What's In a Name?Book List

The Chamber of Secrets...

Anglia - see "Ford Anglia"

Apparate - magical ability to dissappear and reappear at any location

"Appareo" is Latin for "to become visible".
Aragog - giant spider cared for by Hagrid.
According to Kate C., "Ara" comes from "arachnid", which is the class spiders belong to. "Gog" was a legendary giant. Together, "giant arachnid".
Azkaban - Dementor-guarded wizard prison
Similar to "Alkatraz", on which I believe Azkaban was based.
Basilisk - Slytherin's monster inhabiting the Chamber of Secrets.
The mythical king of the serpents. In art, the basilisk symbolized the devil and the antichrist. To the Protestants, it was a symbol of the papacy. According to legend, there are two species of the creature. The first kind burns everything it approaches, and the second kind can kill every living thing with a mere glance. Both species are so dreadful that their breath wilts vegetation and shatters stones. The only way to kill a basilisk is by holding a mirror in front of its eyes, while avoiding to look directly at it. However, even the basilisk has natural enemies. The weasel is immune to its glance. A more dangerous enemy is the cock for should the basilisk hear it crow, it would die instantly. (from Encyclopedia Mythica, Picture)
Bicorn - the powedered horn of a bicorn was an ingredient in the Polyjuice Potion
The bicorn is a mythical beast, fabled by the early French romancers to grow very fat through living on good and enduring husbands. It was the anti-type of the Chichevache, which is monster who lives only on good women, and was hence all skin and bone, because its food was so extremely scarce. (ok, I'm insulted!)
Bludger - Quidditch ball that tries to knock people off their brooms.
"Bludger" is a word from Australian slang, meaning a goldbricker (that's an old US Army term) - someone who hangs around and appears to be working but is not pulling his/her weight - a do-nothing. It was one of the "Aussie words of the day" in the Olympics. Thanks to Brooks from HP4GU! Also, "bludgeon" means "to hit, usually with a large, blunt object, like a club". That's what bludgers do!
Boomslang Skin - one of the ingredients in the Polyjuice Potion
The boomslang (Dispholidus typus) is a species of South African snake. Boomslangs live in trees and bushes and feed on small animals and bird eggs. They are greenish to brown or black in color and grow to about 1.5 m (about 5 ft) long. Most members of the family (Colubridae) to which the boomslang belongs are harmless, but the boomslang has a potent venom that it delivers through large, deeply grooved fangs that are located at the rear of the mouth. The bite of the boomslang can be fatal.(From Encarta Encyclopedia)
Brown, Lavender - Gryffindor interested in Divination.
"Lavender" and "Brown" are colors (duh).
Chocolate Frog - wizard candy that comes with a famous wizard card
Probably taken from the Monty Python "Crunchy Frog" sketch.
Clearwater, Penelope - Percy's girlfriend. A ravenclaw prefect.
This is kind of a stretch, but Penelope was the wife of Odysseus, and their home in Ithaca was mentioned as being close to a place called "Clearwater". I'll try to find the exact quote.
Crabbe, Vincent - one of Draco Malfoy's goons
If you switch the first letters of Crabbe and Goyle, you get "grab" and "coil", which is what a snake does to its prey. However, according to Inna Dykman, Crabbe could have been named along the same lines as McGonagall: after a poet. British poet George Crabbe is known for the two poems "The Village" and "His Mother's Wedding Ring".
Deflation Draft - counteracts the Engorgement Charm
"Deflate" is the opposite of "inflate".
Diagon Alley - Home to many wizarding shops.
Just as Knockturn Alley becomes "Nocturnally" (Knockturnally) when you put the two words together, Diagon alley becomes "Diagonally". According to Gretchen, "Diagon Alley" is actually "diagonal ley." A ley line is a line connecting ancient sites of Britain and was thought to have magical powers.

Re: Ley Lines: "Briefly, the idea, first propounded by Alfred Watkins, a Herefordshire amateur archaeologist in the early 1920's, holds that the early inhabitants of Britain deliberately placed mounds, camps and standing stones across the landscape in straight lines. As time went by later structures were added to these sites. Some Roman roads followed the leys, Christian churches were built on what had been ley markers in order to take advantage of the age and sanctity already attached to them, and the keeps of mediaeval castles were sited on mounds that had marked leys millennia before. As a result it is still possible to trace these alignments on maps." --Sister Mary Lunatic

Dobby - House elf. Worked for the Malfoys before being freed by Harry Potter.
A "Dobby" is an alternate name for a Brownie in parts of Yorkshire and Lancashire. For detail about brownies, see the entry for House Elf.
Dr. Filibuster's Fabulous No-Heat Wet-Start Fireworks
I have no idea how this relates, but a filibuster is an obstructionist tactic, especially prolonged speechmaking, used to delay legislative action. It's possible that these fireworks that last so long could be linked to a really long speech. A bit of a stretch, in my opinion. Filibuster was also an adventurer engaged in private warfare abroad. From "filibustero", which is Spanish for "freebooter" (pirate/plunderer).
Dumbledore, Albus - Headmaster at Hogwarts.
"Albus" means "white" in Latin. I assume this is so because he's sort-of the leader of the "light" side. Go figure.
"Dumbledore" is an English word for "bumblebee". According to Kate C., J.K. Rowling says that it "seemed to suit the headmaster, because one of his passions is music and I imagined him walking around humming to himself."
Dudley Dursley - Harry's bullying cousin
According to Encyclopedia Potterica, "Dudley" is a play on "dud", which is British slang for "a boring person". Dursley is a small town in Britain.
Dursley, Petunia Evans - Harry's maternal aunt.
Both Petunia and her sister, Lily, are named after flowers. The petunia symbolizes anger and resentment. Compare with the lily, which symbolizes purity and innocence. "Dursley" is a small town in Britain.
Engorgement Charm - a spell which causes things to grow larger. (Opposite "Deflation Draft")
To "engorge" is to fill to excess.
Expelliarmus - Disarming charm
Combination of "expel" (to force or drive out; eject forcefully) and "arma" (weapons [Latin]).
Fawkes - Dumbledore's loyal pet phoenix.
Guy Fawkes (1570-1606) was English conspirator. He became implicated with Thomas Winter and others in the Gunpowder Plot to blow up Parliament as a protest against the anti-Roman Catholic laws. On the night of November 4-5, 1605, he was caught in a cellar underneath the House of Lords and arrested. Guy Fawkes Day is celebrated on November 5 in the United Kingdom and some other parts of the British Commonwealth with bonfires and fireworks. A celebration with bonfires is rather appropriate for a Phoenix, who burns up every few hundred years. (Thanks to Julie on the Amazon.com HP message boards for making the connection!) The full story: The Gunpowder Plot.

Unrelated, but the Sci-Fi Channel's "Invisible Man" is named Darien Fawkes. It's a great show. Watch it some time.

Filch, Argus - Bad-tempered squib caretaker at Hogwarts.
"Argus" is a hundred-eyed giant (also called Panoptes, Greek for "the all-seeing") employed by Hera to guard Io, one of Zeus' lovers turned into a cow. He was lulled to sleep, then killed by Hermes (Greek mythology).

"Filch" is a verb that means "to steal". Ex: With cunning thou hast filched my daughter's heart. --Egeus, Midsummer Night's Dream

Filibuster Fireworks - See "Dr. Filibuster's Fabulous No-Heat Wet-Start Fireworks"

Finite Incantatem - charm used by Snape to end the chaos at Dueling Club.

Combination of "fini" (stop, end) and "incantation" (ritual recitation of verbal charms or spells to produce a magic effect).
Flint, Marcus - Slytherin Quidditch captain
Like Oliver Wood, Flint's last name is a raw material. CharNorse also reminds me that Captain Flint is an evil ship captain from "Treasure Island".
Flitwick (Professor) - Charms teacher
"Flitwick" is a city near London.
Floo Powder - used by wizards to travel by fire
A "flue" is a pipe, tube, or channel for conveying hot steam or smoke (like a chimney).
Ford Anglia - The Weasley's family car
The Weasleys' Anglia is probably the 105E edition, which was popular in the 1960's. The 105E is depicted on the cover of CoS (UK edition) and Jo arrived in one when she launched GoF at King's Cross Station this year. According to Neil on HP4GU, it's a tiny car, which is important to the humour in references to the magically roomy seats and capacious boot (trunk). In reality, four people squeezed into a Muggle version would feel a bit like four gorillas in a shoebox. Ford Anglia 105E Site, Picture
Fudge, Cornelius - bumbling Minister of Magic
There was a pope named Saint Cornelius, whose reign was marked by the controversy over the lapsed (those under persecution who had renounced Christianity). Cornelius's leniency toward the lapsed drew the support of the bishop of Carthage, St. Cyprian, but aroused the opposition of the Roman priest Novatian. He was exiled, then martyred in 253, where he was succeeded by bishop Saint Lucius. (that's worth a shiver up your spine!)

"Fudge" can mean "to evade or dodge".

Galleons - gold coin worth 17 sickles or 493 knuts.
15th-century sailing ship with rectangular sails on the middlemast, foremast, and rear mizzenmast. They were often used for trade between China and Mexico. (Thanks to Encarta Encyclopedia).
Goyle, Gregory - one of Draco Malfoy's goons
If you switch the first letters of Crabbe and Goyle, you get "grab" and "coil", which is what a snake does to its prey. Also, "Greg Goyle" sounds similar to gargoyle, which are ferocious-looking stone guardians of castles and cathedrals, similar to how Goyle is one of Malfoy's bodyguards.
Granger, Hermione - Bookish friend of Harry and Ron.
There are several famous women named Hermione, but J.K. named her after a character in the Shakespearean tragedy "The Winter's Tale", probably written in 1611. The first three acts deal with the jealousy of King Leontes and his persecution of his queen, Hermione. His passion brings about her supposed death and the abandonment of her infant daughter. The fourth act, set 16 years later, relates the courtship of this daughter, Perdita, by Prince Florizel of Bohemia, and the flight of the young couple to the kingdom of Leontes. There, in the last act, Perdita is recognized as Leontes's lost child. To make his happiness complete, a statue of his queen comes to life, and Hermione herself forgives him and embraces Perdita.

In Farenhiet 451, there is a man named Granger, who has a photographic memory that he uses only for memorizing books. Candice informs me that "Granger" is the first name of a character in a book called "Frindle". Miss Granger is a prim and proper person, who always forces people to obey the rules and play by them.

On a complete tangent, Trina on HP4GU informs me that one of Santa's elves in "Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer" is named "Hermie", who wants to be a dentist rather than help the Jolly Old Elf make toys...(And Hermione's folks are both dentists).

Gringots - Wizard bank run by Goblins.
"Gringots" is an angram of "g storing". Possibly "galleon storing" or "gold storing".
Gryffindor - one of the four Hogwarts houses; noted for bravery. Named for Godric Gryffindor.
This definition comes from Steve Vander Ark of Harry Potter Lexicon. Gryffindor comes from French "gryffin d'or", which means "golden griffin". Griffins are half-lion, half-eagle. Griffins are a symbol of the dual nature (divine and human) of Jesus Christ, precisely because of its mastery of earth and sky. The solar associations of both the lion and the eagle favored this positive reading. The griffin thus also became the adversary of serpents and basilisks, both of which were seen as embodiments of satanic demons." - Paraphrased from Dictionary of Symbolism: Gryphon.
Hagrid, Rubeus - Gamekeeper at Hogwarts.
Ms. Rowling says that if you were "Hagrid" in old English you were having a bad night. She says that Hagrid is a big drinker and often has his own bad nights. (thanks to Kate C. for pointing this out).
"Rubeus" can mean "red" or "jewel". I'm not sure of its accuracy, but according to Greg Siverling, it can also mean harsh, alarming, or scary.
Hand of Glory - admired by Draco Malfoy in a dark arts shop on Knockturn Alley
Hands of Glory are uncommon but useful (dark) magical items. There is a Hand of Glory story by Seabury Quinn, which I *think* is in one of his Jules de Grandin stories, published in Weird Tales. (Paraphrased from Brooks on HP4GU)
Harry James Potter - If you need a definition, I'm surprised you're here.
J.K. had a best friend as a child named Ian Potter. Heather informs me that the reason for the name "Harry" is that it has always been J.K.'s favourite boys name. She says if she had had a son, she would have called him Harry. This made it a natural choice for her. She also said if she HAD had a son called Harry, our favourite wizarding child would have been renamed to protect her child's privacy.

An amusing "Harry" reference: "It was a day like any other and Mr. and Mrs. Samuel Brainsample were a perfectly ordinary couple, leading perfectly ordinary lives--the sort of people to whom nothing extraordinary ever happened, and not the kind of people to be the center of one the most astounding incidents in the history of mankind...so let's forget about them and follow instead the destiny of this man (camera pans to businessman in bowler hat and pinstripe suit)...Harold Potter, gardener and tax official, first victim of Creatures from Another Planet,"--Narrator, MONTY PYTHON'S FLYING CIRCUS

Hedwig - Harry's pet owl
A 12th century German saint. She was very pious, noble, virtuous, good to the poor (to whom she gave most of her money), served the lepers, who lived a life of austerity even after she married the ruler of Silesia and Poland (Henry the Bearded). She entered a convent one she had founded at Trebnitz) after the death of her husband. A cathedral was built to Saint Hedwig in Germany in the mid-1700's. Thanks to Kelly on the Amazon.com HP message boards for the more in-depth info!
Hermione Granger - See "Granger, Hermione"

Hogwarts - British wizarding school

"Hogwart" is a type of lily. It's also "warthogs" switched around.
Holly - wood used in Harry's wand (compare with Yew, the wood in Voldemort's wand)
According to Rita on HP4GU: While holly has much more life-oriented associations. It is a symbol of Christmas, which is not only the birth of their Savior for Christians, but the time when the amount of sunlight in the day starts to lengthen. Holly, ivy, and pine got that Christmas gig because, as evergreens, they are among the few plants still green and visibly alive in the snow. My friend showed me a medieval Tristan and Iseult tale in which King Mark makes a compromise with Tristan: one will have her when the trees are green and the other will have her when the trees are bare. King Mark chooses when the trees are bare, since then the nights are longer, more time for bed fun with his reluctant wife, but Tristan triumphantly points out that Mark NEVER gets her, since the holly and the ivy are NEVER bare.
Homorphus Charm - either forces a werewolf not to change or changes a werewolf back to human. Supposedly used by Gilderoy Lockhart on the Wagga Wagga Werewolf.
"homo": (Greek) the same + "morph": change shape [force a werewolf NOT to change] OR "homo": L. man + "morph": change shape [force werewolf into human shape] (from Harry Potter Lexicon)
House Elf - magical creatures used as servants for wealthy wizard families. They can only be freed if their master gives the elf clothing.
Comparable to the Fenoderee or Brownie. The Fenoderee is not very intelligent, but he is a hard worker who performed labor for the farmers of the Isle of Man. He goes around naked, for the offer of clothes will greatly offend him, causing him to stop working. He was originally very handsome, but after making the mistake of wooing a mortal girl, he was punished and lost his good looks. He turned into the ugly, solitary creature he is now. (thanks to Kat Nicholson for the tip!) Brownies are good-natured, invisible brown elves or household goblins who live in farmhouses and other country dwellings in Scotland. While people are asleep, they perform their labors for them. If offered payment for their services or if they are treated badly, they disappear and are never seen again. Supposedly, a "Dobby" is a brownie that can't do anything right.
Howler - a letter that shouts its message and explodes if unopened. Used as punishment.
To howl is to cry or wail loudly. Also, a "howler" is slang for "a laughably stupid blunder".
Knockturn Alley - Home to many Dark Arts shops.
Just as Diagon Alley becomes "Diagonally" or "Diagonal Ley" when you put the two words together, Knockturn alley becomes "Knockturnally" or "Nocturnally", which means active at night. A ley line (Nocturnal Ley) is a line connecting ancient sites of Britain and was thought to have magical powers.
Lockhart, Gilderoy - author of self-glorifying autobiographies, which consist of him taking the credit for what others have done.
"Gilderoy" was also the name of a famous highwayman of ballad fame who was reputedly handsome.
"Lockhart" is an Austrailan town near Wagga Wagga. "Wagga Wagga Werewolf" come to mind? Thanks again to Kate C. (There's also a Lockhart, Texas!) Another odd parallel that I came up with was to John Gibson Lockhart, a Scottish lawyer and writer, most famous for the authoritative seven-volume biography of his father-in-law, the novelist Sir Walter Scott. Ok, so it's not self-glorifying, but Gilderoy Lockhart had 7 books on the students' reading list (this does not include Magical Me or the Guide to Household Pests).
Also, although I think the "Beecham Sourcebook" is a load of tosh, Schafer has a parallel that's just too hilarious to pass up: "His name suggests that he is like a gilded locket, something pretty to look at but that does not hold much substance."
Lumos - spell to send a beam of light from the end of a wand, like a torch (flashlight). The counterspell is "Nox".
"Lumen" is Latin for "light", and "luminous" can mean "giving off light".
Madam Pomfrey - See "Pomfrey, Poppy (Madam)"

Malfoy, Draco - Slytherin rival of Harry, Ron, and Hermione.

"Draco" means "dragon" in Latin. Also, Draco was the name of a cruel Athenian lawmaker. His harsh legal code punished both trivial and serious crimes with death. From this we get our expression "draconian laws", meaning unnecessarily harsh laws.
"Mal foi" means "bad faith" in French.
Malfoy, Lucius - Draco Malfoy's father. Death eater.
The name "Lucius" might be a nod to "Lucifer", the devil. More likely, however, is the connection with Saint Lucius, who succeeded Saint Cornelius as pope. Will Lucius Malfoy become the next Minister of Magic? Only time will tell. Another interesting connection is that both Draco and Lucius (another Lucius, not the pope!) were overly harsh Roman lawmakers.
Again, "Mal foi" is French for "bad faith".
McGonagall, Minerva - strict leader of Gryffindor house and assistant Headmistress at Hogwarts.
Minerva is the Roman goddess of wisdom, medicine, the arts, dyeing, science and trade, and war. As Minerva Medica she is the patroness of physicians. Minerva is believed to be the inventor of numbers and musical instruments. She was equated with the Greek Athena. (From Encyclopedia Mythica). Picture.
"McGonagall" is named after William Topaz McGonagall, widely held as the worst poet in the English language.
Moaning Myrtle - Ghost that haunts the girl's toilet. Killed by a basilisk.
Rachel on harrypotteranonymous says "The Myrtle plants are a kind of tree. They are often called Crepe Myrtle because their flowers are wrinkled like crepe paper. There is one species of it, Eugenia Ventenatii, or Weeping Myrtle, called so because its branches hang so much. Steve Vander Ark continues: Okay, so maybe JKR researched the myrtle plant to that extent. Another perfectly reasonable explanation, however, is that Moaning Myrtle is simply a play on words, paralleling "weeping willow."
Mr. Mason - perspective client of Mr. Dursley
A mason is someone who builds using stone or brick, and Mr. Mason was described as a "rich builder". (thanks to Kate C.)
Mrs. Norris - Filch's cat
According to Kate C., Mrs. Norris was named after a nosy preacher's wife in Jane Austen's Mansfield Park.
Muggle - someone without wizarding talent
J.K. Rowling derived it from "mug", a British slang word for "fool". However, unbeknownst to J.K., it has been used several times before; the most noteworthy being a slang term for marijuana. You can check out some of the other "muggle sightings" at the UHPFC.
Nearly-Headless Nick (Sir Nicholas de Mimsy-Porpington) - resident ghost of Gryffindor tower, who died from near-beheading.
The "Nick" part of his name is probably in reference to his botched beheading. (A "nick" is a shallow cut) Mimsy is a word coined by Lewis Carrol in "Through the Looking-Glass" for the poem "Jabberwocky". It's a combination of "miserable" and "flimsy".
N.E.W.T.s - "Nearly Exhausting Wizarding Tests", a standardized test for wizards.
Equivalent to the British A-levels and the American SAT.
Nimbus 2000/2001 - Broomsticks used by Harry and Malfoy.
Nimbus \Nim"bus\, n.; pl. L. Nimbi, E. Nimbuses. [L., a rain storm, a rain cloud, the cloudshaped which enveloped the gods when they appeared on earth.]
  1. (Fine Arts) A circle, or disk, or any indication of radiant light around the heads of divinities, saints, and sovereigns, upon medals, pictures, etc.; a halo. See Aureola, and Glory, n., 5.

    Note: "The nimbus is of pagan origin." "As an atribute of power, the nimbus is often seen attached to the heads of evil spirits." --Fairholl.

  2. (Meteor.) A rain cloud; one of the four principal varieties of clouds. See Cloud. (Submitted by Rob Landley)

The Nimbus "halo" in painting was developed in Christian art in the 400's. According to Greek myths, a radiant numbus surrounded the heads of gods and goddesses when they came to earth.

Nox - "turns off" the beam of light from a wand from the "lumos" spell
"Nox" is Latin for "darkness" or "night".
Obliviate - Memory charm
"Oblivio" is Latin for "forgetfulness". Oblivious can mean "lacking all memory".
Oliver Wood - See "Wood, Oliver"

O.W.L.s - "Ordinary Wizarding Levels", a standardized test for wizards.

Equivalent to the British O-levels and the American PSAT.
Parselmouth - someone that can talk to snakes
According to Jo, a "parselmouth" was actually someone with a deformity of the mouth.
Patil, Parvati - female Gryffindor
There's a Hindu mountain-goddess named Parvati. She is the sister of the goddess of the Ganges river, Padma.
"Patel" is a fairly common Indian last name.
Penelope Clearwater - See "Clearwater, Penelope"

Peskipiski pesternomi - spell used by Lockhart to stop the cornish pixies (doesn't work).

Breaks up into "pesky pixie pester no me", which translates from complete gibberish to "don't pester me, pesky pixies".
Phoenix - Dumbledore's loyal pet.
The phoenix was a legendary bird thought to live near a well in Arabia. It's song was thought to be so beautiful, that even the sun god would stop to listen. Only one phoenix could exist at a time, and they lived from between 500 to 1500 years. When it thought death was near, it would build a fire and throw itsself into the flames. A new phoenix would be born from the flames, who would embalm the old phoenix in an egg of myrrh and bring it to Heliopolis, the temple of the sun. The phoenix represented the sun, which dies at night and is reborn in the morning. A symbol of immortality and resurrection. (Egyptian and Greek mythology, also mentioned in early Christianity). Phoenix at Eliki, Phoenix at Encyclopedia Mythica, Phoenix at Bulfinch's Mythology, Picture 1, Picture 2
Pomfrey, Poppy - Hogwarts matron (nurse)
The poppy is one of the oldest medicinal plants. (Thanks to Jenna). I have long joked about the similarity between "Pomfrey" and "Pomme frites", which is French for "french fries". No, I'm sure Jo wasn't thinking of french fries when she was naming characters.
Potter, Lily Evans - Harry's mother
Both Lily and her sister, Petunia, are named after flowers. The lily symbolizes purity and innocence. Compare with the petunia, which symbolizes anger and resentment.

I've gotten several emails asking if "Evans" is Lily's real maiden name, and the answer is yes. J.K. Rowling revealed this information in a recent online chat.

Privet Drive - Home to the Dursleys
A privet is a shrub having opposite leaves and clusters of white flowers, widely used for hedges.
Quidditch - popular wizard sport played on broomsticks
Elvira points out that "Quidditch" is a combination of the three balls used in the game. (Qu)affle + Blu(d)ger + Sn(itch).
Rictusempra - Tickling charm
"Rictus" is Latin for "gaping mouth", and "sempra" is Latin for "always".
Riddle, Tom Marvolo (Jr.) - birth name of Lord Voldemort.
As he himself points out, "Tom Marvolo Riddle" is an angram of "I am Lord Voldemort". You didn't think Jo could get away with naming a guy "Riddle" without there being something fishy going on!
Ron Weasley - See "Weasley, Ron"

Serpensortia - Spell used by Malfoy in Dueling Club in which a huge snake burst from the end of his wand.

Two possible origins. 1) Serpens ["snake", Latin] + sortir ["to leave", French). 2) Serpens ["snake", Latin] + ortus ["to create", Latin]. (Def#2 from Greg Siverling")
Sickle - silver coins, 17 sickles to a galleon. 29 knuts to a sickle.
A tool made up of a curved blade attached to a short handle, used for cutting grain or tall grass.
Haruka points out that it could be the equivalent of "nickel". Of course, they don't have nickels in the UK...
Salazar Slytherin - creator of the "pureblood" mentality; one of four Hogwarts founders
Antonio Salazar was the fascist dictator of Portugal for 36 years until his death in 1968. Though never officially an ethnic cleanser, he was a colonialist, who ruthlessly put down ethnic uprisings his his country's colonies in Africa. His name is perhaps used as a reference to the dictators past, such as Hitler, who believed in ethnic purity, just as Slytherin did. (Taken directly from Encyclopedia Potterica)

"Slytherin" is basically "slithering" minus the "g", and the snake is the symbol for Slytherin house. He himself is nicknamed "Serpent-Tongue" after his parselmouth abilities.

Snape, Severus - Potions teacher and head of Slytherin house. Rival of James, Remus, Sirius, and Peter.
"Severus" is Latin for "stern" or "harsh". There was a Roman emperor named Lucius Severus. Supposedly, Jo made the Potions master the "enemy" because she didn't like a Chemistry teacher she once had.
"Snape" is a small town Jo once visited. According to Blaise and the OED: I was delighted to find that the word "snape" actually has a meaning beyond simply being a place-name (in that context it means a boggy patch of ground). To snape someone means to rebuke or hurt them, and a snape is a rebuke. It's an almost obsolete English dialectical word from the Norse, if anyone cares.
Smeltings - Boarding school attended by Dudley. Uncle Vernon's Alma Matter
Milz of HP4GU points out that, "smelting" is the act of refining metal ore. If so, then maybe "Smeltings" is a place where one is supposed to be "refined", as in a finishing school? Amanda (also on HP4GU) adds that a smelt (noun) is "any of certain small food fishes which closely resemble the trout in general structure. To smelt (verb) is to melt or fuse, as ore, usually to separate the metal. And it's the past and past participle of "to smell," at least in Britain where their strong verbs are not fading so rapidly as in American English. So I [Amanda] suspect that with the fish and smelly connotations, JKR picked it because having such a ridiculous word being treated with such reverence by the Dursleys is funny.
Spellotape - wizards' tape used to mend broken items
A spoof on "Sellotape", the British equivalent of scotch tape.
Sprout (Professor) - Herbology teacher at Hogwarts.
A sprout is a type of plant.
Squib - A person born to wizard parents, but has no wizarding talent.
A "Squib" is a term used in cinematography for a device that makes it appear as if someone has been shot. For a better example, watch "Mickey Blue Eyes". You'll see what I'm talking about. A "Squib" can also be a small firecracker that doesn't explode.
Surrey - Home of the Dursleys
A county in the southeast of England, adjoining the county of Greater London. The city of Little Whinging is fictional, though.
Tarantallegra - Spell used by Malfoy during Dueling Club to make Harry dance
"Tarantella" is dance originating in southern Italy. In its most common modern form it is a flirtatious couple dance to music in 6/8 meter, constantly increasing in speed, and typically accompanied by castanets and a tambourine.
"Allegro" is a quick, lively tempo, and also means "quickly" in Italian.
Transmogrifian Torture - one of the curses Lockhart brags about
"Transmogrify" means "to transform, especially in a magical or surprising manner". Steve (Harry Potter Lexicon) also informs me the "Transmogrifier" is a gun (and later a cardboard box) that transforms Calvin (of "Calvin and Hobbes") into various creatures. I'd post a few of the comics relating to this, but I'm not sure if it would be legal...
Voldemort - Dark wizard
In French, "Vole de mort" means "flight of Death" or "flight from death" (which I think more accurately represents him), with some hint of also meaning "theft of death". A famous pun on the French word 'vol' was when Napoleon confiscated the estates of surviving nobles of the pre-Revolutionary regime. One of the guys whose estate was confiscated said: "C'est le premier vol de l'aigle', which normally means 'it is the first flight of the eagle' but in this case 'vol' was to be understood as 'theft'. (extended info provided by Rita on eGroups). According to Aberforth's Goat on HP4GU, the "Vol" could be connected to the Latinate "volo" (to wish), meaning "wish of death" or "Death wish".
Wagga Wagga Werewolf - supposedly banished by Gilderoy Lockhart
"Wagga Wagga" is a place in New South Wales, Australia, and means "place of many crows" (go figure... thanks to Storm Stanford on HP4GU) Incidentally, it's fairly close to the city of Lockhart.
Wattlebird - a password into the Gryffindor common room
A type of rooster
Weasley, Arthur - father of the Weasley family
According to Ivy (no link available), "Arthur is a possible reference to King Arthur. The World Book says, 'There are two versions of the events that led to Arthur's death. Both say he fought a war against Roman emporer Lucius.'" Interesting...
Weasley, Ron - Redhead friend of Harry and Hermione, former owner of "Scabbers".
In Arthurian legend, "Ron" is the name of King Arthur's trusty spear. (No, I don't buy into the whole "Running Weasel" theory, thank you very much.)
Weasley, Percy - straight-laced, ambitious, former Head Boy, and fellow Weasley.
According to Positively Percy! , "Percival" was a name reserved only for the upper class of Britain in the days of the Monarchy. Later, the British commoners were allowed to use a version of this name (previously, they would have been punished). This variant was "Percy"; Percival itsself still off-limits. By being named "Percy", the name plays off our Percy's family roots as a "poor commoner".
Wood, Oliver - former Gryffindor Quidditch captain
Like Marcus Flint (Slytherin captain), his last names is a raw material. Additionally, according to Christa Sligar, "Wood" is an old English word for mad or crazy, a form of "wode" which is used in that context in A Midsummer Night's Dream. Wood is fairly Quidditch-obsessed, so it applies rather well.
Yew - wood used in Lord Voldemort's wand
Yew is the tree of death, depicted on Victorian mourning cameos showing a woman weeping at a gravestone next to a tree. Yew berries are poisonous, and yew wood is the natural composite that made the English longbow so deadly, and TEX AND MOLLY IN THE AFTERLIFE says that yews are planted in graveyards because they 'thrive on corruption' i.e. eat rotting corpses. (Thanks to Rita on HP4GU!)

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