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In French Voldemort means "flight from death". Was Voldemort aware of that fact when he created it?

  • @katieR (in her answer to this question; scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/17233/…) references a quote from JKR (accio-quote.org/articles/1999/1099-connectiontransc2.htm) where she specifically states that Voldemort's name is an invention (e.g. not a conscious effort to spell out a phrase in any specific language). – Valorum Dec 7 '14 at 22:36
  • General FYI: The question is "Was Voldemort aware of the meaning of his name when he created it?" It is not asking for the definition of Voldemort. Whether Voldemort was aware of the meaning of his name is not addressed in the other question's answers, so I am voting to re-open this question. It's perfectly valid. – Slytherincess Dec 8 '14 at 1:02
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    @Richard you are most likely wrong in your interpretation. Invention is opposed to collection in that interview by JKR, as in creation vs. copy. Creating mustn't be arbitrary at all, it's simply "forming". – n611x007 Aug 11 '15 at 15:32
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No he did not know what his name meant. We can possibly say this for sure, because even JKR didn't know what they name meant.

Also, he created his name by mixing up letters and such, so that makes it pretty obvious he didn't know at first at least.

However, he might of done research or some Death Eater might have told him and then he might of known that his name also meant something else.

From this source

Part 3 {5:05} Lydon: What about names themselves? Muggles, to begin, but the whole catalogue of - er - wizards: Albus Dumbledore, Voldemort - er - Hagrid.

JKR: I'm big on names - I like names, generally. You have to be really careful giving me your name if it's an unusual one, because you will turn up in book six. Erm - I - I collect - some of them are invented; Voldemort is an invented name, Malfoy is an invented name, Quidditch is invented, erm -

So Voldemort is a made up name. But since it could be something JKR remembered from a French Class she took.

but I also collect them, from all kinds of places: maps, street names, people I meet, old books, old saints, erm - Mrs Norris, people will have recognised, comes from Jane Austen. Erm - Dumbledore is an old English word meaning bumblebee. Because Albus Dumbledore is very fond of music, I always imagined him as sort of humming to himself a lot.

So maybe she remembered that name and thought that she made it up. But she she said she made it up, so he probably didn't know. IDK if he even would have liked being called someone who had made a flight from death(or thief), Voldemort might have took that to mean weakness.

Closely related to this Question:

Why did Tom Riddle change his name to Voldemort?

Although I think these are to very different questions, most of the answers are in the above Question.

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    @tls JK Rowling has a degree in French and taught it for about three years. Unless she somehow never learned the French words for fly or death, I reckon she has to be lying. – Ingu Shama Dec 9 '14 at 13:41
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    I think you and some other people totally misinterpret that quote. The distinction should be invented vs collected, ie. created vs copied. This leaves much space on the method of invention including intended meaning. – n611x007 Aug 11 '15 at 15:28
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    I agree with naxa, nothing in the phrase "invented name" contradicts the idea that JKR was fully aware of the French meaning of the two parts of the name, it just means that no one had ever thought to put those words together to form a name before, and no real people had that name before she came up with it. – Hypnosifl Aug 11 '15 at 18:46
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    @Hypnosifl Or rather, that she wasn't aware of any real people/places/whatever having that name before she coined it. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Aug 11 '15 at 20:26
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    The fact that Riddle coined the name (or rather, the phrase “I am Lord Voldemort”) as an anagram of his birth name does not in any way imply that he did not know what vol de mort means in French. In fact, it quite likely means the opposite: if you're going to create a new name for people to fear by anagramming your own name, you'd likely want to find a name that actually has a meaning to suggest the fear you wish to instil in people. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Aug 13 '15 at 11:42
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Quite possibly, although this (important) fact is not mentionned at all in the books. In french, Voldemort could either mean "Flight of Death" or "Theft of/from Death". Because of its sinister invocation, the former is usually the one that is mentionned, however the second make much more sense because it can be considered as a direct reference to the search of immortality/invincibility by Tom Riddle and his subsequent creation of the horcruxes. By creating the horcruxes and therefore becoming invincible, Tom Riddle has effectively been able of cheating Death itself or, in other words, to steal (his soul) from it; hence his new name.

As the process of the creation of this new name is not mentionned anywhere in the books, it's possible that for Tom Riddle, it was just a collection of letters chosen at random. However, this makes no sense. Why would he have chosen a name based on a bunch of letters with no signification whatsoever to him? Especially considering the fact that his name was of sufficient importance to him so that he took steps to change it because he didn't like the old one? If you find it sufficiently important to change your name, you don't simply choose a new one at random by putting together a bunch of letters chosen at random.

Finally, even if the second hypothesis makes a little more sense, not only the first one ("Flight of Death") could also be true but it's even possible that both are true; ie, that Tom Riddle has chosen this name because of its dual signification: both as sinister invocation of his presence and as a reference to his reach of immortality.

Also, as a side note, when JRK say that she has invented the name Voldemort, she doesn't mean that this is simply a collection of letters chosen at random; she means that this is not a real name; taken from a phone book for example.

  • this is the right interpretation of the JKR quote which makes distinction between invented and collected, ie. created vs copied. – n611x007 Aug 11 '15 at 15:30

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