Being the buff of lore that I am, I come across a lot of Sci-Fi and Magic based stories. But, my question is simple. Because of how spells and charms are used in the Harry Potter world, would it not be more appropriate to call Wizards Warlocks? I mainly ask because to the items used and the health for spells reference in almost every book.

To Clarify: A warlock has always been someone who uses both mana and life to preforms spells, trade offs, or anything resulting in use of Mana, life or both. While a wizard mainly uses a mana pool. While some do have the knowledge to tap ones life or not merely depends where you are.

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  • I am not asking what is the difference.
    – Virusboy
    Commented Nov 25, 2014 at 23:26
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    So... you're using definitions from other stories/franchises to challenge the specific use of terms in the Harry Potter franchise? If so, you should at least define how you're using those terms.
    – BESW
    Commented Nov 25, 2014 at 23:26
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    Yer a wizard, Harry. That seems pretty conclusive to me
    – Valorum
    Commented Nov 26, 2014 at 0:00
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    Can you cite an authority on Wizard vs Warlock? Because I'm pretty sure that they mean whatever any author wants them to mean when they use them in their fiction
    – HorusKol
    Commented Nov 26, 2014 at 1:14

2 Answers 2


Harry's a wizard because the books define 'wizard' as the thing Harry is.

It sounds like you're using some definitions for "wizard" and "warlock" from outside the Harry Potter franchise. This is a non-starter for two reasons. First, historic terms for magic users have extremely vague definitions and it's only in recent fiction that the terms have come to really settle down into firm notions of different kinds of magic-user. Second, definitions outside the Harry Potter franchise don't matter because the franchise defines its own terms and external definitions need not apply.

Mana doesn't exist in HPverse, so using it as a definition is pointless. Besides, "mana" and "warlock" are words from opposite sides of the world in totally different traditions. "Warlock" is a European word with connotations of devil-worship and diabolical power (NOT specifically life-draining magic), while "mana" is an Austronesian word describing both mystic and social power of a positive or neutral nature.

These words weren't put together until the 1960s or 1970s, when popular fiction appropriated the words while changing the meaning. It's at roughly this point that notions like "magic users only use one kind of magic unless they're really special" came into prevalence--and with those notions, the need for more codified terminology to distinguish between them. However, those distinctions only arose in the kinds of fiction where they were needed; in the wider world of magical fiction such terms tend to retain their older meanings.

Thus, the proscriptive definitions you're working with are specific to a particular narrow subset of modern magical fiction. Applying those definitions outside their intended context is bound to be confusing at best, because the definitions were invented BY and FOR that context.

Because JK has no interest in providing clear explanations of what magic is or where a wizard gets his power, trying to categorise HP casters by the source of their power is a fundamental mismatch--that universe doesn't care about the categories you're trying to impose on it. JK Rowling draws on older mystic lore than video games and the novels of Niven, so her books don't use the concepts and terms of those modern works.

Since all magic-using humans are wizards in her works, 'warlock' is a subset of 'wizard' rather than a uniquely different kind of magician.

  • Potterverse is pretty explicit in its difference between a Wizard and a Warlock; the explanation can be found in Tales of Beedle the Bard, in the story The Worlock's Hairy Heart (or somesuch -- it's called something like that). :) Commented Nov 25, 2014 at 23:30
  • Your edits are really excellent and make sense explaining more universal descriptions of wizard/worlock in comparison to the smaller and newer universe of Harry Potter. Alex's answer was all Potter; yours is more of a broad overview. I think they're both on par with each other, so +1 and I'm really glad you clarified your initial answer. :) Commented Nov 27, 2014 at 20:12

I would say that he’s a wizard.

A footnote in Tales of Beedle the Bard [1] gives an in-universe definition for “warlock”, as opposed to the standard term “wizard”:

The term “warlock” is a very old one. Although it is sometimes used as interchangeable with “wizard”, it originally denoted one learned in duelling and all martial magic. It was also given as a title to wizards who had performed feats of bravery, rather as Muggles were sometimes knighted for acts of valour. […] These days wizards use “warlock” in one of two ways: to describe a wizard of unusually fierce appearance, or as a title denoting particular skill or achievement. Thus, Dumbledore himself was Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot.

Harry isn’t an experienced duellist: he knows the disarming charm and attending one duelling club. The first definition certainly doesn’t apply.

You might argue that his escapades with Voldemort qualify him for “particular skill or achievement”, but personally I think he falls short. What he did was remarkable, but not skillful. See Were there any canon examples of Harry being an innately powerful wizard? for more on this. And he’s never described as having a fearsome appearance in the books, either.

In addition, every mention of Harry that I can recall refers to him as “wizard”, not “warlock”. This seems to be the standard term; by contrast, warlock is used very rarely, and usually in special circumstances.

[1] This occurs in Dumbledore’s notes on The Warlock’s Hairy Heart, although the footnote is signed “JKR”, not Dumbledore.

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    The querent doesn't seem to be asking for franchise-internal justifications, but rather challenging the franchise's use of the terms.
    – BESW
    Commented Nov 25, 2014 at 23:28
  • @BESW Fair point. I interpreted as an in-universe question, although I see that’s already been answered elsewhere.
    – alexwlchan
    Commented Nov 25, 2014 at 23:30
  • @BESW -- I think that's kind of odd to assume that a question about a specific universe is really meant to be ubiquitous. I like you as dearly as is possible, but I do feel that Alex has the better, in universe answer, as it's specific to Harry Potter. :) Commented Nov 25, 2014 at 23:34
  • i think that your correct alex, however it would be interesting to see if harry was awarded anything for defeating voldemort, he may have been granted the title warlock for his ultimate defeat of voldemort. im not sure if they tell you why Dumbledore specifically was granted that position but i would think his legendary duel and defeat of grindlewald may have contributed.
    – Himarm
    Commented Nov 25, 2014 at 23:40

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