I totally didn't get the Diagon Alley / "diagonally" thing for a long time after reading the first Harry Potter book. I think my mind didn't want it to be such a sleazy pun. (Re-run commentary to Irregular Webcomic No. 112 2003-05-16)

Having read that comment, I realized that - having reread HP books gazillion times - I somehow never tumbled on to the fact that was indeed a pun on "diagonally".

Which brings up 2 questions:

  1. In-universe, is there anything that would imply the notion of "diagonally" in the Alley? I seem to recall it was straight.

  2. If not, out of universe, did JKR acknowledge that this pun was indeed intended as a meaning of the name and why?

  • 2
    I'm assuming you also got the joke about Knockturn Alley?
    – Valorum
    Nov 22, 2014 at 23:41
  • 2
    @Richard what joke? Nov 22, 2014 at 23:48
  • 12
    @AlfredoHernández Knockturn Alley = Nocturnally.
    – Liesmith
    Nov 23, 2014 at 0:03
  • 3
    Diagon Alley sounding like Diagonally made for an easy way to show Harry mispronounced it to end up on Knockturn Alley in the second Harry Potter movie. In the book the mispronunciation is not easy to see
    – user13267
    Nov 23, 2014 at 4:12
  • 2
    Welcome to the wonderful world of English place names and this list doesn't even include Meard Street
    – Separatrix
    Mar 29, 2016 at 14:36

2 Answers 2


In-universe, it could refer to it being adjacent to the Muggle world.

It exists parallel to Muggle London, in a skewed sort of reality. It doesn't get in the way or attract the notice of Muggles in London. However, the entrance to it is in London, and it is very close to the Muggle world. It would have to be enchanted to exist in a place that is oblique to the Muggle world, which could be how it got its name. Also, the location of it could be hidden in such a way that it is actually literally diagonal to London.

There also may be no in-universe reason. It could simply be a street name to the people living there, and only be intended as a pun out-of-universe.

Out-of-universe, yes, it's almost definitely a pun.

I don't think Rowling has ever confirmed that the name Diagon Alley is a play on the word diagonally, but it almost certainly is. Its dark counterpart is Knockturn Alley, a play on the word nocturnally. Another example of a place named after a pun is the Black family home, Number 12 Grimmauld Place, which is meant to sound like "grim old place". It would be an amazing coincidence for the names to accidentally form such suitable puns in each of these cases, so it would be fairly logical to presume the wordplay is intentional.

In addition, Rowling has used a lot of puns and wordplay throughout the Harry Potter series. It's so extensive that she would be unable to confirm every single case of it, and it's likely that anyone who noticed the Diagon Alley pun would have presumed it was intended, and not considered asking Rowling about it specifically.


I had always assumed was wordplay on the fact that it is 'deviance from a straight path'. It's not a normal shopping center for muggles, it's definitely something very different, hence in some different direction. Also, knowing the nature of the HP universe, things seemed to be crammed in between existing muggle structures (like Grimmauld Place). Perhaps being oddly squeezed into the back alleys of London would render it a diagonal path?

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