Why are Death-Eaters called Death-Eaters? What does their name mean?

  • I always thought it had to do with the Dark Mark having a Snake eating itself(Ouroboros) through a skull. But I'm not sure if the symbol came first and then the name, or vice versa.
    – Monty129
    Commented Feb 12, 2013 at 12:54
  • In the same sense that you swallow a key so that a lock may never again be opened, if you swallow (eat) your own death, you may never exit this world. The difference being in my eyes, that for all sane people opening doors/dying is considered a good thing and never being able to go through doors/die is a bad thing. The Death Eaters seemed to believe the opposite.
    – Sheph
    Commented Feb 17, 2013 at 2:36

4 Answers 4


Voldemort's followers were called "Death Eaters" because one of Voldemort's key goals was to use magic to fully control Death, directing its powers at Voldemort's sole command. Voldemort sees this as the sign of ultimate power, which is his foremost goal; to be the most powerful sorcerer ever.

Obviously, killing (directing Death toward others) is easy; it's preventing Death from turning on you that's tricky. The third leg of the triangle formed by the Hallows, recalling others from Death, was never of interest to Voldemort, and even the Resurtrection Stone didn't really do that.

The name, therefore, arose from what being one of Voldemort's disciples means at a fundamental level. It means that you believe in Voldemort's philosophy, that mortality is a weakness of lesser beings, and that to become truly powerful, you must fear neither dealing death or succumbing to it; in the vernacular, you "eat Death for breakfast".


According to J.K. Rowling, the Death Eaters rose out of a group known as the Knights of Walpurgis, and she shared this in an interview with the BBC:

"'...in here is the history of the Death Eaters and I don't know that I'll ever actually need it - but at some point - which were once called something different - they were called the Knights of Walpurgis...'" - J.K. Rowling.

BBC Newsnight, Thursday, 19 June, 2003, J.K. Rowling: The Interview via Mugglenet

The Knights of Walpurgis was a play on Walpurgis Knight: Walpurgis Night (in German folklore) the night of April 30 (May Day's eve), when witches meet on the Brocken mountain and hold revels with the Devil... (Oxford Phrase & Fable) The Knights of Walpurgis by Cindy Eric at Mugglenet.

Anyhow, that's the history of the Knights of Walpurgis, who preceded the Death Eaters. The most common theory I've heard regarding why Voldemort's followers are called the Death Eaters is that it is a reflection of Voldemort's self-loathing of his own status as a half-blood. Like Hitler, Voldemort set out to obliterate all those who exhibited traits he hated in himself. Why his followers are called Death Eaters specifically is, as far as I know, not addressed by J.K. Rowling anywhere. And how the name "Death Eater" arose from "Knight of Walpurgis" is equally puzzling.

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    Walpurgis Night, incidentally, is also related to Sirius' mom's name: Walburga Black. Commented Jan 15, 2014 at 0:18

Their name comes indirectly from Christian symbolism. (See the books of John Granger for a thorough exploration of this symbolism in the Harry Potter books.)

There's a long Christian tradition of calling the Body and Blood of Christ, the Eucharist, "the medicine of immortality"; it goes back to St Ignatius in the last first or early second century. If the Eucharist is the medicine of immortality, then those who eat it are partaking of life, and could be called Life Eaters. Then those who pursue immortality by another course, by way of murder and evil, could be contrasted by calling them Death Eaters.

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    While the books avoid overt religion where they can, this is probably the best out-of-universe explanation for why Rowling settled on that name.
    – KeithS
    Commented Jul 22, 2013 at 16:27

They were called ‘Death Eaters’ because Voldemort’s life goal was to kill muggleborn witches and wizards before he changed his interest to Harry Potter. His followers killed anyone in their way or anyone who stood up for HP. (Not everyone but you get the point.) I assume that their name ‘Death Eaters’ was because they killed lots of people which was effectively like eating because they did it frequently? And they ‘ate’ death by doing it a lot. Sorry if this makes no sense. If anyone knows what I mean and can edit it to make more sense that would be greatly appreciated.

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    I'm genuinely baffled by the point you're trying to make. Could you back it up with a quote from the book/s or another source?
    – Valorum
    Commented Aug 27, 2019 at 19:52
  • I am new to the website and so I honestly don’t know how to! Sorry 😐 Commented Aug 27, 2019 at 19:56
  • 1
    Adding in a quote is as simple as putting > in front of it. The hard part is finding a quote that backs up your answer :-)
    – Valorum
    Commented Aug 27, 2019 at 20:00
  • Ok that’s helpful! Commented Aug 27, 2019 at 20:02
  • But I can’t find a quote that backs that up... 😅😂😂 Commented Aug 27, 2019 at 20:05

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