The Italian translation of Harry Potter

The Italian translation of “Harry Potter”

Translation of “Harry Potter” into other languages is a very interesting topic, especially for loyal fans of the series. We have already written a post on our blog about “magic in Finnish” and about the translation of J.K. Rowling’s novels into Finnish. There were also “magic tricks” in the Spanish translation of adventures of the wizard, and the article about the magic of words in the German translation. In this article, we will go over the Italian translation of “Harry Potter” with a fine-tooth comb. Find out what “Harry Potter” sounds like in Italian!

How do we translate books in Italy?

It is very common for Italians to translate novels by more than one translator. Very often many translators work on one book translation and, thanks to that, many readers perceive the translation as richer, less subjective and more refined. In the case of a novel, such as “Harry Potter”, which is full of neologisms and rich metaphors, this method seems to make sense.

“Harry Potter” and many translators arguing

The first and the second volume of the series were translated by Marina Astrologo; the third, forth, sixth and seventh ones by Beatrice Masini; the fifth one by as many as three translators – Beatrice Masini, Valentina Daniele, Angela Ragusa. It can be surprising that in 2011 an Italian publishing house Salani decided to analyze the existing translation of Rowling’s novel and edit it by eliminating mistakes made by the translators. For this reason, the Italian publishing house set up a special committee headed by Stefano Bartezzaghi – known in Italy as a writer, a journalist and a translator. Additionally, numerous translators and fans of the series have been involved in the work to improve the existing Harry Potter translation.

The most confusion and controversy was caused by the change of the name of the house Hufflepuff. In the original translation of the first volume, the translator Marina Astrologo translated the English name Hufflepuff into Casa di Tassorosso (tassorosso literally means red badger). Despite a huge resistance among readers “raised” on the first edition of Harry’s adventures, in the latest revised edition, Salani has renamed the house Casa di Tassofrasso. Why? The originator of this translation is Serena Daniele, who defends her translation by explaining that there is no red color in the Hufflepuff coat of arms and that, compared to other houses, the name tassorosso doesn’t fit.

Translation of "Harry Potter" - why so many problems?

Bartezzaghi explains that this and other changes made in this series of books stem from a simple fact. While translating Philosopher’s Stone no one imagined that a novel for children aged 11 or 12 would become a series of books in which characters mature along with their readers. That’s why the translation of some names or neologisms, which fit in the context in the first volume, didn’t necessarily play along with adventures of the young wizards in the next volumes. But we will describe it later.

It has to be said that only 20% of characters’ names have been modified by Italian translators. For example, French translators decided to translate almost every proper name, changing for instance Hogwart to Poudlard. Given the reaction of Italian fans of the series on Tassofrasso, after reflection, the new Italian translation doesn’t seem so overdone. There is no doubt that the translation of “Harry Potter” into any language is quite a challenge.

"Harry Potter" in Italian - names of the wizards

The names of Rowling’s characters play a crucial role and in some way reflect the complex characters. While the Polish translation of “Harry Potter” in most cases didn’t change the names, only their spelling may differ and be more Polish (Syriusz Black instead of Sirius, Hermiona Granger instead of Hermione), the Italian translation was much more creative and in some cases kept implication appearing in the original version. Let’s take a look at the most interesting changes that the Italian translators made.

Names’ translation and differences between Italian versions

Harry Potter po włosku Harry Potter w innych językach przekład Harry'ego Pottera
  • Albus Dumbledore – Albus Silente (It. silente – silent)

In the first volume of the series, translating the Hogwarts Headmaster’s name into Silente seemed correct, because it suited the wizard with a somewhat extravagant yet dignified disposition awe-inspiring in the world of magic. However, “dumbledore” is in English an archaic word for a bumblebee, and Rowling admitted in an interview that she “always thought of him as a friendly wizard who often mumbled something to himself”. In that case, Silente seems completely misfit to the author’s vision, but the translator Marina Astrologo couldn’t know it while translating. Fortunately, her translation may fit another side of Dumbledore’s nature, who is often reticent with Harry, which had both positive and negative impact on the whole story.

  • Minerva McGonagall – Minerva McGranitt (It. granito – granite, metaphorically strong and tough)

In this case, the change in Italian was intended to emphasize the strict and demanding nature of the professor.

  • Neville Longbottom – Neville Paciock (It. pacioccone – good-natured, (about a child) chubby)

This is a change in the overtone of the name, which is completely different from the English version. Given the good nature of Neville, we can easily say that here the translator hit home. Meanwhile, in the corrected translation from 2011, translators decided to get back to the English name Longbottom.

  • Gilderoy Lockhart – Gilderoy Allock (It. allocco – brown owl, metaphorically a fool)

Again, the translators decided to abandon the name Allock and restore Gilderoy to his English-sounding surname.

  • Severus Snape – Severus Piton (It. piton – python)

As with Albus Silente and Minervy McGranitt, the publishing house Salani has decided to retain the original translation by Marina Astrologo. Piton is a calque from English and makes direct reference to the Slytherin house, with which Severus Snape was associated.

Other changes in names

  • Oliver Wood – Oliver Baston (It. bastone – stick)
  • Lavender Brown – Lavanda Brown (It. lavanda – lavender)
  • Argus Filch – Argus Gazza (It. gazza – magpie, metaphorically a talker)
  • Moaning Myrtle – Mirtilla Malcontenta (It. malcontento – dissatisfaction)
  • Cornelius Fudge – Cornelius Caramell (It. caramello – caramel, sweet)

"Harry Potter" in Italian - names of houses in Hogwarts

przekład Harry'ego Pottera Harry Potter po włosku Harry Potter w innych językach

Probably the most problematic was translating the houses names of the School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Translators tried to make reference not only to colors on the four coats of arms, but also to animals represented on them, which symbolize legendary Hogwarts founders.

  • Gryffindor – Grifondoro (It. grifo – griffin, oro – gold)
  • Ravenclaw – Corvonero (It. corvo – raven, nero – black)
  • Hufflepuff – Tassofrasso / Tassorosso (It. tasso – badger, rosso – red, frassino – ash)
  • Slytherin – Serpeverde (It. serpente – snake, verde – green)

"Harry Potter" in Italian - neologisms and other interesting expressions

Undoubtedly, J.K. Rowling has created a world full of magic by bringing new creatures, spells and objects into the world of fantasy literature. Her books are full of neologisms, which have been a challenge for translators, while leaving them enough space for creativity and individuality.

  • Muggles – i Babbani. The word babbani probably originates from bambacione, which means a foolish, ridiculous or odd person. In Neapolitan and Tuscan dialect there is also the word babbaleo, which means a fool.
  • Boggart – Molliccio. Molliccio literally means wet or soft surface. Perhaps the name came to the translator’s mind in reference to the Godin’s specific ability to change its shape, allowing him to resemble any character or animal.
  • Dementor – Dissenatore. In Italian dissenato means a person who is irrational or foolish. So dissenatore is a creature which (according to Rowling’s conception) with its kiss deprives people of their reason and drives them mad.
  • Death Eaters – Mangiamorte. The word mangiamorte originates from mangiare – to eat and morte – death.
  • Whomping Willow – Salice Schiaffeggiante. In Italian, salice means a willow, while schiaffeggiare means to slap, to hit.
  • Marauder’s Map – Mappa del Malandrino. In Italian, malandrino means an unbearable person, a bully and a naughty person.
  • Buckbeak – Fierobecco. Fierobecco originates from fiero (proud, superior) and becco (beak).
  • Crookshanks – Grattastinchi. In Italian, grattare means to scratch, but also to snitch. Stinchi means shank or metatarsus (of animals).
  • Scabbers – Crosta. In Italian, crosta has multiple meanings. It can mean a shell, semblance, kitsch, a daub or a lid. We wonder which of these meanings the translator had in mind while choosing the name for Ron’s pet rat.

"Harry Potter" in different languages - interesting facts from all over the world

przekład Harry'ego Pottera Harry Potter po włosku Harry Potter w innych językach

Books about Harry Potter and his friends have been translated into 67 languages. Each translation abounds in interesting solutions and ideas on how to translate such a skilfully created, fantastic world. Thanks to that, on the Internet there are plenty of interesting facts about translations. Here are some of them:

  • “Harry Potter” has been translated into extinct languages: Latin and Ancient Greek. The author of latin translation is Peter Needham, who translated the first volume of the series: Harrius Potter et Philosophi Lapis. In contrast, the Ancient Greek translation Ἅρειος Ποτὴρ καὶ ἡ τοῦ φιλοσόφου λίθος” is the largest translation in Ancient Greek made after the third century CE.
  • The series has seen as many as 16 editions in Persian (translations included).
  • In order to preserve the distinctive Hadrig’s pronunciation (who speaks in Bristol dialect in Rowling’s novels), Japan translators translated his utterances using one of the Japanese dialects – Tōhoku.
  • The French translation of “Harry Potter” makes the famous anagram I AM LORD BOLDEMORT sound comical to many. To make the letters match, the translators changed Tom Riddle’s second name and it ends up being Tom ELVIS Jedusor.
  • The author of the first translation of “Harry Potter” into Romanian was a sixteen-year-old.
  • In Latvian, Hermione’s name was changed into Įkyrėlė, which literally means annoying. Also, Draco Malfoy in Latvian is Draco Smirdžius (literally stinking).

“Harry Potter” in different languages – do you know other interesting facts concerning translations of the series? Share with us your thoughts and comments on our Facebook profile!


If you want to know more about translating literature on an example of “Harry Potter” book series, click here.

Original text: Martyna Kocot

Translation: Emilia Niedźwiecka


Podobne wpisy

No posts found!


Zapisz się do Newslettera i otrzymuj powiadomienia o najnowszych wpisach i promocjach

Wysyłając swój adres mailowy wrażasz zgodę na przetwarzanie swoich danych osobowych – Administratorem danych osobowych jest firma Trzecia Połowa Sp. z o.o. z siedzibą w Warszawie, ul Sarmacka 1A/82

Popularne wpisy