The prophecy doesn't merely say "he will mark him", it says

and the Dark Lord will mark him as his equal

When talking about the prophecy, Dumbledore says

"Voldemort himself would mark him as his equal... He chose you, not Neville. He gave you the scar" (OotP)

So Dumbledore says that Voldemort marked Harry as his equal with the scar, and later Harry repeats this when talking to his friends.

There are several meanings of the work "mark", here quoted from the Cambridge dictionary. Of those, these apply here:

  • There is the meaning damage or make dirty

    Make sure you don't mark the walls while you're moving the furniture around.

    This meaning would cover the scar as a mark left by Voldemort, if the prophecy would just say "he will mark him".

  • There is the meaning indicate

    I've marked the route around the town's one-way system on the map.

    This is the meaning that would fit the part "will mark him as his equal". It implies that the mark is not left by accident or negligence, but that there is the intention to create the mark and for the mark to have a specific meaning.

That means for "the Dark Lord will mark him as his equal" to be true, it is necessary that

  1. Voldemort considered Harry his equal
  2. Voldemort intended to leave a symbol on Harry that shows that he is his equal.

To address these points

  1. Harry is just a baby, so it is unlikely that Voldemort would consider him his equal. He considers Harry to have the potential to become a danger later, and therefor decides to kill him before that can happen, but that doesn't mean he fears him as a baby, and it doesn't mean that he considers him an equal.

    It is said that Dumbledore is the only one Voldemort feared.

    OotP Chapter 36: The Only One He Ever Feared

    But it is never implied that Voldemort considered Dumbledore his equal. The very thought would probably terrify both of them.

  2. We know that the killing curse doesn't cause any injuries on the body and that it leaves the victim dead.

    From the description of the three dead Riddles (Tom's father and grandparents)

    plainly, three apparently healthy people did not all drop dead of natural causes on the same night. (GoF)

    and later in Moody's class

    instantaneously the spider rolled over onto its back, unmarked, but unmistakably dead. (GoF)

    and in the next paragraph Moody says

    "Not pleasant. And there’s no counter-curse. There’s no blocking it. Only one known person has ever survived it, and he’s sitting right in front of me." (GoF)

So Voldemort has no reason to consider Harry his equal, and even if he did, the Killing Curse is not the right tool to mark anybody, because it leaves no mark. It also doesn't make sense to have someone marked as his equal, when there has been no prior known survivor to the Killing Curse, and Voldemort would definitely not consider himself equal to someone who is dead.

So why does Dumbledore say that Voldemort marked Harry as his equal, and why does Harry accept it when it obviously doesn't make sense? Or, as logic isn't Harry's strong point, why doesn't Hermione notice?


Some remarks to some points of the answers and comments, here for better visibility and formatting.

Thanks to @Bellatrix for providing the quote from Dumbledore that a prophecy is basically meaningless. I will even add where Dumbledore says

"You are setting too much store by the prophecy!" ... "Would it have meant anything? Of course not! Do you think that every prophecy in the Hall of Prophecy has been fulfilled?" (HBP)

But this question was not about the uselessness of the prophecy, but about the actual meaning. We already know that prophecies may or may not be fulfilled and that this in particular isn't, because Voldemort dies by his own curse and not by Harry's hand.

So I'm not convinced by arguments that basically say "it is true because the prophecy said so".

You're interpreting the prophecy way too literally. That's not how prophecy works.

The wording already has a broad range of literal interpretations. If we add more possible interpretations, the prophecy becomes even more useless.

It could not have been necessary for Voldemort to intend to mark Harry as his equal, because Voldemort did not even know that part of the prophecy

The prophecy is either true or it is not, it should not be necessary for people to know (part of) the prophecy for the prophecy to be valid.

by choosing to attack Harry, he is by definition marking him as his equal.

That is a strange definition. By choosing to attack other people, he is by definition marking them as his equal, too?

By going to kill Harry, he was in fact acknowledging that Harry would be his undoing if allowed to live.

No, by going to kill Harry, he was acknowledging that Harry might become a danger to him.

Voldemort only believes in one type of power, which is the standard type of magic. ... He even depends on no one but himself, because ultimately, he does not even see the power in working together. It is probably inconceivable to him that something other than pure magical power could possibly defeat him.

After the fight at the ministry in OotP, Voldemort does run away, either from Dumbledore or from the combined power of the Aurors. The whole year he had hidden himself from the ministry. So he knows he doesn't have to power to take on the whole wizarding world at once. He knows of the advantages of having others work for him. If he thought he could do everything by himself, he wouldn't have the Death Eaters.

Some said that the mark is the fact that he considered Harry a threat and not the scar.

In addition to the quotes I at the top of the question, Dumbledore says

"in marking you with that scar" (OotP)

So it is clear that Dumbledore considers the scar the mark of the prophecy.

  • 18
    'Mark' in this context does not mean the scar, it means to distinguish (someone or something) from other people or things - the same as 'set apart', 'separate', 'single out', 'differentiate', or 'distinguish' Aug 22, 2018 at 18:10
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    By trying to kill Harry in order to prevent the prophecy, Voldemort acknowledged that he believed harry had a good chance of killing him and thus considered him an equal. Though Voldemort himself probably would not have seen it that way. At least that's always been my interpretation of the prophecy. I'm not sure you could ever get an answer to this (unless J.K. chimes in) prophecy is always open to interpretation
    – Ummdustry
    Aug 22, 2018 at 18:18
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    No, you're confusing two definitions of mark - the scar was 'a mark' in the sense of a disfigurement, and it was the thing that was left from Voldemort trying to kill him. Voldemort marked (considered) Harry as his equal (someone that could defeat him), and tried to kill him. Aug 22, 2018 at 18:21
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    You're interpreting the prophecy way too literally. That's not how prophecy works. Aug 22, 2018 at 19:27
  • 2
    @marcellothearcane And (to keep going) the scar is simply evidence he went after Harry instead of Neville, not an intentionally-done thing.
    – Izkata
    Aug 22, 2018 at 21:34

7 Answers 7


You are assuming the act of "marking Harry as his equal" has to be intentional, when in fact the point is that Voldemort did mark Harry as his equal, but unintentionally.

Consider this: when Voldemort heard just part of the prophecy, he became afraid that Harry would defeat him. If he had chosen to ignore Harry, dismiss this as impossible, then he would be refusing to acknowledge that Harry could possibly be his undoing. By going to kill Harry, he was in fact acknowledging that Harry would be his undoing if allowed to live.

Voldemort was very confident in his powers. He felt threatened by very few people, because he felt himself superior to them. So by trying to kill Harry, he was admitting he was a threat, and therefore acknowledging this child had the potential to defeat him, where no other could. At the time, not even Dumbledore could do that, now that Voldemort had his multiple horcruxes. He was convinced that he would live forever, ruler of the world, unchallenged, up until he heard the words of that prophecy.

Furthermore, it is shown that Voldemort only believes in one type of power, which is the standard type of magic. He is shown to do things such as maiming his own soul, killing Harry's mother, which triggers her magical protection, using Harry's blood when creating his new body, all because he thinks his magic will overcome any problem, including death. He even depends on no one but himself, because ultimately, he does not even see the power in working together. It is probably inconceivable to him that something other than pure magical power could possibly defeat him. Therefore, if he felt threatened by Harry, it must have been because he believed that somehow Harry would become powerful enough in magic to defeat him.

Thus the scar left by the backfired killing curse, by the fact that it existed, was proof Voldemort had attempted to kill Harry, and therefore a mark indicating that Voldemort believed Harry was equal in power enough to defeat him, even though Voldemort never had intended it that way.

  • 1
    The text also shows that Voldemort only believes in one type of power, which is the type of magic he uses. He believes this magic can solve any problem, so I think it's inconceivable to him that he could be defeated through any other means. Therefore, the only way Harry could be a threat is if he is more powerful. But even if you don't accept this interpretation, the fact that the prophecy is worded that way, and events turned out as they had, it implies that despite any other conclusion he could have had Voldemort did believe that Harry would be become a powerful enough wizard to defeat him.
    – Kai
    Aug 22, 2018 at 19:04
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    And "assigning meaning to a mark" is not necessary. Criminals do not "assign meaning" to the evidence they leave behind, but you can still look at the evidence and draw conclusions. That is what the mark is. Direct evidence that Voldemort feared Harry, when he truly feared no other person. "Mark as his equal" is just a fancy way of expressing that idea.
    – Kai
    Aug 22, 2018 at 20:37
  • 5
    @QuestionAuthority To "mark" someone doesn't always mean to physically make a mark. It also means to note or watch someone. For example in football, when you mark another player, it means you're following them and watching what they do (in order to defend against them or stop them from doing something). Voldemort marked Harry, in that he took note of him and considered him to be important. When he indicated that this was his opinion of Harry by attempting to kill him, it left a physical mark in the scar, but that's just a neat double meaning - which cryptic prophesies love to make use of. Aug 23, 2018 at 10:20
  • 8
    Just to back up the first sentence, note that English dictionaries are descriptive, not proscriptive. Any time you find yourself wandering off the beaten path due to using some technicality you found in a dictionary, most likely that's the problem. Put down the dictionary, and back away slowly.
    – T.E.D.
    Aug 23, 2018 at 12:58
  • 1
    Hi @kai , unfortunately all the more reason it should be moved to the English Language Learners site - ell.stackexchange.com .
    – Fattie
    Aug 25, 2018 at 3:26

I believe the premise of the question is incorrect. It could not have been necessary for Voldemort to intend to mark Harry as his equal, because Voldemort did not even know that part of the prophecy:

As Dumbledore tells us at the end of Order of the Phoenix:

“He heard only the first part, the part foretelling the birth of a boy in July to parents who had thrice defied Voldemort. Consequently, he could not warn his master that to attack you would be to risk transferring power to you — again marking you as his equal. So Voldemort never knew that there might be danger in attacking you, that it might be wise to wait or to learn more. He did not know that you would have ‘power the Dark Lord knows not’ — ”

Therefore, "mark him as his equal" simply means that by choosing to attack Harry, he is by definition marking him as his equal. It is the choice which is the marking. By choosing Harry, Voldemort unknowingly assigns the status of "equal" to Harry.

When Dumbledore says "he gave you that scar" he is not saying that the scar is the mark of equality. The "marking" is from the previous sentence where Dumbledore says:

And so he did, Harry. He chose you, not Neville.

The sentence about giving Harry the scar is merely Dumbledore saying what the choice consisted of – attempted murder which gave Harry the scar.

Marking him as his equal essentially means deciding that he is the subject of the prophecy. The subject of the prophecy is probably his equal in the sense that he has the power to vanquish the Dark Lord.

  • It should not matter what part of the prophecy Voldemort knew in order for him to mark Harry as his equal. Voldemort chose to attack many more people, did he consider them all as his equal? Dumbledore clearly mentions the scar as proof that Voldemort marked Harry as his equal. Voldemort's choice was not attempted murder, it was murder. He just didn't succeed. Aug 22, 2018 at 18:42
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    @QuestionAuthority My point about Voldemort not knowing is just to show that by definition the marking can not have been intentional in the way that you assume. While Voldemort chose to attack many people, he only chose to attack one person in response to a prophecy about "one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord". By attacking Harry, Voldemort marked him as the one with the power, and hence his equal. Dumbledore's mention of the scar is just a description of what happened. All murder is attempted murder until it succeeds.
    – Alex
    Aug 22, 2018 at 18:47

He unintentionally ‘marked’ Harry by going after him, not Neville.

The Dark Lord didn’t intentionally mark Harry as his equal. He did it by singling Harry out, although there were two boys who fit the wording of the prophecy, and attacking Harry. The time when Harry was ‘marked’ physically was when he got his scar - and the piece of the Dark Lord’s soul - but the Dark Lord ‘marking Harry as his equal’ is that he chose only Harry as the biggest threat once he heard the prophecy, despite him not being the only one who’d fit the criteria.

“He chose the boy he thought most likely to be a danger to him,’ said Dumbledore. ‘And notice this, Harry: he chose, not the pureblood (which, according to his creed, is the only kind of wizard worth being or knowing) but the half-blood, like himself. He saw himself in you before he had ever seen you, and in marking you with that scar, he did not kill you, as he intended, but gave you powers, and a future, which have fitted you to escape him not once, but four times so far – something that neither your parents, nor Neville’s parents, ever achieved.”
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 37 (The Lost Prophecy)

Though he didn’t see Harry as an equal, he saw more of himself in Harry as a half-blood than Neville. So he’d chosen Harry as the one to go after, and by attempting to kill Harry, he marked him by seeing himself in him, choosing him as the one he thought was the biggest threat, and going after the Potters but not the Longbottoms. He didn’t see Harry as an equal, but he did see him as dangerous, he thinks of him as danger to be killed cautiously before attempting to kill Harry.

“He pointed the wand very carefully into the boy’s face: he wanted to see it happen, the destruction of this one, inexplicable danger.”
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 17 (Bathilda’s Secret)

It was always his singular intention to destroy the Potters and therefore Harry, he didn’t care about the Longbottom family.

“That is why – it is for that reason – he thinks it means Lily Evans!’

‘The prophecy did not refer to a woman,’ said Dumbledore. ‘It spoke of a boy born at the end of July –’

‘You know what I mean! He thinks it means her son, he is going to hunt her down – kill them all –”
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 33 (The Prince’s Tale)

Dumbledore explains this to Harry more when he starts teaching him about the Dark Lord’s past - that his choice to go after the Potters was how he ‘chose’ Harry.

“Always he was on the lookout for the one who would challenge him. He heard the prophecy and he leapt into action, with the result that he not only handpicked the man most likely to finish him, he handed him uniquely deadly weapons!’

‘But –’

‘It is essential that you understand this!’ said Dumbledore, standing up and striding about the room, his glittering robes swooshing in his wake; Harry had never seen him so agitated. ‘By attempting to kill you, Voldemort himself singled out the remarkable person who sits here in front of me, and gave him the tools for the job!”
- Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Chapter 23 (Horcruxes)

In addition, his choosing Harry as the one most likely to defeat him and trying to kill him because of it is what ended up making him the one most likely to defeat him and better equipping him to do it.

“But Harry, never forget that what the prophecy says is only significant because Voldemort made it so. I told you this at the end of last year. Voldemort singled you out as the person who would be most dangerous to him – and in doing so, he made you the person who would be most dangerous to him!”
- Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Chapter 23 (Horcruxes)

If the Dark Lord hadn’t heard or acted on the prophecy, there’d be no Chosen One at all.

  • 2
    Thank you for including the last quote about the prophecy being worthless. Dumbledore goes on and on about the meaning of the prophecy, the choosing and so on, and then says that the prophecy only means something because Voldemort thinks it does. He doesn't seem to realize that the prophecy is only important because Dumbledore thinks it means something, a direct contradiction to his statement. He could defeat Voldemort and be done with it, but he doesn't even try, because of the prophecy. Aug 22, 2018 at 19:02
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    @QuestionAuthority You’re welcome! :) Personally, I think that the prophecy actually wouldn’t matter if people stopped taking it on is just as important, if not more, than what exactly the prophecy means. Sometimes people forget to mention that, and I think it’s vital to the understanding of how it works. If the important players (the Dark Lord, Dumbledore, Harry) collectively ignored the prophecy, it’d mean nothing. It doesn’t actually predetermine the events yet so come.
    – Obsidia
    Aug 22, 2018 at 19:25
  • 3
    @QuestionAuthority Well, no; he couldn’t defeat Voldemort and be done with it. Not until the Horcruxes were gone. Once they were gone, of course, there is no reason to believe Dumbledore couldn’t have killed Voldemort; but he never lived that long. Knowing the lay of the land, he did indeed do what he could to defeat Voldemort: he went Horcrux-hunting to make Voldemort mortal and killable again. (You’re right, though, that he contradicts himself when talking to Harry about the prophecy. He clearly sets much more store in it than he claims.) Aug 23, 2018 at 0:06
  • 2
    @QuestionAuthority the prophecy is not worthless, it’s a Self-fulfilling prophecy: “A self-fulfilling prophecy is a prediction that directly or indirectly causes itself to become true, by the very terms of the prophecy itself, due to positive feedback between belief and behavior.
    – Holger
    Aug 23, 2018 at 8:48
  • 1
    @Bellatrix Actually a fascinating side of the Potterverse is that Predestination is a thing. We literally see it unfold in the time-travelling sequence of PoA. Implying that Seers actually get a glimpse of the future, there are no alternate timelines or any notion of free will that means anything. A Prophecy is therefore an element of a bootstrap paradox, it happens because it happens because it happens. Ignoring the prophecy doesn't happen, to paraphrase Lutece. Aug 23, 2018 at 10:09

'Mark' in this context does not mean the scar, it means:

to distinguish (someone or something) from other people or things

The same as 'set apart', 'separate', 'single out', 'differentiate', or 'distinguish'.

When Voldemort marked Harry as his equal, he chose Harry rather than Neville as someone that would be equal. Your quote shows Dumbledore explaining this:

Voldemort himself would mark him as his equal... He chose you, not Neville. He gave you the scar.

Remember that Voldemort only heard part of the prophecy from Snape - the bit where

'a boy born in July would have a power the Dark Lord knows not, and the Dark Lord will mark him as his equal' (adapted, I can't find the full quote right now)

  • He did not hear the part about "mark him as his equal", only "The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord approaches... born to those who have thrice defied him, born as the seventh month dies" Aug 22, 2018 at 18:21
  • 1
    @QuestionAuthority - oh, interesting! It still stands though - he marked Harry as his equal - because Harry had the power to kill him Aug 22, 2018 at 18:24
  • But he also thought Dumbledore could kill him, yet Dumbledore isn't considered "marked as his equal" by Voldemort. Aug 22, 2018 at 18:27
  • Did he think Dumbledore could kill him? He was afraid but that's different - he knew Dumbledore wouldn't ever kill him, look at the fight at the ministry 'above such brutality are you?' Aug 22, 2018 at 19:03
  • hi @QuestionAuthority - many people are explaining to you over and over (and over, heh !) that "marked" is simply a word meaning "considered" or "thought of as". (Example, "I marked this answer as the correct one.") QA should be moved to ell.stackexchange.com
    – Fattie
    Aug 25, 2018 at 3:32

It isn't as complicated as you think.

Voldemort gave Harry his scar, a mark showing that Voldemort attempted and failed to kill him. According to the prophecy, that makes Harry the one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord, and that makes him Voldemort's equal. So Voldemort gave Harry a mark that showed (to those that knew the prophecy) that Harry was Voldemort's equal, i.e., Voldemort marked Harry as his equal.

It doesn't matter that Voldemort didn't know that his choice to kill Harry would have the effect of marking Harry as his equal. He carried out his role perfectly well despite his ignorance.

Now, there is also a second layer of meaning as discussed in several of the other answers, where the word "mark" means "indicate" and refers to Voldemort's choice to go after Harry first rather than Neville. Recognizing the double meaning does give us a deeper understanding of the prophecy - but it isn't necessary to understand it. The straightforward meaning works too.


I think your definition of the verb "mark" is too narrow. If we look at Google's definitions, the one I see that best fits is the following:

To make or leave a mark on.

Where the noun "mark" can refer to

a sign or indication: an impression (such as a scratch, scar or stain) made on something

Note that this definition implies nothing about intent. Thus, if we interpret the prophecy with this definition, it could mean that Voldemort "marked" Harry as his equal, personally I might add, with either the literal scar being the mark, or simply the events that transpired (Harry surviving the killing curse) being the mark that sets Harry apart.

Beyond that, I would argue that it's impossible to intentionally mark someone as your equal, as by virtue of you having the power to mark someone as your equal you inherently establish a power dynamic, wherein they are "your equal" only because you said so. I don't care how many times the Globetrotters play the Washington Generals, the Generals are not equals to the Globetrotters. What I'm trying to get at is your definition of the word "mark" causes the whole prophecy to become paradoxical.

But how does the scar indicate that Harry is Voldemorts equal? And if so, equal in what? There are plenty of ways to interpret this, and unless Rowling comes out and states that one is true (which I doubt she'll do) it's up to the reader to decide which one they think is best. Here are my favorite;

  1. The mark could just imply "this is the person in the prophecy." Just by virtue of Voldemort believing the prophecy, Harry becomes Voldemorts "final boss", a rival, whatever.
  2. Harry becomes a beacon of hope, a counter-symbol to Voldemort in the eyes of the people of the world. I believe there's even a quote in the book that Harry becomes as famous as Voldemort. People literally die to protect Harry because they believe that Harry is the only hope they have to defeat Voldemort. Harry and his scar becomes equally famous and equally symbolic in the fight for the world.

  3. My favorite interpretation is the following; the mark signifies that Harry defeated death. Voldemort is known to have been obsessed in becoming immortal. The name he chose means flight of death in French for heavens sake. In the moment when Voldemort attempts the Killing Curse on Harry, two things happen: firstly, Harry survives the curse due to his mothers protection and secondly, Voldemort survived either the curse bouncing off or whatever counter spell was triggered that would surely have killed anyone else. In that moment, they are equals in that they escape death.

  • "(Harry surviving the killing curse) being the mark" - however, Voldemort clearly did not intend for this to happen. No, it was Voldemort's intentional choice to attack Harry which made him, quite literally, The Chosen One. Can you imagine if Harry had a pre-birth conversation with someone very much like Cornelius Fudge? "Good news, Harry - you're to be The Chosen One!" "Wow, that's super! Errrrm...chosen for what, exactly?" "Yes, well, I'm afraid there's some slightly bad news about that...but never mind, I'm sure it'll all work out for the best. Off you go now, there's a good lad..." Dec 28, 2020 at 4:11

The English word "marked" simply means "considered" or "judged".

That's all there is to it.

For example, simply "I marked Jack as the best runner in the race." Or "Based on his programming, I marked Jill as a genius."

This question should be moved to https://ell.stackexchange.com (it is wholly irrelevant to this site).

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