roots. For example the spell 'Lumos' is presumably inspired by the Latin 'lumen' meaning 'light' perhaps imitating the method of borrowing Latin words for naming in science.

But what is the symbolism behind the name of the darkest object, the Horcrux? What is the explanation for the 'crux' part of the word? While another word, the torture spell, Crucio, also has the same root, in that case it can be reasoned that crucifixion and torture have similar connotations and it's reflected in the language. However the use of 'crux' in the word 'Horcrux' is less clear to me.

What is the reason for this peculiar name?

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  • Well, the first part "hor" is related to "hors" meaning outside in French. Could be related to "something" outside/away from the body (i guess). "Crux" however is greek to me too.
    – Shreedhar
    Commented Dec 19, 2017 at 14:52
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    I'm sure I've read a quote once where JKR describes the process of creating the word 'Horcrux'. Like she tried a load of words and none of them felt right. Then she came up with horcrux and knew it was right. She frantically went to Google it in case someone had already invented it and then sighed with relief when it came up with zero results. Like I say, I'm sure she said this once but I've searched and searched and I've found nothing. Commented Dec 20, 2017 at 0:09

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It has no specific meaning. It was arrived at through moving around syllables, seemingly at random.

(Allow me a personal eruption of triumph for a moment after hours of searching: I found it! I found it! I found it!).

JK Rowling revealed the story behind the creation of the word 'horcrux' in a diary entry on her old website dated September 29th 2006.

Sitting at my desk trying to invent a word yesterday brought back memories of the last time I did so. I had tried for days and days to hit upon the right name for ‘the receptacle in which a Dark wizard has hidden a fragment of his soul for the purposes of attaining immortality.’ Finally, after much transposition of syllables, I scribbled ‘Horcrux’ on a piece of paper and knew it was The One. But what if somebody had already used it? With some trepidation I typed ‘Horcrux’ into Google and, to my delight, saw what I was looking for: ‘Your search – “Horcrux” – did not match any documents.’

So anyway, yesterday I Googled ‘Horcrux’ again. 401,000 results. As you might imagine, this gave me something of a lift as I went back to scribbling nonsense words on the back of a takeaway menu.

It's understandable to expect there to be a hidden meaning to this word since Rowling imbues so many of her names and titles with hidden meaning, often originating in Latin or Greek words. Nevertheless, some of her creations were just, as Rowling herself puts it, "nonsense words" - and this seems to be one of them.

According to Rowling, 'horcrux' was just one of a long list of words that were under consideration. She seemed to come up with it through a process of trial and error, rather than purposefully creating a word from specific linguistic roots. She tried all sorts of words and went for the one that 'felt right'. In other words, she wanted a word that pleased her rather than a word that was etymologically pleasing.

She also says that she arrived at 'horcrux' "after much transposition of syllables". This underscores the previous point. She was moving syllables about, seemingly at random, until she stumbled across a word that she liked. She doesn't give any further detail about how she came to choose the syllables she did ('hor' and 'crux'). Presumably, she was trying a long list of different syllables out as they came to mind - not just choosing between 'horcrux' and 'cruxhor'.

Based on this account by Rowling, there's no link to the Cruciatus Curse. 'Crux' was just one of many syllables Rowling could have used.

Of course, the lack of an etymological meaning behind the word hasn't stopped people creating their own. Of the various ones that have been put forwards the one I like the most is this one that suggests that 'horcrux' is a hodgepodge of French and Latin, meaning 'the outside essence'.

The etymology of the word seems to be this: a combination of “hors” from the French “dehors” meaning outside and “crux” meaning “essence.” Thus, a Horcrux is a device for keeping your soul (the essence) outside your body.

Nevertheless, these constructions seem to be fan-based and created after the fact rather than anything that weighed upon Rowling's thinking at the time.

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    Great answer. I am glad your in-depth research into the origin of horcruxes was successful @TheDarkLord. Oh wait...
    – user68762
    Commented Dec 23, 2017 at 13:01
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    @Morrigan Hehe. Famous last words. Commented Dec 23, 2017 at 13:07
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Spanish version of the wikia

Horcrux comes from "Hor" which is an abbreviation of Latin "Horreum", (warehouse or barn) and which as a prefix can be related to words like "horrible"; and "crux" which may be related to the Latin word "crucis" (pain). So it gives an idea of ​​"pain store" or a "store of essentials."

Source: Horcrux Etymology, from the Harry Potter Wiki (Spain)

English version of the wikia

The word Horcrux may be also composed by "hor" or "hore" (old English/middle-English) meaning "dirt, evil, impurity" and "crux" or "crúce" (old English) meaning "container, pitcher(ful), jar" which would therefore mean "container of evil".

Alternatively, Horcrux can be seen as a combination of a contraction of "horrible" and "crux" (meaning "the Cross" in Latin). In this sense, a Horcrux would be something that a follower of the Cross would regard as horrible.

On the other hand, 'hor' could be derived from the French 'hors', which means 'outside'. Thus, 'Horcrux' would mean something that is 'outside' of what is permitted under the 'Cross'.

Source: Horcrux Etymology, from the Harry Potter Wiki

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    FYI, the Harry Potter wiki page you've linked to as your source doesn't actually mention any of those words. I suggest you update your source link, since attribution to a source that doesn't contain what you're attributing is quite unusual. Commented Dec 19, 2017 at 15:18
  • Mmmm i will check it, sorry.
    – Gawey
    Commented Dec 19, 2017 at 15:20
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    The Romans were crazy. How do you get from "warehouse" to "horrible"? Commented Dec 19, 2017 at 15:41
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    @Fabian full of rats -> brrr -> horrible?
    – user68762
    Commented Dec 19, 2017 at 15:43
  • @doppelgreener Now i fixed it, ty for say me this error.
    – Gawey
    Commented Dec 19, 2017 at 15:47
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During my greek course, I came around a word that souds quite like Horcrux and I find the meaning relevant with the object. The word is "horkos" and this designate an oath over the gods, litteraly "What encloses or constrains" : ὅρκος ὁ, the object by which one swears, as the Styx among the gods. And the verb "ex-horkos" means "bound by an oath", which is, in my opinion, pretty accurate to describe the principe of an Horcrux : to bind, via a ritual, someone's soul to an object and this, forever. So I know that JKR created the word Horcrux by playing with syllabes, but I like to think this word is a possible etymology for this gruesome dark magic object.

Here are my sources https://outils.biblissima.fr/fr/eulexis-web/?lemma=%E1%BD%8D%CF%81%CE%BA%CE%BF%CF%82&dict=LSJ

https://outils.biblissima.fr/fr/eulexis-web/?lemma=%20%E1%BC%94%CE%BE%CE%BF%CF%81%CE%BA%CE%BF%CF%82&dict=LSJ

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  • Hi, welcome to SF&F. While this is an interesting tidbit, without some evidence of being correct it suffers from the fatal flaw of not according with the quote from the author cited in the accepted answer.
    – DavidW
    Commented May 17, 2021 at 19:26

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