In the first book I believe Harry is told by Dumbledore something like the name Voldemort holds no power and that people were being fearful and silly for using He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. Later on it's revealed that using the name Voldemort actually does matter as it lets him know where you are. ( I'm going from memory here, anyone is free to edit this.)

So why wouldn't Dumbledore say this instead? He knows or suspects that Voldemort could come back and that Harry would be a target for Voldemort. So why let one of the most important people in the fight against Voldemort develop a bad habit like saying his name out loud which would help him find Harry?

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    I think that a) Dumbledore knew that Voldemort already knew where to find him and b) Dumbledore didn't give a flying %^&*$. Besides, if it were me, I'd train everyone to always chant his name whenever they were on the toilet... could you imagine being Voldemort and having your brain filled up with the locations of 800 people taking a dump at any given moment? That alone could have ended the war.
    – John O
    Aug 31, 2012 at 20:53
  • @JohnO He didn't know where to find Harry when he wasn't at Hogwarts. When he was at the Dursleys he was protected and it was kept secret where he was at. Aug 31, 2012 at 21:06
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    ...saying his name out loud which would help him find Harry? That isn't true. The taboo was only placed in Book 7. Dumbledore was dead, by then, and had no clue even earlier that a taboo would be put. :/ Dec 17, 2013 at 13:17

6 Answers 6


To the best of my knowledge saying Voldemort's name only allowed you to be tracked/located during the events of Deathly Hallows, after Voldemort had assumed control of the Ministry. This effect was referred to as the Taboo. This seems like a rather specialized bit of magic, with no precedence in the six previous books, so it seems unlikely that Dumbledore, or anybody else, would have considered the possibility this might happen in the future.

"... and how did you find out about the Taboo?" he asked Harry after explaining the many desperate attempts of Muggle-borns to evade the Ministry."

"The what?"

"You and Hermione have stopped saying You-Know-Who's name!"

"Oh, yeah, Well, it's just a bad habit we've slipped into," said Harry. "But I haven't got a problem calling him V ---"

"NO!" roared Ron, causing Harry to jump into the hedge and Hermione (nose buried in a book at the tent entrance) to scowl over at them. "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!"

"Because we used his name?"

"Exactly! You've got to give them credit, it makes sense. It was only people who were serious about standing up to him, like Dumbledore, who even dared use it. Now they've put a Taboo on it, anyone who says it is trackable --- quick-and-easy way to find Order members! They nearly got Kingsley ---"

Deathly Hallows, Chapter 20 - Xenophilius Lovegood

As for the exact quote from Dumbledore about "fear of the name":

“Sir?” said Harry. “I’ve been thinking… sir — even if the Stone’s gone, Vol-, I mean, YouKnow-Who —”

“Call him Voldemort, Harry. Always use the proper name for things. Fear of a name increases fear of the thing itself.”

Philosopher's Stone, Chapter 17 - The Man With Two Faces

  • I believe it was "taboo" when he was considered defeated but once He was alive and the Death Eaters tattoos were activated again then saying his name did somehow let him know you were talking about him. Aug 31, 2012 at 21:02
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    @KevinHowell My answer wasn't originally very clear, so I've added a quote to hopefully fix that. As far as I'm aware there's no indication that the Taboo was present prior to Voldemort's take over of the Ministry of Magic in the seventh book (Chapter 8 - The Wedding). Aug 31, 2012 at 21:11
  • "Exactly! You've got to give them credit, it makes sense. It was only people who were serious about standing up to him, like Dumbledore, who even dared use it." I always took this as proof that the Taboo had been used before. It explained more of why Voldemort was referred to as HWCNBN. Also since the Taboo is well known I assumed it has been used before. Aug 31, 2012 at 22:00
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    @KevinHowell Possible, but not the impression I got. Ron does say "Now they've put a Taboo on it, anyone who says it is trackable" - to me, at least, the now is important and suggests that it's something relatively recent, not something that existed before. Aug 31, 2012 at 22:19
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    @KevinHowell I cannot for the life of me figure out how that quote would in any way imply that the Taboo had been used before. What’s your reasoning to reach that conclusion? Aug 9, 2015 at 17:01

Dumbledore telling Harry, and even McGonagall, to use Voldemort's name was not a mistake, it was wise and profound. Had the Wizarding World listened to him, and everyone spoke Voldemort's name, the Taboo would have been ineffective in locating Order members or anyone rebelling against Voldemort, because there would be nothing to single those people out. If the names were used in reverse, where those who feared Voldemort called him by his name and those who rebelled against him called him "You-Know-Who", well, Voldemort would have put the Taboo on "You-Know-Who" to track the rebels.

So, Dumbledore was, as always, right. If all or most of the Wizarding World just called him Voldemort, the fear he inspired would have been lessened, and a Taboo designed to find people who only called him Voldemort would be useless. A classic win-win situation! Not that I think Dumbledore anticipated Voldemort's idea for a name-Taboo, but he didn't need to; his wisdom could trump all of Voldemort's schemes.


I've assumed that 'the taboo' was akin to 'the trace' - the sort of broad spell affecting the whole wizarding community which only someone in the Ministry is able/allowed to cast. Hence it only took effect after the Ministry fell.

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    Could you elaborate on that last bit? Where is it said that Voldy needed Ministry to cast the spell? Feb 15, 2017 at 16:07
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    @Gallifreyan it isn't. On the other hand, what we do have implies that it wasn't in place for the span between resurrection-ritual and ministry-takeover, which does imply some kind of link.
    – Darael
    Feb 15, 2017 at 17:57

Because the taboo on He Who Could Not Be Named's name was only put in the events of the Deathly Hallows. Before that, You-Know-Who's name could be spoken without anything happening.


The taboo only started in the last book (2 films) Dumbledore said that fear of a name can only increase the fear of the thing itself. Voldemort could of made up a spell so that even Dumbledore couldn't think of them.

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    A good answer, but could you possibly add some sources to support your answer? Also, Welcome and take a look at our tour
    – Edlothiad
    Feb 15, 2017 at 10:24

I'm pretty sure the Taboo didn't exist before the whole schlew in the last book. Otherwise, the Fidelius Charm on 12 Grimmauld Place would've been done for and the charms on Hogwarts would've been gone, too, as people at those places have said Voldemort.

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