It's probably lack of foresight on Rowling's part, but if magic like the taboo mechanism existed, is there a canonical reason why Dumbledore didn't give Harry a safe-word of sorts? Harry had had numerous brushes with death during his school years. Most of which would've been easily handled by a decently skilled witch/wizard, let alone Dumbledore.

For example, the moment Harry and Cedric were transported by the Portkey to Little Hangleton, Harry simply has to say "Bumdingerino" or some other predetermined nonsensical word. Dumbledore and Co instantly get a lock on Harry.

Or when him and Ron were surrounded by Acromantula. Or when they were trapped in the Department of Mysteries. Or any other number of situations.

Point is, if such a powerful magical mechanism existed, wouldn't someone like Dumbledore use it (as an SOS beacon) to protect Harry?

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    Dumbledore planned his death, and he knew that Harry would have to fight Voldemort after he deceased. By not instantly coming to his aid, he is giving Harry fighting experience, so he is better trained before he has to fight Voldemort again in the end.
    – Ginge
    Jul 4, 2019 at 15:51
  • But Harry survived many encounters with sheer luck and by the skin of his teeth. Any of those instances could've been fatal. I get your way of thinking but it just seems careless to leave the greatest hope against Voldemort completely defenseless on so many occasions. Edit- Also, if I recall correctly, Dumbledore didn't know he was going to die until Harry's sixth year.
    – Kabuki
    Jul 4, 2019 at 15:56
  • If I remember correctly, Dumbledore planned his death with Snape, when Snape begged Dumbledore to let him come back. Dumbledore required a favor from him, killing Dumbledore himself.
    – Ginge
    Jul 4, 2019 at 16:06
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    Really? I remember the favor being that Snape dedicate himself to protecting Lily's son. I think Dumbledore-planning-his-death part came way later after he got cursed by Marvolo's ring.
    – Kabuki
    Jul 4, 2019 at 16:14
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    You assume that Dumbledore (or Rowling) is thinking logically?
    – user102803
    Jul 4, 2019 at 17:06

2 Answers 2


Magical protection could trump the Taboo.

Ron says early in Deathly Hallows that the Taboo breaks protective charms.

“Sorry,” said Ron, wrenching Harry back out of the brambles, “but the name’s been jinxed, Harry, that’s how they track people! Using his name breaks protective enchantments, it causes some kind of magical disturbance — it’s how they found us in Tottenham Court Road!”
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - chapter 20 - Xenophilius Lovegood

However, it's made clear later on that advanced protective charms such as the Fidelius Charm are immune to the Taboo's effects. You give this example of where the Taboo might be useful:

Or when him and Ron were surrounded by Acromantula.

However, Hogwarts (including the Forbidden Forest) is under the protection of a powerful Anti-Apparition charm, along with many other protective enchantments (the only way the Death Eaters could get into Hogwarts was a broken cabinet). It is true that Dumbledore could've disabled the Apparition prevention temporarily, but it's likely that there is other protection placed on the castle that would work against the Taboo, and lifting many protective enchantments at once would be risky for the castle. Similar protection would've been placed on the Ministry, and possibly in the graveyard.

Lord Voldemort would expect to be aware of the Taboo.

Once Lord Voldemort was revived, he met again with Severus Snape, who was supposedly working as spy at Hogwarts for the last few years. If Harry pulled out this trump card without Voldemort's knowledge and summoned members of the Order during a fight, suspicion would certainly be cast on Severus. Also note that if this idea had been executed in Harry's first year, Harry would likely have shouted the Taboo when he met Quirrel, making Voldemort aware of the Taboo early (even if the word was changed, Voldemort would know to take measures to prevent a Taboo from being used) and otherwise not making a significant difference.

Once the Death Eaters were made aware of the Taboo, it would be easy for them to make it ineffective using a far-extending Anti-Apparition charm, or using a Tongue-Tying curse to prevent Harry from speaking (note that in the graveyard Harry was physically prevented from speaking most of the time).

Note that Voldemort has more experience in Dark Magic than Dumbledore — if one supposes that Voldemort would not recognize Harry's actions as triggering a Taboo, it would make sense that Dumbledore wouldn't have thought of using a Taboo in the first place, which seems like a good reason why he wouldn't set one. It's most likely that Harry would use it in the middle of a heated battle (breaking any basic protection like Shield Charms that was being used), making the effects of the Taboo more recognizable.

Dumbledore doesn't want to use Dark Magic.

The Taboo seems like Dark Magic to me, considering it essentially stops people from saying a word, not to mention the fact that it breaks protective enchantments. Dumbledore does not use Dark Magic when possible.

'You flatter me,' said Dumbledore calmly. 'Voldemort had powers I will never have.' 'Only because you're too – well – noble to use them.'
Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone - chapter 1- The Boy Who Lived

Using/relying on the Taboo would be risky.

There are multiple dangers inherent in using a Taboo for this purpose (though not all of these are things Dumbledore would be aware of):

  • It could be used by Death Eaters/Lord Voldemort to lure Dumbledore and the Order into a trap.
  • The trio of protagonists could grow over-reliant on the Taboo and fail to gain the necessary combat experience (though to be fair they really only survived because of their sheer dumb luck). For this reason, they would be more vulnerable than usual if they were prevented from activating the Taboo.
  • The Taboo could be used at the wrong time. Imagine if, upon seeing Sirius Black in the Shrieking Shack, Harry shouted Bumdingerino, and Sirius was being subject to a Dementor's Kiss twenty minutes later. I do not believe this would happen, but it is certainly a possibility.
  • The usage of the Taboo could encourage Lord Voldemort to think more and execute smarter plans, like capturing members of the Order of the Phoenix or keep them all occupied with different things so they could not appear to protect Harry.
  • Similarly, placing a Taboo may give Lord Voldemort the idea to use a Taboo of his own, for example putting one on his own name. Bear in mind that just because this occurred anyway doesn't mean that Dumbledore wouldn't have took this into account when thinking about such an idea.
  • Apparating long distances (the graveyard is said to be about 200 miles away from Harry's home and more than 100 miles away from Hogwarts) runs the risk of Splinching, especially if done frequently.

We don't know the limits of a Taboo.

We've only actually seen one example of a Taboo. It's quite possible that there are limitation to this spell that we don't know about. Perhaps it can only be used on names, or perhaps two Taboos can be placed on one word. We also don't know who is in charge of the Taboo placed on Lord Voldemort's chosen name, and (as The Dark Lord covered) it's possible the Taboo is an advanced spell like the Trace that is difficult to cast or requires multiple people.

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    Also there'a a silencio charm, which would counteract the taboo. As long as the death eaters have the element of surprise, they could stop it. Jul 5, 2019 at 16:27
  • @marcellothearcane True. The Tongue-Tying curse I mentioned in my answer would have the same effect.
    – Lewis
    Jul 5, 2019 at 18:44
  • @marcellothearcane I don't know that I buy this with Dumbledore. I think he would have been able to work out a way that it could be done silently. For that matter Voldemort also could likely have done something like that - after all he was as Dumbledore said quite frankly the most talented person to ever enter Hogwarts.
    – Pryftan
    Mar 31, 2020 at 1:42
  • Really well thought out. The one about Severus is particularly important. I think the significance of the Taboo is that it allows to be tracked down, removing protection enchantments rather than necessarily the distance. Meaning I think that it isn't automatic it's just that they can be tracked down. Anyway great answer.
    – Pryftan
    Mar 31, 2020 at 1:52

Dumbledore probably didn't have the power to set a Taboo.

It's important that the Death Eaters only implement the Taboo after they take over the Ministry of Magic. Indeed, moments after they seize the Ministry they use the Taboo to track Harry, Ron and Hermione to Tottenham Court Road. The Taboo was a power which they would otherwise have been unable to use. It was not only advanced, nationwide magic; it was magic which only the government could implement.

“What you’ve got to realise, Harry, is that the Death Eaters have got the full might of the Ministry on their side now,” said Lupin. “They’ve got the power to perform brutal spells without fear of identification or arrest."
(Deathly Hallows, Chapter 11, The Bribe).

Dumbledore obviously didn't have access to the full powers of the Ministry. He was offered the position of Minister of Magic several times but always declined. And, although he had influence over several Ministers, he wouldn't have been able to dictate an order that something on the scale of the Taboo be set up. So I think it's dubious that Dumbledore could've set up a Taboo, even if he'd wanted to.

I think it's unlikely that Dumbledore would have wanted to implement such an arrangement either. Dumbledore had plenty of ways of keeping an eye on Harry (the teachers, the portraits etc) and Harry himself said that Dumbledore is aware of pretty much everything that happens at Hogwarts. I'm sure that Dumbledore would have believed that Harry would never have been able to come to any real harm whilst he was around. Many of the situations where Harry was in danger happened because Dumbledore wasn't there - because Dumbledore was tricked (as in the case of Harry taking the Triwizard Cup Portkey) or because Dumbledore had been banished (as in the case of the Chamber of Secrets or the Department of Mysteries). Basically, Dumbledore expected to be around to sort things out and didn't foresee Harry being in danger as much as he was.

  • “They’ve got the power to perform brutal spells without fear of identification or arrest." Sounds more to me like they could have done it at any time, but would have been found out. So, not that they were incapable of casting the Taboo before taking over the government but rather that doing so would have attracted attention and gotten them caught (or at least in hot water.) "Power" in this case means only "political power."
    – JRE
    Jul 5, 2019 at 5:58
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    @JRE I agree with your interpretation but I think Lupin was referring to stuff like the forbidden curses in that sentence, rather than the Taboo.
    – DavidS
    Jul 5, 2019 at 9:33
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    @JRE Yeah, Lupin wasn't talking about the Taboo specifically there. I was using the quote to demonstrate that the Death Eaters were able to do things after seizing the Ministry which they couldn't do otherwise. That sentence isn't really relevant. Sorry for any confusion. Jul 5, 2019 at 11:56
  • It's weird how only the ministry has the power to make spells like this, when magic is fairly non-discriminatory in this way. Voldemort's magical power is formidable, and it's not like any ministry employee could match that. Jul 5, 2019 at 16:24
  • Another time Dumbledore wasn't about is when you had your mate fake an urgent request from the Ministry to Dumbledore. If it wasn't for the fact that you couldn't deal with being touched you might have succeeded that night but of course you couldn't deal with it. At least at the time. Oh and your wording was perfectly clear - it was their interpretation that was the problem. The wording in your answer is more than sufficient.
    – Pryftan
    Mar 31, 2020 at 1:45

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