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Inspired from How could a memory (Tom Riddle) have performed Avada Kedavra?, is Avada Kedavra the only way to kill a wizard in a one-on-one duel?

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    I have a theory that it is the only surefire way of doing it (save Dumbledore cramming a statue in the way). Incendio could set a wizard on fire, but they or someone else could instantly douse it with augementi. Imperius could influence a wizard to kill himself in a duel but that spell can be resisted. You can lift a wizard way high and drop him, but they can use magic to slow their fall. Basically, I think, Avada Kedavra cannot be reversed, so is a very good way of doing it, but there are other ways, incl spells above and eg manipulating surroundings such as charming a boulder to land on them
    – Mac Cooper
    May 5, 2014 at 15:46
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    Bellatrix Lestrange might disagree.
    – Xantec
    May 5, 2014 at 15:46
  • @Mac Cooper Well, disapparate (flee) before Avada Kedavra.....
    – Tom Lynd
    May 5, 2014 at 15:48
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    Are you specifically referring to magical means? Personally, I'm with Vlad Taltos on this one: “No matter how subtle the wizard, a knife between the shoulder blades will seriously cramp his style.” May 6, 2014 at 1:04
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    @rlb.usa I've a feeling it was just in the films -- eccentric and liked to experiment. I'll see if I can find reference in the book now
    – Mac Cooper
    May 7, 2014 at 15:31

8 Answers 8

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Based on what we've seen in the books, no, Avada Kedavra is not the only way to kill a wizard (or for that matter a witch or muggle).

There are spells that directly cause death: Sectumsempra, for instance. There are also spells that can be used to cause death, though that is not the primary use: Incendio, Wingardium Leviosa (lift a guy and drop him). There are charms that can influence the surroundings to cause death: lifting a boulder and dropping it on somebody's head will do some damage. And finally, the Imperius Curse can influence someone else to bring about their own death (or used to make a third party murder someone).

However, these spells can be rectified. A skilled wizard, when caught on fire, can likely put themselves out. Snape reverses Sectumsempra and the Imperius Curse can be fought.

It seems, therefore, that Avada Kedavra is almost a surefire way. I say almost because Harry survived (special case, I know) and Dumbledore blocked the spell once -- with this, though, it wasn't a one on one and based on the description Harry gives when the curse is used on him it does not appear there is time to react. Indeed, it seems Avada Kedevra is inescapable on a one-to-one duel unless you're Harry potter.

To summarise: No, it's not the only way, but is the least possible to negate the effect.

EDIT: As Xantec pointed out, Molly's curse against Bellatrix was an instant kill, meaning Avada Kedavra is not the only spell that cannot be repelled or in some way negated, assuming, as he said, Molly wouldn't use that spell: it's not in character, plus the spell wasn't identified and if it was the familiar flash of Green Light it's likely it would have been named. This means there are instant-kill spells that aren't Unforgivable: the Ministry should get to work, me thinks.

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    Well, we also know that Fiendfyre can kill and it doesn't seem to have any other purpose. It can also destroy powerful magical artifacts (see the Ravenclaw Diadem horcrux). Though it can be controlled, it is very difficult to do so and can quickly become uncontrollable and even consume the caster.
    – ssell
    May 5, 2014 at 16:18
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    Can you give us canon examples of Sectumsempra, Incendio, and Wingardium Leviosa having caused death? I'm not talking theoretical death. I'm talking actual deaths in the books due to those spells. May 5, 2014 at 17:26
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    Off the top of my head, there are three instances of Fiendfyre being used: (1) Cast by Voldemort against Dumbledore in the Ministry of Magic in OotP (Movie only?); (2) Cast by Dumbledore to clear away the Inferi in HBP (Book and Movie?); (3) Cast by Crabbe to disastrous effect in the Room of Requirement in DH (Book and Movie). In the (1) Dumbledore successfully defends against it; (2) Dumbledore creates a path through it; (3) Harry & Co escape via broomsticks.
    – ssell
    May 5, 2014 at 17:35
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    @Slytherincess, no, but just because Rowling didn't explicitly say it doesn't mean we should ignore what's clear. Rules have been set down: Incendio burns things, and people burn. Sectumsempra rips someone's chest open -- let's be honest, if it weren't for Snape, Draco would be dead. We haven't seen any wizard burn to death -- that doesn't mean they're fireproof. If a boulder falls on my head it's gonna do damage whether it was charmed or not (to be fair we see W. L can do damage due to the troll in HP1). We cannot ignore what's clear just because there's no precedent of incendio killing
    – Mac Cooper
    May 5, 2014 at 20:33
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    “Molly wouldn’t use that spell: it’s not in character.” citation need
    – Adamant
    Mar 14, 2017 at 6:15
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Well, I figure being hit straight in the chest with a blasting curse or Dolohov's Purple fire wouldn't be so good for your life span. There must be dozens of lethal curses we never heard about in the canon. No need for sectum sempra; a simple Diffindo at the throat would be deadly:

"D-diffindo, " she said, pointing her wand at Ron, who roared in pain as she slashed open the knee of his jeans, leaving a deep cut.

A spell violent enough could crush your skull, or stop your heart. AK is simply the fastest and most efficient way to kill with magic. As fanfiction writers like to call it, there must be the whole branch of "Battle Transfiguration" spells to conjure knives, arrows, and suchlike.

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I assume it is not the only way, i could imagine a spell like sectumsempra could also be fatal depending on where it landed. But it certainly is the most direct method. being that magic is flexible i would bet based on the creativity of a Torquemada-esk evil wizard there would be many ways to kill another wizard in a duel.

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There are many ways a person can be killed, but as Mac Cooper points out, many can be deflected or blocked.

Many have already been mentioned in other answers, but there are a few additions I thought I could bring to the table. Also worth noting, most any spell, aimed at vital areas such as the head, heart, or neck, could be fatal.

Sectumsempra- This could be the most effective on the list barring the fact that it is unknown to the wider wizarding community.

Diffindo-In Deathly Hallows, Hermione cuts Ron's knee. Aimed at the neck, for instance, could cause death.

Petrificus Totalus/Stupefy- While both spells on their own were mentioned in above answers, I haven't yet seen the combo. Based on How was this character killed without Avada Kedavra? some of the answers suggested it was this combination that killed Bellatrix Lestrange. Even if it wasn't her cause of death, it certainly is lethal.

Antonin Dolohov's Spell-

Dolohov made a slashing motion with his wand, purple fire flew out, and Hermione have a little, "oh" before collapsing" ...She was pale and looked as though dead. It would be all his fault if they were hurt. He, Harry, had lured his friends here, it would be his fault if one of them died,"

For the sake of the length of my answer, Madam Pomfrey also mentions that it could have been deadly, so while unidentified, this could be a spell for killing.

I tried my very best to not include any duplicates of other answers, but please let me know if there are duplicate ideas.

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Diffindo, if aimed at the heart or head, could kill a wizard/witch, but can be reversed (possibly) by Vulnera Sanentur, as can Sectumsempra. Petrificus Totalus could kill somebody (causing them to fall from a great height). But, remember, Avada Kedavra didn't kill Harry Potter, because it was blocked by the simplest charm, love. So The Killing Curse doesn't always kill people...

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  • Welcome to the site, thanks for your first post! Do you have any evidence you could edit in that diffindo could kill, a quote from JKR perhaps, or one of the (companion) books?
    – Au101
    Mar 13, 2017 at 19:24
  • Hermione hit Ron accidentally with Diffindo in Deathly Hallows and it just gave him a cut to the knee. Mar 13, 2017 at 20:02
  • @TheDarkLord, if aimed at the heart or head, I mean he's covered that basis well enough.
    – Edlothiad
    Mar 14, 2017 at 9:25
  • @Edlothiad. Sure, if you hit a major artery or something the person could bleed to death. You'd have to discapacitate them somehow, though. Cuts and scrapes seem pretty easy to heal with dittany in HP. Mar 14, 2017 at 9:44
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    Saying that Killing Curse doesn't not always kill people is the same as saying that 'not having sex' sometime fails as a contraception, because Jesus.
    – dna
    Oct 19, 2017 at 11:40
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What about Confringo, the Blasting Curse? It can blow up things and humans as Harry uses it on the Death Eaters by blasting Nagini, and then it is deflected onto the Death Eaters and it blows up things like that.

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Doesn't seem like anyone has even mentioned the most insane spell of them all, "reducto" you can basically turn someone into dust... which is btw the spell Molly used on Bellatrix.

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  • Are we sure of that? Just watched the scene again and all spells were non-verbal.
    – Jenayah
    Sep 25, 2018 at 22:29
  • It appears this spell can only be used on objects, not people. harrypotter.wikia.com/wiki/Reductor_Curse
    – DrSheldon
    Sep 25, 2018 at 23:36
  • That can't have been the spell Molly used on Bellatrix because Bellatrix didn't turn into dust. She (IIRC) suffered cardiac arrest.
    – F1Krazy
    Sep 26, 2018 at 5:42
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Is Avada Kedavra the only way to kill a wizard in a one-on-one duel?

No.

  • Shoot him in the chest with a gun.
  • Stun him then slit his throat.
  • Stun him then Wingardium-Leviosa him to a height and then let go. (Hedwig)
  • Just stun him and do anything else. :P
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    Sure. There are other lethal curses, though.
    – Adamant
    Mar 14, 2017 at 6:16
  • These are all lethal-yes. But most wizards don't have access or know how to use a gun, and slitting someones (presumably a muggle, you couldn't get close enough to do that to a wizard) throat could get you in trouble with the Muggle Law Enforcement, whether that be police or otherwise.
    – ava
    Nov 15, 2021 at 19:25

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