I'm aware that Voldemort named himself, as an anagram of Tom Riddle, so Lord fits, however why do people still use this? Lord is a title, given to, well... lords.

I know Harry and Dumbledore often call him Tom to try and "re-humanise" him, but why do others, seemingly scared wizards/witches use the title of "Lord" when his name is spoken? Is it simply fear of angering him?1

1 In the film portrayal of Order of the Phoenix, Harry refers to him as Lord Voldemort during Doleres Umbridge's first class.

I have not read the books, so it could be there is a canon reason that is not obvious in the films, if not, I will accept a well-reasoned, out-of-universe answer.

  • 18
    Can't confuse him with Duke Voldemort, now can we?
    – calccrypto
    Apr 11, 2015 at 21:35
  • 6
    Because "Mr Voldemort" just sounds like an estate agent. Apr 12, 2015 at 13:37
  • 2
    @Wikis Imagine renting from Voldemort...now that is a scary thought. Nov 15, 2015 at 8:36

2 Answers 2


I can think of a couple of reasons.

We know he has the ego for it, plus by the time he graduated he had already opened the chamber of secrets and proclaimed himself the heir of Salazar Slitherin, who is never exactly stated to have a title, but is enormously significant regardless.

That plus his power and skill and ideology attracted to him a fairly large group of followers, the death eaters, who are totally obedient out of fear at worst, and completely fanatical worshipers at best. Add to that his many past and present relationships with various factions of magical creatures.

He makes a pretty good case for himself. The title of "Dark Lord" has never really been completely rooted in the traditional definition of inherited landownership and Nobility.

It makes perfect sense that the death eaters would call him that, and refer to him as lord to other non death eaters. And the name stuck out of sheer public terror at the awful things he and his followers did.

"You don't know who his supporters are, you don't know who's working for him and who isn't; you know he can control people so that they do terrible things without being able to stop themselves. You're scared for yourself, and your family, and your friends. Every week, news comes of more deaths, more disappearances, more torturing... the Ministry of Magic's in disarray, they don't know what to do, they're trying to keep everything hidden from the Muggles, but meanwhile, Muggles are dying too. Terror everywhere... panic... confusion... that's how it used to be." -Sirius Black

  • 1
    This answers most of my question, in terms of the general public, fear is likely, but why does Harry refer to him as such? Or does he? I'm only watching the films, so it's hard to take it as canon.
    – Joe
    Apr 11, 2015 at 21:57
  • Voldemort was one of the most powerful wizards of all time. Even those who hated and feared him felt a certain grudging respect. As Ollivander says to Harry in Philosopher's Stone: "I think we must expect great things from you, Mr Potter... After all, He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named did great things — terrible, yes, but great." Apr 11, 2015 at 22:42
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    @Joe I think in the discussion with Umbridge he used the title to give more weight to what he was saying. Imagine the same scene with Harry saying "oh yeah, by the way, Tom's back".
    – 11684
    Apr 12, 2015 at 6:13

It must be a 'life peerage' - that would require an Act of Parliament to remove.

Archer was sent to Belmarsh Prison, a Category "A" prison, but was moved to Wayland Prison, a Category "C" prison in Norfolk, on 9 August 2001. ...

On 21 July 2003, Archer was released on licence, after serving half of his sentence, from Hollesley Bay. Archer was allowed to keep his peerage as it is a life peerage rather than "an honour under the Crown". An Act of Parliament would be required to enable such a change to someone's peerage.

Wikipedia: Jeffrey Archer # Prison

Presumably he retained his seat in the House of Lords:

... an act of parliament is required to revoke a peerage.

Andrew Mackinlay, Labour MP for Thurrock, has tabled a Commons motion calling on the government to legislate to disqualify peers imprisoned for criminal offences from sitting in the Lords. The Archer saga endorsed the case for an elected second chamber, he said.

"Not only is it an undemocratic place, but you could commit murder and when you get out of prison you could still go back into the House of Lords," he said. ...

"If a member of the House of Commons had been sent to prison for a similar crime yesterday he would have to forfeit his seat. "Why do we extend to the glitterati, the rich and the powerful, all those people in the magic circle which runs this country, the privilege of going back to parliament after they have come out of prison?"

Disgraced Archer may lose peerage, The Guardian, 20 July 2001

I'm not sure how the law has now changed, but I think the article above reflects the law in the late '90s, when the Potter saga is set.

The situation would be much easier if he were 'Sir Thomas Voldemort':

Mr Goodwin lost his honour for “services to banking” despite not having been convicted of any criminal offence nor being professionally censured, the normal requirements for annulling a knighthood, CBE, OBE or MBE.

Fred Goodwin is shredded: former RBS boss stripped of knighthood, Robert Winnett and Rowena Mason, The Telegraph, 31 Jan 2012

Alternatively, it could just be to make the apophasis clearer. If you say "The Dark Lord" then it's a bit clearer who you mean than if you say "you-know-who" or "thingummy-bob".

  • 1
    The title, being soi-dissant, would require neither attainder nor pains and penalties to dissolve. His defeat would do just fine. Apr 12, 2015 at 13:13
  • Good point @Stan, if it were a soi-disant title then it would be easy to remove it, but I think the fact that Potter and his chums persist in using the title shows that it's more than just a self-styled title. Because otherwise why would they use it? To me it seems quite plausible that Tom has made some political donations and bought himself a title sometime in his past... have to admit it's not canon though.
    – A E
    Apr 12, 2015 at 16:20
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    Does this answer infer that Tom Riddle is the younger son of a Duke and therefor entitled to the honorific of Lord?
    – Firebat
    Apr 12, 2015 at 16:27
  • 3
    If this answer can clear up what @S.Fruggiero mentioned, I think this wins it. I thought the "Lord" part comes from the anagram of his name, and is purely an ego thing.
    – Joe
    Apr 12, 2015 at 18:15
  • 1
    It would be eldest son, not youngest (who would only be the Honorable X unless there were multiple divisible titles in play). There is no indication in canon that the Riddles were nobility (and even if they were, young Tom's legitimacy is questionable at best) and passage of any non-Wizarding title through the Gaunts is unlikely. That leaves Royal grant by the Muggle monarch (there is no Wizarding royalty) to a student in school (Voldemort used the name before leaving), also quite unlikely. There is no "real" title involved here at all. Apr 12, 2015 at 18:36

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