Based on: Were there any people who were tracked due to using Voldemort's name aside from HP?

How did the Order of Phoenix figure out the existence of the Taboo spell?

HP/Hermione obviously didn't tumble onto the idea until Ron told them, and he learned about the Taboo from Potterwatch.

Merely deductive reasoning seems kind of unlikely, since the only other known instance of the Taboo being triggered seems to be Kingsley. Was someone just THAT intelligent and figured out the "Taboo" conclusion merely from that one incident?


3 Answers 3


See pages 316 and 364 of Deathly Hallows for mention of the Taboo. I'm referencing the British hardcovers, but they're in the chapters Xenophilius Lovegood and Malfoy Manor respectively.

It's not clear in canon if the incident with Kingsley was all it took for the Order to figure out that Voldemort's name was Taboo. There were very few people willing to say 'Voldemort' at all, except for those who were serious about standing up to him, i.e. the Order. I don't think it would have taken them long to figure out that Voldemort's named was Tabooed. ETA: In the beginning of the chapter The Bribe in DH, the trio and Lupin discuss how the trio was found so quickly at Tottenham Court, and that does send up red flags for Lupin.

Fenrir Greyback references that they have managed to track several Order members via the Taboo.

ETA: Okay, I've both thought about this and done some poking around online. I think that there is often so much focus on Hermione's intellectualism and superior intelligence that people forget she is a Gryffindor, one of the brave at heart. Hermione, in particular, throughout the series, struggled with saying 'Voldemort' openly; she worked hard at overcoming this emotional handicap because, I believe, she was wholly invested in Dumbledore's encouragement to not set fear in a name, for it would only serve to increase irrational fear of the thing itself. Dumbledore, the series' patriarch, is vehement and steadfast in his reproachment of Tom Riddle and Riddle's ridiculousness with the whole over-the-top 'Lord Voldemort' moniker. But the thing is, people totally bought into it! Voldemort's fear ploy works, to the point where the Wizarding world is debilitated.

Anyhow, I think it would have been a huge source of personal pride for Hermione when she was able to finally overcome her innate fear of saying 'Voldemort.' She stepped up to Harry's and Dumbledore's level of bravery and their commitment to refusing to be manipulated by an an overwrought superstition. The Order members took the same stance. I think that perhaps Hermione's pride and sense of accomplishment in overcoming her fear of saying 'Voldemort' may have supplanted her ability to immediately hone in on the connection between saying the name and the Death Eaters appearing. Remember, she has spent an inordinate amount of time overcoming the idea that nothing bad will happen by saying 'Voldemort.' Yes, Hermione is brilliant, but no-one is infallible, and there's a reason why Hermione was placed in Gryffindor rather than Ravenclaw.

This is my interpretation, but some similar points are made HERE in Broken Wand: How J.K. Rowling Killed Harry Potter by Timothy Wolf, a book which seems to take Rowling to task for apparent canon discrepancies. This is not what I would call a canon source, obviously, but you try Googling "JK Rowling Hermione Taboo" and see what you find ;) Hem Hem. . .

  • What makes me suspicious about accepting this theory as correct - despite it being the only one available from books - was that even uber-bright Hermione didn't correlate saying the name with Death Eaters jumping the trio. I was hoping some non-book canon sources have extra info. Jan 14, 2012 at 16:15
  • I will see if I can dig anything up :) Jan 14, 2012 at 16:58
  • @DVK: I would think there's also an issue of experience for Hermione. While she's uber-intelligent, she doesn't have the wealth of background and experience to put all the pieces together and she still isn't aware of the full range of possibilities magic allows. Also, even though they had some long times without much happening, there's still a certain stress level that can keep a person from thinking about details the way one would like to.
    – Tango
    Jan 14, 2012 at 17:09
  • @DVK - I think I've got a plausible theory supported by an outside source, but I won't be able to explain it in just a comment. Sorry for the zillionth ETA... :) Jan 14, 2012 at 17:55
  • 1
    @Slytherincess - THAT does make a lot of sense! +1 and pending accept :) Jan 14, 2012 at 18:37

I don't think the taboo was ever meant to be a secret. Fenrir Greyback knew of the taboo and made no effort to hide it from his fellow snatchers. Even if it were a secret, the Order still had people at fairly high levels of the Ministry, e.g. Kingsley Shacklebolt and Arthur Weasley, even after the takeover. I'm sure one or both would have heard about it at work.


When Harry, Hermoine, and Ron get caught by the Snatchers, the following dialogue takes place:

"Left, 'ave you, ginger?" said Scabior. "And you decided to go camping? And you thought, just for a laugh, you'd use the Dark Lords name?"

"Nod a laugh," said Ron. "Aggiden."

"Accident?" There was more jeering laughter.

"You know who used to like using the Dark Lord's name, Weasley?" growled Greyback, "The Order of the Phoenix. Mean anything to you?"

"Doh.""Well, they don't show the Dark Lord proper respect, so the name's been Tabooed.A few Order members have been tracked that way. We'll see. Bind them up with the other two prisoners!"

We see here that the Snatchers openly told their prisoners about the taboo, probably thinking that they would not escape. But Harry and his friends did indeed escape, putting them in the position to be able to alert everyone else to the existence of the taboo. A similar scenario could easily have been the way that anyone found out about the taboo to begin with. Snatchers captured someone, told him/her about the taboo, and the person escaped and warned everyone else. This may even have been Kingsley:

They nearly got Kingsley —"

"You're kidding?"

"Yeah, a bunch of Death Eaters cornered him, Bill said, but he fought his way out. He's on the run now, just like us."

If the Death Eaters had him cornered they might not have expected him to be able to escape, and therefore they might not have seen any harm in telling him how they caught him. When he did escape, though, he could then have told the rest of the Order of the Phoenix.

  • I don't have the book in front of me, but didn't Ron know the name was taboo (I mean officially knew, not his previous 'ehh...I don't like it' sentiment) prior to Greyback stating it? I do remember Ron specifically stating "the name is Taboo!"
    – NKCampbell
    Nov 9, 2018 at 20:32
  • @NKCampbell He did. My point is not that when they got caught was the first time anyone found out. My point is that just as they were told about it when they got caught and could inform others upon escaping, others (e.g. Kingsley) could have been in the same situation earlier and thus been the source.
    – Alex
    Nov 9, 2018 at 20:38

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