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Is ‘Hallows’ a noun or verb?


As John said, we’re trying to research this with more authoritative sources than are usually found free on the web. Some brilliant research and theorizing is being done, but here at the Lexicon we want to be cautious and make sure we’re giving you the best tools we can.

One area of confusion for a lot of people is “is ‘Hallows’ a noun or verb?” Many fans are going to one of the free dictionaries on the web and they are inadequate for such old-fashioned words. I consulted the mother of all English dictionaries, the Oxford English Dictionary and found that hallows can be either a noun or a verb, but that only one form of usage makes sense in the context of the stories.

Deathly as an adverb: Resembling death (“deathly cold”).
Hallows as a verb: To make holy or set aside for God (“Bring their candles to be blessed and hallowed”).
My interpretation? A blessing ceremony that turns deadly or looks like it does — which seems too overtly religious to me.

Deathly as an adjective: Causing death, resembling death or pertaining to death (“deathly mists,” “deathly stillness” and “His wounds, many and deathly”).
Hallows as a noun: A saint (All Hallows=All Saints), a saint’s shrine or collection of relics (can also be pagan relics). Note: The noun is usually plural.
My interpretation? A powerful place or collection of powerful objects that appears death-like, causes death or has power over death.

Another curious meaning for ‘Hallow’ and ‘Hollow’ is that it is an old-fashioned way to shout hello, especially while hunting. I am certain that this is not what Jo has in mind.


Pensieve (Comments)

  • Bandersnatch

    I don’t see how “hallows” can be used as a verb here. If it was, the -s at the end would mean that it was in third person present: he hallows, she hallows, it hallows. So you would then need a noun as a subject, and there is none.

    On top of that, I believe hallow is a transitive verb, so you would also need an object with it: he/she/it hallows what?

    It only makes sense to me if hallows is a plural noun, and deathly is an adjective modifying it.

  • Sylvie

    Hollows would fit better as a noun for the last story… it could refer nicely with the relics Voldemort likes to collect.

  • the four old things for a witch or wizzard are also called “Hallows” (wand, sword, pentacle, cup)

  • Patty

    So…if we agree that deathly=adjective and hallows=noun and know their meanings (once again, fab research, guys!), is it a far stretch to think that these Deathly Hallows are the relics from the Founders that Harry was told to find? i.e. once the Hallows are found and destroyed they become “deathly” to Voldemort because they exist no more?

  • Jake

    I agree that the “four founders” theory is rather convincing. Although at the back of my mind I can’t help thinking of priori incantatem.
    With the deceased, hallowed individuals…
    Maybe I’m looking too far into it.
    But I can’t help thinking there’s more to it. I’m sure that Jo thought long and hard about that title, and the first most obvious theory (the four founders) is usually the farthest from the truth.
    But let’s see.

  • after reading Lisa’s post I must say it’s the first choice (Adverb/verb) that makes sense to me. Remember what happened to Dumbledore’s hand??

  • Taj

    What if “Death Hallows” is the name for the process of creating Horcruxes? Like lisa thought, a “ceremony” for “blessing”/or sanctifying an object – Voldemort, with his terribly high amount of pride, would think that was what he was doing – making an object holy by placing a piece of his precious soul in it.

  • Reader2

    In litersture it is common for a phrase to have more than one meaning.
    Perhaps all the theories are correct, just at different instances in the book.

  • I must disagree with TAJ and say that it’s the other way around. It’s the process of destroying horcruxes which Harry must learn and do in order to succeed. That’s why I mentioned Dumbledore’s injured hand in book 6. Harry saw it and it looked dead or almost dead to him.

  • recklesscatlover

    I am also strongly in the “noun” camp, and for the “four founders’ relics” meaning. That said, “deathly” IMO means both “deadly” because of the nasty protective shields LV put on those which he made into Horcruxes (can we abbreviate that as HX, maybe?); and because the death of someone is precondition for the HX generation.

    As a good point for style I see also the secondary meaning related to All Hallows Eve – archaic for Halloween; tell me one book where something nasty does not happen on Halloween.

  • John D.

    i believe hallows is used as a noun and sethly is an adjective.. it wouldn make sense if it were a verb, it would requiere asubject and myabe an object.. I do believe it refers to the founder’s relics but i dont agree with the wand, sword, pentacle, cup theory

  • Hannah

    I don’t have a theory but I love reading everyone’s comments and Lisa’s research into the noun/verb possibilities was great. Thinking about hallows as a verb and combining it with the comments posted makes me wonder if the title isn’t both noun and verb and refers to the incantation used to create a horcrux. In a way, it would be both the collection of powerful objects (vessels used as horcruxes) and the ceremony (the spell) that is connected to death. It’s just a thought at this point but we do know that finding and destroying the horcruxes is Harry’s mission, so it could be possible.

  • Rebecca

    the definition for hallows definately seems to resemble a horcrux, dont you think?

  • Julie Stevenson

    I wonder if the ‘Deathly Hallows’ refers to the area Beyond the Veil, where Harry may likely journey into, in order to finally meet with his parents and have a reunion with Sirius?

  • Mary the Filker

    My thoughts are that it relates to All Hallow’s Eve–aka Hallowe’en. That day being the anniversary of Voldemort’s first fall and the Potters’ demise, I woudn’t be surprised if the Last Battle–or whatever form the Final Encounter takes–occurs on that day.

  • Kitsune-chan

    I’ve seen a few posts on different foreign translations for “Deathly Hallows”. I’ve seen it as “Deadly Sanctuary” and “Deadly Saints”. Since religion doesn’t really play a part in the HP series (aside from the moral aspects of it) I don’t think these translations should be taken too much towards that interpretation.

    My take is that the “Deathly Hallows” could refer to the Deatheaters, who are like a cult that worships Voldemort. They could they have their own “saints” (especially revered, especially cruel purebloods?) and “sacred” places (Hogwarts could definitely be considered a “sacred” place, especially since it’s the only thing Voldemort ever cared for).

    Considering a little bit of the speculation about who the HBP was came quite close (HBP is Snape, HBP is a female), I can’t wait to see what other people come up with.

  • Hannah

    Yes, Rebecca, I do think the definition for Hallows resembles a horcrux. In fact, I think both definitions can be applied to horcruxes. As a verb, it is the act of setting aside something for God (LORD Voldemort); a ceremony or spell that relates to death (the forming of the horcrux). As a noun, it is a collection of relics perhaps kept in a powerful place (or places protected by powerful magic) that has power over death. Sounds like a dead-ringer (excuse the pun) for LV and his six horcruxes to me. It’s beginning to sound like the perfect title that encapsulates the driving force of this series-LV’s attempts to achieve immortality as the ultimate evil and the need to overcome such evil, to vanquish it.
    Despite its seeming resemblance to All Hallow’s Eve and the importance of Halloween in this series, I personally don’t believe that Jo’s title relates to either one day/time or event as that would be too narrow a focus.

  • beauxbatons

    If “Hallows” were a verb, I can’t understand why there would be the definite article “the” in the title… Generally, and in all languages, the definite article introduces a noun… So the noun must be somewhere.
    I must admit there is a very small chance that “deathly”, considered as an adjective, might be used as a name, meaning “Those who are deathly” (just as in “Blessed are the meek”), and be the subject of “Hallows” (verb). But then this wouldn’t grammatically make sense with “Harry Potter and” which is supposed to be followed by another noun to balance “Harry Potter”, and not by a complete sentence. Imagine it with less mysterious words : “Harry Potter and The Elf does the dishes.” (spelled “does” and not “do”, the Elf being the only one to do the dishes). JKR writes better than that !
    So, it has to be a noun.

  • I totally agree with beauxbatons. Look, all the other HP titles were followed by a noun, so why should JK change that in the last book? and by the way, beauxbatons, you have another very good point: the article “the”, so HALLOWS must be a noun! Otherwise it’s gramatically wrong.
    Hey Julie, very good point: the veil in the ministerium. I hope we’ll learn more about that in the final book. It’s likely, since JK said we’d find out more about Lily. BTW, was Lily a prefect? Together with Remus Lupin?

  • John D.

    I like Julie Stevenson theory of it being the area “behind the veil”, but not like the underworld itself but like the step before

  • jmgomez

    I still think it refers to the spells Harry must learn from professor Slughorn in order to destroy the horcruxes since it is his main mission or purpose in this book. But the theory about the veil sounds good too.

  • beauxbatons

    In the former comment I once mistook “name” for “noun”. Same word in french… Sorry.

  • AdamTheRed

    I’m with Reader2 on this one. I think the phrase has multiple meanings at different points during the book. The phrase already has multiple meanings throughout the other books. DD’s hand looked dead to Harry and that was when DD had dealt with the horcrux ring. Certainly the curses protecting the horcruxes are deadly, LV made sure of that. Look at DD’s desire for water at the end of HBP and the inferi attacked when Harry got water from the only place he could. That would have been deadly if DD hadn’t had enough sense to stop it. It could also refer to Hallows or Saints that kill LV and finish off the DEaters = Harry (and R&H) and the Order of the Phoenix as being the Hallows or Saints that are deathly to LV and DE. And of course, I’m pretty possitive it refers to the horcruxes themselves because death is involved in creating the shrines. The horcruxes can be viewed as pagan relics to some extent bc LV is searching for immortality and HP is going to stop him one way or the other. Harry still has to track down four of the horcruxes and that will certainly be deadly, especially when LV puts two and two together and figures out what’s going on.

  • Theodore

    i dont think that the horcruxes themselves are dangerous on touch or using… but they should be dangerous on destuction.. I base this theory on the fact that if voldy is killed, the one who finds his horcrux should be able to ressurect him through it.. And the traps should not be deadly.. just very difficult to overcome so he makes sure that only worthy ppl make it to his horcrux.. and thus i bet that to get the soul out of the horcrux harry must use it… remember Chamber of Secrets and the diary ? 😉

  • Charlie Stones

    I think that the seven titles of the books can help us.
    We can see that
    1 – PS: an object that LV wants;
    2 – CS: a place created by Slytherin (founders of the House of LV);
    3 – PA: Sirius Black, “friend” of HP;
    4 – GF: an object modified for order of LV;
    5 – OP: Order of the Phoenix, a lot of “friends” of HP;
    6 – HBP: Severus Snape, a person “created” by LV (he was a Death Eater);
    7 – DH: probably in an other object (or objects) that LV wants or made.
    Perhaps JKR gave an order to the titles:
    1-4-7 objects that LV in interestd in;
    2-6 place (a person can be a “place”, think about the Horcruxes);
    3-5 friends of Harry.
    If exact, the Deathly Hallows could be objects, probably magical objects with a particular value, like the Philosophal Stone and the Goblet of Fire, and I think a particular value for LV.
    What do you think about that?
    Charlie Stones

  • Lisa

    Charlie Stones, Well, my gut feeling is that while Jo plans things, she isn’t that rigid. It has always been my impression that the titles come out of the stories and are not part of a strict pattern. Remember, the working title of Chamber of Secrets was Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.

    Check back on What’s New later today. We’re working on an entry about titles that will give you a few laughs.

  • “A Blessing Ceremony that turns deadly or looks like it does”

    These are the first words that popped into my head when I read this comment: Bill and Fleur’s Wedding.

    Although it may occur very early on, I have a feeling that the wedding will somehow be a pinnacle event in the story. Unfortunately, if this is true, then something terrible, yet greatly significant, is likely to happen at some point during the ceremony or the reception. Sorry Bill and Fleur!

  • jmgomez

    Is it not strange that no books about horcruxes were ever written? or found in the Hogworts library? Then how did prof. Slughorn know about them in the first place and tell Tom Riddle about it? Would it be too far fetch to assume that Deathly Hollows is the name of this book? Surely Harry would want to have it. He certainly could make use of it in order to fulfill his quest.

  • Char

    I believe Slughorn knew about Horcruxes from reading about them in Hogwarts Library/learning about them when he attended Hogwarts, but at some point, Dumbledore became ‘fierce’ about them… so all such references pertaining to Horcruxes were removed from the Library’s shelves, and stored away – Room of Requirement anyone? – and tom Riddle ‘penetrated more of Hogwarts magic than any other student’ in the room of requirement

  • Stephanie

    This title could refer to where Harry’s parents were killed and where the final battle will take place.

    To Harry this place holds great meaning. It is his parent’s last place they were alive and to him it could be a shrine to them. The last place he remembers them. It would be hallowed ground and is definately deathly. The place is his parent’s shrine a place they still are(their spirits) and a place where Harry must go to end this fight.

    Also the final Horcrux could be at Godric’s Hollow-a Gryffindor relic he Godric himself left there and LV found. Harry must destroy it first to destroy LV. Obviously Harry, Ron, and Hermione will have found and destroyed the other Horcruxes by then with the last being in Godric’s Hollow.

    JKR could have the final dual at the house(ground) where LV made Harry the person who would be his greatest enemy and his undoing. Harry will defeat LV on this hallowed ground with the help/support of his parents’ spirits, Ron, Hermione and his desire to end LV life so his can begin his own in peace.

    How ironic if Harry has to die (which I do not want to happen but JKR said people would die- please not Harry!!!) to kill LV it would be on the ground LV caused the prophecy to become true and left Harry an orphan. It is also the first & last place Harry defeated LV.

  • Lisa

    I’m also pretty sure that Hogwarts isn’t the only library in the Wizarding World. Durmstrang has a library and wealthy wizards who dabble in the dark arts probably have private book collections. Given Slughorn’s fascination with the rich and famous, he probably learned of Horcruxes from a wealthy “favorite.”

  • Laela

    Well, the interpretation seems right, and if it is,that points us staraight to horcruxes

  • Lasre

    I’d like to take a different tack concerning the title.

    I’m going to start by voting for the adj/noun interpretation. That being said, some (if not all) may shoot me for this, but what if the title means the death of a saint, and since Hallows is plural, the title would have to mean the death of multiple saints. The obvious question now becomes, who are the saints? To Ms. Rowling (I think), the saints would be her main characters, namely, Harry, Hermione and Ron.

    Now we all know that Ms. Rowling loves names that mean something. So, couple the title meaning with the fact that a translation of Hermione Granger could be “Solitary Traveler,” (I actually pulled that off of http://www.babynamesworld.com) and you can draw the conclusion that both Harry and Ron are going to die.

    Personally, I think this would be a terrible way to end the series (I’m disgusted with myself for the thought, as it is), but I’ll put this theory into play anyway.

  • Laura

    Hallows if used as the ancient term could also mean spirit or soul. As I understand the meaning it could read Harry Potter & the “spirits of death”

  • What if Deathly Hallows is just an other word for Horcruxes? Something Holy to the creator, made possible by death? the idea stumbled accros my mind yesterday. Voldemort had trouble finding any information searching regarding horcruxes. Maybe he had just been using the wrong words to search with, as happenes to me sometimes when I need to google anything. In order to destroy the Horcruxes or Deathly Hallows, Harry needs some information. I think he (or Hermione) will discover a book with a lot more crucial information about horcruxes.

  • dani

    I think its a synonim or euphemism for horcrux. and it is a verd, To make holy or set aside for God- it contains a piece of the soul, thats pretty holy and is set aside. and the part about deathly i need not mention…

  • let’s not fly off the handle here and go back to the end of book 6. as of then poor harry has no way of knowing how to find, identify and destroy a horcrux. unless someone like prof. slughorn or a magical book of some sort shows him how. or maybe even someone from the house of slytherin. JO did say that nott was far more capable then malfoy and a lot smarter too. Hmmmm..?? any thoughts about that?

  • skirritUK

    My musings lead me to the conclusion that the hallows refers to the relics of the four ‘saints’ – Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw & Slytherin (sorry Lasre – not Harry, Ron & Hermione) & their relics (e.g. the goblet, the locket, the sword and the ?). The ‘saints’ relics (maybe not all of the objects, as Godric G’s sword is still untainted) have been made deathly or deadly when LV forced a piece of his soul into them. The word hallows, which Laura writes “could also mean spirit or soul”, gains a second layer of meaning after LV uses the relics as horcruxes, because now they contain a piece of soul.

    I presume LV so admires Howarts that he sees the Hogwarts founders as saints, their objects therefore as ‘relics of the saints’, (which in history were considered to hold the spirit or soul of the saint). By putting his own soul in the relics of the Hogwarts founders he is, in his own way, aligning himself or even overpowering the four original ‘saints’, the four founders of Hogwarts. I feel this ties in with LV’s all-consuming passion for power and magpie instincts.

  • finzi

    quoting in fair use/ ‘What is this, my lord? said the wizard. ‘The houses of the dead are no places for the living. And why do men fight here in the Hallows when there is war enough before the Gate? / quote

    The Lord of the Rings III, The Pyre of Denethor (in Harper Collins’ paperback edition 1999 that would be on page 144)

    best wishes to you all! (i am not an native english speaker)

  • Pamela

    I loved reading all this and can see any of it being true…I looked up the word Hallows online and this is one of the things I read….add it too some of these theories…”Many European cultural traditions hold that Halloween is one of the liminal times of the year when spirits can make contact with the physical world and when magic is most potent” If you read Stephanie and Laura’s thoughts… for a start. One thing for sure I think it will be the best book ever…come what may.

  • Craig

    Hallows as a noun also represent the objects sought in a quest. It would seem to me that the title therefore ties in directly with the horcruxes. For more information on Hallows as a noun you can look at the following website:

  • Camilla

    Two days ago the swedish title for the seventh book was published and the swedish title, translated back to english, will be “Harry Potter and the death relics”, which to me suggests that “deathly hallows” refers to the objects of the four founders or something else noun-ish. 🙂