Only A True Wizard Knows What These Harry Potter Spells Actually Do!


It’s been twenty years since the Boy Who Lived first hit bookshelves and became a cultural phenomenon. Seven books, eight movies (well, nine, technically), and billions of dollars later, there’s something about the wizarding world of Harry Potter that audiences connect to.

The success of Harry Potter can probably be attributed to the fact it accurately portrays high school life, except it’s set in a magical high school. So, readers and moviegoers alike can relate to the trials and tribulations of these characters – fleeting romances, getting in trouble with teachers, hanging out in the groundskeeper’s shed (ahem) – but in the kind of school they wish they’d gone to: one where they can learn magic! At Hogwarts, they go through all the experiences all of us do when we go to high school – playing sports, snoring through lessons, going to awkward boy-girl dances – but with magic!

Unfortunately, we can’t use these spells in real life, so the closest fans can get to using them is reading and re-reading the books and watching and re-watching the films, until they know the spells inside and out. Now, you can test your knowledge and prove you’ve done your homework by identifying what these spells are used for.

Question 1


Harry used this spell in the Triwizard Tournament to complete the first task. It also helped him to escape from Voldemort and the Death Eaters in the graveyard at the end of Goblet of Fire. Molly Weasly even used it once. The actual pronunciation is debated, depending on what country you’re in. The movies use two pronunciations – AK-ee-oh and AK-see-oh – while the latter is used in the British version of the audio books and AS-see-oh is in the US version. Some people even say AT-chee-oh. But what does it do?

Question 2

Arresto Momentum

This is where a knowledge of Latin (or of English words with “o” on the end) comes in handy, because Arresto Momentum pretty much does what it says on the tin – you just have to know what the words on the tin mean. Dumbledore used this spell to save a student’s life and Hermione used it to save her own life, so it’s pretty useful. It’s also worth noting that this spell in not limited to one target and can extend to various targets.

Question 3

Magicus Extremos

Only truly die-hard Harry Potter fans will get this one, because it’s not in any of the books or any of the movies. However, it has been used by the pupils of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in the video games. Those games were a staple of the fan base back in the day. A new movie would come out, the audience would flock to it, and then they’d buy the video game. So, what was this game-exclusive spell used for?

Question 4

Petrificus Totalus

Everyone has used this neat little spell. Hermione had to use it on Neville when he was threatening her, Ron, and Harry with snitching. It was used against a Death Eater in pursuit in Order of the Phoenix (only the movie adaptation, though). And Harry has used it on just about everybody, from Draco Malfoy to his whiny cousin Dudley when they’ve tried to cause trouble in the past. Users of Pottermore can also cast the spell. But what does it do?

Question 5


Because J.K. Rowling is an impeccably smart cookie, this is another spell whose name has real meaning. Again, if you know your Latin, you don’t need to be a Harry Potter fan to figure out what it does. Of course, it does help to be a Harry Potter fan – if not to win this quiz, then to enjoy the great storytelling and fall in love with the characters. Hermione and Professor Lupin have both found it useful in the past. What does it do?

Question 6


This spell was created by a one Severus Snape. It’s not a violent or malicious spell, but it would certainly come in handy in real life, if only that were possible. Harry has certainly found it to be useful in his life. He and Snape have had troubles in their relationship, but Harry sure loves this spell he created. He’s used it on Peeves and Argus Filch, each time getting him a round of applause. So, what does it do?

Question 7

Lumos Maxima

This light-based spell was practiced by Harry in the Dursleys’ home, where he was stuck under the stairs in a dark little cupboard for most of his orphaned childhood. It was also used by Dumbledore later in the series. As with most of the spells J.K. Rowling created for the Harry Potter world, this spell gets its etymological origin from Latin: the Latin word “lumen” means “light.” But there are many “lumos” light spells in the Potter world – what does this one do?

Question 8

Locomotor Mortis

No Harry Potter canon has ever made a distinction as to the connection between this spell and the Locomotor spell. What they do has some similarities, but no link has ever been made in the books or movie. If you’re a fan of the LEGO Harry Potter games, you can buy this spell for use in the first game, Years 1-4, at a shop called Wiseacre’s Wizarding Equipment that can be found on Diagon Alley. But what exactly does it do?

Question 9


This spell is a counter to the Sonorus spell, having the opposite effect to essentially reverse that spell’s effects. Ludo Bagman used this spell in the Harry Potter stories. It is speculated that the Quietus spell can be used on its own to have its own effects, rather than just as a counter to the Sonorus spell to undo that spell’s effects, but it is not in the official canon that this is the case. So, what exactly does the Quietus spell do?

Question 10


This spell has come in handy with many a wizard and witch. Dolores Umbridge used it against some Centaurs and Harry used it against the Inferi in Voldemort’s Crystal Cave. He tried using it on Snape, but that was futile. There is also a supposed non-verbal version of the spell that has been used by seasoned wizards such as Snape and Quirrell. This is another spell that can be purchased in Wiseacre’s Wizarding Equipment, one of the shops on Diagon Alley, in LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4, for use in the game.

Question 11


It is suggested that this is one of Hermione’s specialty spells, although it is never really said outright. There is also a non-verbal version of the spell, as Bellatrix once used. Arthur Weasley and Hagrid have also used the spell, and it has been used many times in battle. The actual name of the spell means pretty much the same thing across pretty much all languages, including Latin, Portuguese, Spanish, English, and more. But what does the spell actually do?

Question 12


Interestingly, this is the only spell in Harry Potter lore that begins with an N. You’d think there would’ve been more, right? Anyway, it’s a counter spell to another spell. It has come in useful for Harry and Hermione in the past, particularly Harry as he’s found himself using it a good few times over the course of his time at Hogwarts. Its power is affected by how loud the caster’s voice is. If you yell it, the effects will be more powerful. So, what does it do?

Question 13

Homenum Revelio

This spell would be very handy to have in real life. Hermione Granger and Albus Dumbledore certainly seem to think so, especially Dumbledore, who’s used it many times, always to catch Harry out. This spell is particularly used a lot throughout the plot of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, mostly in The Battle of the Seven Potters. The name is from Latin, although classical Latin would dictate that it be “hominem” rather than “homenum.” But hey, it is all made-up. So, what does it do?

Question 14

Horcrux Curse

This is one of the big daddies. A lot of passing, lackadaisical fans tend to ignore exactly what the spell does, though. The spell is very complex and requires the caster to have committed murder to make it happen. The spell gets a detailed description in a book that was banned (much like the real-life Catcher in the Rye) called “Secret of the Darkest Art.” J.K. Rowling has declined to explain how the spell works, saying, “Some things are better left unsaid.” So, what does it do?

Question 15

Obliteration Charm

This nifty little spell that obliterates things has been used by Hermione both outside Hagrid’s hut and on her journey through Godric’s Hollow with Harry. However, what this spell is stated to be capable of in the books (Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix specifically) and the movies (read: the official canon) may not be the extent of what it can do. Based on its name, the spell could have far-reaching, mind-bogglingly vast effects if used right (or wrong) that were not detailed in J.K. Rowling’s writing. Anyway, what does it do?

Question 16


Gilderoy Lockhart tried to use this spell on Harry Potter and Ron Weasley, although thanks to his broken wand, it backfired and affected him instead. Hermione also used it on a couple of Death Eaters who had been stalking her, Ron, and Harry from the wedding of Bill Weasley and Fleur Delacour. Yet again, this spell’s name comes from Latin and on J.K. Rowling’s website, she confirms that this spell was created by a witch named Mnemone Radford, the Ministry of Magic’s first Obliviator.

Question 17


James Potter used this spell against Severus Snape when they were teenagers. It’s a jinx, but not the Robert Durst kind; the evil spell that brings bad luck kind. Harry himself used it against Snape later on in the books, and against the Inferi too. Harry also used it during his practice for the third task of the Triwizard Tournament in Goblet of Fire. The name of this spell, like all the others, gets its origins in Latin, as it is the plural of the word “impedimentum.” What does it do?

Question 18


This spell, although seen only in the movies, is a very important spell, because it helped Hermione Granger to free Sirius Black from his incarceration in Azkaban. Oddly enough, this spell actually doesn’t get its name from Latin and instead derives from the English “bombard.” A more advanced and more powerful version of the Bombarda spell exists called Bombarda Maxima. Dolores Umbridge used this version of the spell to get into the Room of Requirement. So, what does it do?

Question 19


This is a dark spell created by Severus Snape and it is said to be his “signature” spell. Harry, who learned the spell in Snape’s old Potions textbook, has used it against Draco Malfoy. During the Order of the Phoenix’s flight from Privet Drive, Snape accidentally used it against George Weasley when he was instead aiming for a Death Eater who had cursed Remus Lupin. The spell was ineffective against the Inferi, but it’s certainly effective against everybody else. So, what does it do?

Question 20

Wingardium Leviosa

The extravagantly titled spell is performed using a “swish and flick” wand technique. It’s one of the first spells ever taught to Hogwarts students in their first year of school, probably because it’s easy to do, but it’s also invaluable. Even just within that first year, Ron Weasley used the spell on a mountain troll, and a few years later, Harry found it useful and Ron himself used it again. With its name originating from the Latin “levis,” what does this spell actually do?

Question 21


This curse was used in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and the extent of its effects depends on the strength of its usage. Harry used it to get ahead in the Triwizard Tournament, in the maze section of the proceedings, and to good effect. According to the Gryffindors in Harry Potter’s year, Parvati Patil is the best at performing this spell. Harry and his cohorts ended up using the spell against the Death Eaters in the Department of Mysteries. Reparo is a useful counter to this curse. But what does the Reducto curse do?

Question 22


Whereas J.K. Rowling took most of the names of spells in the Harry Potter universe from Latin (because Latin words sound cool), this one is conversely taken from Italian. The country of Italy as we know it today was born from the Latin-speaking Romans, so this is an interesting twist on her usual spell-naming formula. Draco Malfoy has used this spell against Harry and it can be bought on Diagon Alley in the shop Wiseacre’s Wizarding Equipment in the game LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4. But what does it do?

Question 23


Usually not one to show off his magical abilities, Rubeus Hagrid actually used this spell once in one of the books. It is often used on spiders in Hogwarts classes for demonstrations, once by Barty Crouch, Jr., and once simply to test out a new wand. The etymology of this spell’s name comes from the English word “engorge,” but by making it Engorgio, J.K. Rowling has made a very Italian-sounding word to be the name of the spell. But what does it do?

Question 24

Expecto Patronum

Also sometimes called “the Patronus Charm,” this spell has been performed by everyone from Harry Potter to Luna Lovegood. It’s a defensive spell that can also send messages to other witches or wizards. Professor Lupin is the one who taught this spell to Harry and he found good use for it later on in the series. Harry passed the knowledge on to everyone else in Dumbledore’s Army. It’s worth noting that “patronus” means “protector” in Latin, but what does the spell do?

Question 25


This is one of the big ones. It’s often quoted by passing fans as the go-to Harry Potter spell, probably because it’s known as Harry’s specialty spell, but what does it actually do? Ever since the second book when it is first taught to Harry and his classmates, it gets used too many times to count. Funnily enough, Expelliarmus was mentioned in an episode of Doctor Who when David Tennant was playing the Doctor (Tennant portrayed Barty Crouch, Jr. in the Harry Potter movies).

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