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"There was a flash of blinding green light and a rushing sound, as though a vast, invisible something was soaring through the air — instantaneously the spider rolled over onto its back, unmarked, but unmistakably dead."
— Description of the Killing Curse[src]

The Killing Curse (Avada Kedavra) was a tool of the Dark Arts and was one of the three Unforgivable Curses.[1] When cast successfully on a living person or creature, the curse caused instantaneous and painless death, without causing any injury to the body, and without any trace of violence.[1][4][5] The Killing Curse was accompanied by a blinding flash or jet of green light and a distinctive rushing sound when being cast.[1]

The only known counter-spell to this curse was sacrificial protection, which used the power of love.[6] The Killing Curse was a conventionally unblockable curse; therefore shield charms would not be able to defend against it.[1] However, one could dodge the green bolt,[7] block it with a physical barrier,[8] by the use of Priori Incantatem,[7][9] or Disapparate if they wanted to quickly get away before the curse hit them.[8] An explosion or fire could result if the spell hit something other than a living target.[8] In addition, phoenixes, being immortal, were able to survive a direct hit from the Killing Curse.[8]


"The green light filled the cramped hallway, it lit the pram pushed against the wall, it made the banisters glow like lighting rods, and James Potter fell like a marionette whose strings were cut...."
James Potter being murdered by Voldemort with this curse[src]
Godric flash

The famous flash of green light that indicated the curse

The Killing Curse was recognisable by the flash of green light and the rushing noise emitted from the caster's wand. When the curse hit a living, organic target it invariably killed them instantly without causing any injury or pain.[1] The method the curse kills the victim is unknown; however, Lord Voldemort described the curse as having ripped his soul from his body when he was originally struck with it, resulting in his biological death.[10] It was known by most witches and wizards as Voldemort's signature spell.[1]

Snape killing Dumbledore

Snape killing Dumbledore, blasting him off the Astronomy Tower

Also, while most victims would simply drop dead when struck by the curse,[4][11] at other times it may carry a force of impact, such as when Snape's casting was able to blast Dumbledore off the Astronomy Tower ramparts.[12] During the Battle of Hogwarts in the Forbidden Forest, Harry described the impact of the curse as an "iron-clad punch",[13] as stated earlier.

When the curse hit an inanimate target, the effect varied: it could produce fires,[8] large greenish explosions,[14] or explosions of such intensity that could blow up an entire cottage.[11] However, certain objects, such as the headless golden wizard statue of the Fountain of Magical Brethren, managed to block the curse without any visible damage to itself.[8] It should be noted that the curse itself did not terminate the animation of (i.e. "kill") the statue, however, as the statue was only animated by magic and so presumably had no real life in it for the curse to take away. However, later in the same duel, the centaur statue, also made of gold, broke into a hundred pieces when hit with the same curse.

It was also possible to intercept the curse with other spells, but this was extremely difficult as it required the energy jets of the two spells to collide.[7] As the energy jets of virtually all spells were very small and fast, this had only ever been recorded as occurring by accident.


"Avada Kedavra's a curse that needs a powerful bit of magic behind it — you could all get your wands out and point them at me and say the words, and I doubt I'd get so much as a nosebleed."
Bartemius Crouch Junior (disguised as Alastor Moody) on the skill required to cast the curse[src]

The curse required great skill, power, and intent in order to be performed correctly. On 4 September 1994, Bartemius Crouch Junior, disguised as Alastor Moody, claimed that if all of the students before him were to get out their wands and perform it on him at one time, he would likely be completely unaffected as he believed they all lacked the necessary power and desire needed to cast the spell.[1] On 30 June 1997, during the Battle of the Astronomy Tower, Severus Snape also stated that to cast the Unforgivable Curses, one needed both nerve and ability.[15] It was possible to cast the curse nonverbally, as Bellatrix Lestrange killed a fox without an incantation.[16] During his duel with Dumbledore during the Battle of the Department of Mysteries, Voldemort also used this curse several times without an incantation.[8] However, as Vincent Crabbe was capable of casting it (whose magical skills were often lacking),[17] the power and skill needed to perform it may have been somewhat overstated.

The Killing Curse, in addition to requiring the caster to be a very powerful and skilled witch or wizard, also required a genuine willingness and at many times deep desire to commit murder. Bellatrix seemingly implied this was true for the curse, and it was also true of the Cruciatus Curse,[8] but not so much with the Imperius Curse.[18]

Voldemort killing Charity Burbage

Voldemort smiling maliciously while casting the Killing Curse on Charity Burbage without any regret nor remorse

One of the main reasons why Lord Voldemort demonstrated such an affinity for the curse was due to how exceptionally powerful and skilled he was magic-wise, along with his complete and utter lack of remorse or value for the lives of fellow humans. For example, Draco Malfoy, despite possessing many undesirable personality traits, found himself unable to murder Albus Dumbledore because he did not want to actually kill him.[12] Voldemort, on the other hand, had no such restraint and murdered countless people without any remorse in his pursuit of power and immortality; in fact, he was fully prepared to murder one-year old Harry Potter upon deducing him to be a potential threat.[19] He was intending to use this most heinous act to create his final Horcrux. He succeeded, during the act, a piece of Voldemort's soul entered Harry. This effectively turned him into a Horcrux.[20] However, it led to his first downfall and biological death.[13]


"A team of doctors had examined the bodies and had concluded that none of the Riddles had been poisoned, stabbed, shot, strangled, suffocated, or (as far as they could tell) harmed at all. In fact (the report continued, in a tone of unmistakable bewilderment), the Riddles all appeared to be in perfect health — apart from the fact that they were all dead."
— The Killing Curse has no psychical signs and leaves no external marks[src]
Lily dead

Lily Potter's corpse showed no outward signs of trauma, as the curse did not cause bodily harm

The Killing Curse was described as a jet or flash of blinding green light that "illuminates every corner of the room"[21] followed by a rushing sound, which caused the victim instant death.[1] Victims of the Killing Curse were identified by the fact that they simply appeared to have dropped dead for no biological reason. Indeed, victims seemed "perfectly healthy" apart from the fact that they were dead.[4]

James Potter's dead body

James Potter's corpse showed no outward signs of trauma either

This lack of visible injuries was one that had confused Muggles throughout the years of its use, requiring many Ministry of Magic officials to modify memories. For example, Muggle authorities were stumped over the death of the Riddles. The only thing about the bodies the doctors noted (determined to find something wrong) was the look of horror on their faces, as though they had been frightened to death.[4] Wizarding authorities, on the other hand, could tell at once the cause of one's death, due to the curse's somewhat unique nature.[5]


Presumably, the Killing Curse did not inflict any pain on its target, since it caused instantaneous death.[1] However, Harry Potter, who awoke after a Killing Curse cast by Lord Voldemort hit him, described the sensation as an "iron-clad punch",[13] though this may have been caused by the destruction of the fragment of Voldemort's soul contained within his body.[20] However, when he was initially struck by the curse, it apparently caused him no sensation at all.[22]

However, when Voldemort was struck by his own rebounding Killing Curse after he attempted to kill Harry the first time, he described the sensation of his soul being ripped from his body as being "pain beyond pain".[10] However, given the uniquely mutilated state of his soul at the time and that his soul had not gone to the afterlife,[20] it seems likely that his reaction was atypical.


"Not nice, Not pleasant. And there's no countercurse. There's no blocking it. Only one known person has ever survived it, and he's sitting right in front of me."
— Barty Crouch Jnr (disguised as Alastor Moody) regarding Harry Potter surviving the curse[src]

The Killing Curse could be dodged or physically blocked by an object, such as the statues Dumbledore animated to protect Harry during his duel with Voldemort after the Battle of the Department of Mysteries.[8] The Killing Curse was known to be unblockable, as once it struck the living victim, it almost always resulted in immediate death.[1] There was "no counter-curse",[1] since it was impossible to revive the dead.[9] However there were some exceptions:

Sacrificial protection

Lily protecting Harry from Voldemort

Lily Potter's love for her son protects him from the curse

The most effective method of surviving the Killing Curse was through sacrificial protection; the willing sacrifice of one's life for another, a manifestation of love, which was the most potent defence against the "unblockable" Killing Curse.[10] Love was a powerful and mysterious branch of magic; it gave those who experienced it the ability to do very great things.[6]

Harry Potter was saved by his mother Lily Potter, when she lovingly sacrificed herself for him after she refused to stop shielding him from Lord Voldemort, despite having been given the choice to live.[10] Harry became the only known survivor of the Killing Curse with no ill effects,[1] aside from attaining a lightning-shaped scar on his forehead.[19]


Lord Voldemort's Horcruxes

Tom Riddle's horcruxes

Another defence employed against the Killing Curse was the creation of at least one Horcrux.[23] The creation of Horcruxes was a preventive measure, created by a wizard long before he faced an actual Killing Curse attack.[23] However, this was less effective than sacrificial protection, since it only allowed a little more than the soul of the target to live on, while the target's physical body still died. If one had Horcruxes, they would not be dead, but they would barely be alive and would be reduced, as Voldemort was when the Killing Curse backfired with his attempt to murder Harry in 1981, to be living on as a mutilated spirit.[10]

Some of the methods Voldemort used, or planned to use, to survive in this state included living off another,[24] drinking unicorn blood,[24] using the Philosopher's Stone (reduced to a wraith-like state and the stone destroyed soon after before he could) to produce the Elixir of Life,[24] and creating a rudimentary body using unicorn blood and Nagini's venom.[10]

Voldemort's Horcruxes tethered his soul to the world. The Curse drove his mangled soul from his body, leaving him to roam only as a shadowy spirit, unable to move on to the afterlife, but is a less-than-alive life form. If possible, one could make a Regeneration potion to return to human form, but it required the bone of the father, the flesh of the servant, and the blood of an enemy.[25] Because Voldemort required a servant to perform the rites of his rebirth, he was forced to spend thirteen years in hiding as he had no one who would come to his aid for such time.[10]

Upon the destruction of all his Horcruxes, Voldemort had no more defences against death, and was finally killed for good by his own rebounding Killing Curse towards the end of the Battle of Hogwarts.[13]

Curse interception

"Harry responded with further Stunning Spells: Red and green collided in midair in a shower of multicoloured sparks..."
— Harry Potter's Stunners blocking the Killing Curse[src]
Priori Incantatem Pottermore

Priori Incantatem occurring between Lord Voldemort and Harry Potter

The Priori Incantatem effect was when two wands that shared the same cores were put into battle against each other. One wand would then force the other wand to repeat its previously-cast spells. Because of this, a Killing Curse could be blocked if a wand that shared the killer's wand's core fired a spell at it: both spells would connect and thus the wizard had been spared by the Killing Curse.[9]

Priori Incantatem occurred in the duel between Harry Potter and Lord Voldemort in Little Hangleton graveyard during Harry's fourth year.[9] Voldemort cast the Killing Curse and Harry cast the Disarming Charm, and because their wands had twin cores, Priori Incantatem occurred; Harry was not killed and was able to hold Voldemort off to give him time to escape.[7][9]

Phoenixes were semi-protected from the Killing Curse, due to them being immortal. In 1996, Fawkes swallowed one intended for Albus Dumbledore, causing him to burst into flame and die instantly. However, he then was reborn from his ashes.[8]

B7C36M2 Voldemort vanquished

The Elder Wand rebounds Voldemort's Killing Curse

The spell could be directly countered using a Stunning Spell, in which case red and green jets of light would meet and create multi-coloured sparks. Since neither spell was able to reach its intended target, neither would have any effect, as the jets of light basically exploded on each other. However, this was particularly tricky, as it required both jets of light to collide with one another.[26] It is unknown whether this was limited to the Stunning Spell or if it was possible to reflect the Curse with other spells, although during Harry and Voldemort's final duel a similar thing happened when Harry's Disarming Charm collided with Voldemort's Killing Curse, although the Elder Wand's allegiance to Harry had to be taken into consideration in this particular situation.[13]

If another target was placed between the caster and the targeted individual, then the new target would take the hit of the Killing Curse, which could simply result in an object being destroyed or damaged in an explosion of flames.[8] One could also avoid the effects simply by dodging or if the caster had poor aim,[17] as with many similar offensive curses, the spell had to be directly targeted at the intended victim.

Should the caster have used the Elder Wand—or actually any wand—without winning its allegiance, to cast the Killing Curse onto its true master, the wand would refuse to kill its master and therefore the curse would backfire onto the caster, thus killing them instead, as when Voldemort's Killing Curse rebounded on him during his final duel with Harry Potter.[13]

Final Repository - Ranrok's dragon form

Ranrok being immune to the Killing Curse due to his dragon form caused by dark ancient magic

Under not-specifically known circumstances, great amounts of the dark ancient magic formed by the usage of ancient magic to extract pain from another person had the power to block the Killing Curse. This only occurred once, when the goblin rebel Ranrok absorbed the dark ancient magic contained in the final repository beneath Hogwarts Castle. This allowed him to take on a dragon-like form in the battle, which made him immune to the Killing Curse. As this is the only known instance of dark ancient magic being able to intercept the Killing Curse, the specific requirements for it to block the Killing Curse are unknown.[27]


Middle Ages

"The Cruciatus, Imperius, and Killing Curses were first classified as Unforgivable in 1717, with the strictest penalties attached to their use."
Dumbledore's notes from The Tales of Beedle the Bard[src]

The Killing Curse was invented in the early Middle Ages.[28]

B4C30M1 Wizengamot trial Pensieve memory

Death Eaters facing the Council of Magical Law for their use of the Unforgivable Curses

After the Wizards' Council was reformed into the Ministry of Magic, tighter restrictions were placed on the use of certain kinds of magic. The Killing Curse was deemed by the Ministry to be Dark Magic and, along with the Cruciatus and Imperius Curses, were declared "Unforgivable" throughout Great Britain in 1717.[28]

The penalty for use of this curse or any Unforgivable Curse on a human was a life sentence in Azkaban without any possible parole, unless there was sufficient enough evidence that the caster did so while being under the influence of the Imperius Curse.[1]

Global Wizarding War

The Killing Curse was also used in 1927 by the Magical Congress of the United States of America on magical beasts considered dangerous.[29]

This curse was used during the Global Wizarding War, both by Aurors[30] and supporters of the Dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald.[31][32][33] At one point during the height of the Global Wizarding War, Auror Cassius Bell used this curse to kill a red-haired young witch in the Lestrange Mausoleum.[30]

First Wizarding War

"How Voldemort had killed Harry's father first. How James Potter had tried to hold him off, while he shouted at his wife to take Harry and run... Voldemort had advanced on Lily Potter, told her to move aside so that he could kill Harry... how she had begged him to kill her instead, refused to stop shielding her son... and so Voldemort had murdered her too, before turning his wand on Harry."
— Harry Potter reflecting on the murder of his parents[src]

During the First Wizarding War, when Barty Crouch Snr was in charge of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, he fought violence with violence, legalising the three Unforgivable Curses for Aurors against the Death Eaters in order to win the war.[34] This was repealed once the war was over, as it was no longer necessary.

Potter family murder

Voldemort murdering Lily Potter before trying to murder infant Harry Potter

One of the most infamous events involving this curse happened on Hallowe'en (31 October) in 1981.[19] Voldemort arrived at the Potter cottage in Godric's Hollow,[11] after being told of its location by Peter Pettigrew, the Secret-Keeper of its Fidelius Charm,[35] and murdered James and Lily Potter while they attempted to protect their infant son Harry.[11] He cast the Killing Curse on Harry as well, but it backfired, destroying Voldemort's body.[10] This event led to Voldemort's first downfall, the end of the First Wizarding War, and Harry's fate being sealed as "The Boy Who Lived".[36][19]

It should be noted that despite the curse being illegal, Aurors were allowed to use deadly force and the Unforgivable Curses against opponents during the First Wizarding War in order to win.[34]

Shortly before their imprisonment in Azkaban for being Death Eaters, Merula Snyde's mother and father taught her the Killing Curse, in order to teach her the necessary self-defence she would need without them around to protect her.[37]

Between the wars

"So that was how his parents had died... exactly like that spider. Had they been unblemished and unmarked too? Had they simply seen the flash of green light and heard the rush of speeding death, before life was wiped from their bodies?"
— Harry Potter contemplating the Killing Curse after witnessing its use on a spider[src]
Frank Bryce murder

Voldemort murdering Frank Bryce with the Killing Curse in 1994

When disguised as Alastor Moody using Polyjuice Potion during the 1994–1995 school year, Bartemius Crouch Junior performed each Unforgivable Curse on a spider as a demonstration for his fourth-year students while teaching Defence Against the Dark Arts in September 1994. He told his class the penalty for using an Unforgivable Curse on another human being was life imprisonment in Azkaban. The Ministry did not approve of this because "Professor Moody" was showing these curses to those who did not truly need to see it (i.e., a class of 14-15-year-olds), but it did not appear to have been illegal. Harry Potter had always wondered how his parents have died, and witnessing the curse that killed them was very clearly unpleasant.[1]

Lord Voldemort also used the curse in 1994 to murder Frank Bryce, the Muggle caretaker who looked after Riddle House, after secretly eavesdropping on his plan to kill Harry Potter with Pettigrew.[4]

Second Wizarding War

"The Elder Wand slashed through the air and green light erupted through the room; the kneeling goblin rolled over, dead; the watching wizards scattered before him, terrified: Bellatrix and Lucius Malfoy threw others behind them in their race for the door, and again and again his wand fell, and those who were left were slain, all of them, for bringing him this news, for hearing about the golden cup — "
— Voldemort ruthlessly massacring goblins with the Killing Curse[src]

The Killing Curse was known throughout most of the wizarding world to be Lord Voldemort's signature spell. Voldemort was a prolific user of the Killing Curse throughout his life. He used the curse excessively throughout the First and Second Wizarding Wars. He also used the curse outside of warfare, having killed Charity Burbage, an outspoken Muggle supporter, simply to satisfy the pure-blood supremacy of both himself and his supporters.[21] His first known usage of the curse was at age 16, murdering his father, paternal grandfather and paternal grandmother.[5] He used it to murder the famous wandmaker Mykew Gregorovitch[38] and notorious Dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald, while searching abroad for the Elder Wand.[39]

The Killing Curse

Voldemort murdering several goblins and Gringotts employees at Malfoy Manor during the Second Wizarding War

When he learned of Harry Potter's successful Gringotts break-in and retrieval of Hufflepuff's Cup, he murdered several goblins and other Gringotts employees in a fit of rage.[40] Ironically, the Killing Curse, Voldemort's signature spell, was ultimately the very spell that led to his own defeat. On 2 May, during the Battle of Hogwarts, Harry willingly let Voldemort hit him with the Killing Curse, in order to be rid of the piece of Voldemort's soul he harboured at the time.[22] In his final duel against Harry Potter, Voldemort would not realise that the curse would backfire (because the Elder Wand would not kill its true master), thereby finally putting an end to the Dark Lord. Harry thought surviving the Killing Curse for a second time felt like an "iron-clad punch".[13]

When Voldemort took over the British Ministry of Magic, the three curses were once again legalised; this time every wizard and witch had the right to use them as they pleased. In fact, they were practised in Hogwarts as part of the curriculum of the Dark Arts class under the cruel tutelage of Professor Amycus Carrow, a Death Eater.[41] After Voldemort's final death and the reform of the Ministry under the newly appointed Minister Kingsley Shacklebolt, the three curses were made forbidden once again and their original penalties were restored.

Known uses

"He saw the mouth move and a flash of green light, and everything was gone."
— Harry Potter being hit with the curse[src]


Caster(s) Victim(s) Date Note
San Bakar Isidora Morganach 15th century To stop her from weaponising ancient magic and using it on the students.[42]
Isidora death
Victor Rookwood Victor Rookwood (backfired) 1891 Cast the Killing Curse on a Hogwarts student during an ambush. It rebounded on him, causing his death.[43]
Rookwood death HL
Sebastian Sallow Solomon Sallow For destroying the relic that could have potentially saved his sister and his personal hatred of him.[44]
Solomon Death
Gellert Grindelwald's acolytes Non-Magique mother September 1927 Used it on Gellert Grindelwald's orders to take over a Parisian house that was owned by a family of Non-Magiques by killing them all with the curse and use it as a temporary headquarters.[31][32]
Parisian Takeover
Non-Magique father
Carrow Non-Magique toddler
Gunnar Grimmson Irma Dugard Used it on Gellert Grindelwald's orders to keep Credence Barebone's true identity secret.[33]
Grimmson kills Irma
Cassius Bell Red-haired young witch Used it in self-defence during Gellert Grindelwald's Paris rally in the Lestrange Mausoleum, when she raised her wand at him.[30]
Auror kills Red Head Witch
Lord Voldemort Tom Riddle Snr Summer 1943 For abandoning him and his mother Merope and for being a Muggle.[5]
Thomas Riddle For being Muggles.[5]
Mary Riddle
James Potter 31 October 1981 For trying to stop him from killing Lily and Harry Potter.[11]
Lily Potter For refusing to stop shielding him from killing Harry Potter, despite Voldemort giving her the choice to live.[11]
Harry Potter (survived both) For being his enemy.[22]
Harry's sacrifice
31 October 1981; 2 May 1998
Bertha Jorkins Summer 1994 For being useless after he broke the Memory Charm on her.[4]
Frank Bryce August 1994 For overhearing his plan to kill Harry Potter and for being a Muggle.[4]
Fawkes (survived) 18 June 1996 Used it to kill Dumbledore, but Fawkes took the curse on himself and burst into flames. As a phoenix, Fawkes resurrected minutes later.[8]
Charity Burbage July 1997 For being the Muggle Studies teacher at Hogwarts and supporting Muggle rights.[21]
Voldemort kills Burbage
Alastor Moody 27 July 1997 For being the Order of the Phoenix leader after Albus Dumbledore's death and trying to transport Harry Potter to safety.[45]
Unnamed German speaking Muggle family (a woman and two children) 1 September 1997 For not knowing where Gregorovitch was hiding.[38]
Mykew Gregorovitch 2 September 1997 For not being clear on who the thief was that stole the Elder Wand.[46]
Gregorovitch death
Gellert Grindelwald March 1998 For hiding the Elder Wand's location.[39]
Voldemort and Grindelwald
Unnamed goblin 1 May 1998 Used it in a fit of rage after hearing about Helga Hufflepuff's Cup robbery.[40]
Death Eaters
Gringotts guards
Unnamed Death Eater 2 May 1998 Battle of Hogwarts
Lord Voldemort (backfired) 31 October 1981 (survived)
2 May 1998
Patricia Rakepick Rowan Khanna 1990 Aimed the curse at Ben Copper, but Rowan jumped in the way, sacrificing their life in the process.[47]
Rowan Death
Bartemius Crouch Junior (disguised as Alastor Moody) Spider 4 September 1994 Used it as a demonstration to teach fourth-year Gryffindor students in Defence Against the Dark Arts class.[1]
Barty Crouch Junior kills spider
Peter Pettigrew Cedric Diggory 24 June 1995 Used it on Lord Voldemort's orders to murder Cedric.[25]
Cedric's Death
Bellatrix Lestrange Fox near Spinner's End July 1996 Meant for a possible spy or Auror.[16]
Thorfinn Rowle Gibbon 30 June 1997 Used it to kill Remus Lupin, but he missed and killed his comrade instead.[48]
Severus Snape[12] Albus Dumbledore[12] Planned ahead of time by a slowly dying Dumbledore in order to fool Voldemort.[49]
Death Eater Hedwig 27 July 1997 Meant for Harry Potter, but missed and hit Hedwig instead.[26]
Death Eater kills Hedwig
Delphini Craig Bowker Junior 2020 For interrupting her at the Hogwarts Quidditch pitch.[50]


"Crabbe wheeled around and screamed, AVADA KEDAVRA! again. Ron leaped out of sight to avoid the jet of green light."
— Vincent Crabbe attempting to murder Ron Weasley[src]
Caster(s) Victim(s) Date
Theophilus Harlow[43] Highwing[51] 1890[43]
Natsai Onai[51]
Unidentified 19th-century Hogwarts student[51]
Victor Rookwood[43] Ranrok[52] 1891[43]
Unidentified 19th-century Hogwarts student[43]
Unidentified Death Eater Hermione Granger[53] 18 June 1996
Lord Voldemort[8] Harry Potter[8] 27 July 1997
Death Eater Rubeus Hagrid[26]
Order of the Phoenix
Vincent Crabbe[17] Hermione Granger[17] 2 May 1998
Ron Weasley[17]
Bellatrix Lestrange[13] Ginny Weasley[13]
Delphini[54] Albus Potter[54] 31 October 1981 (time-travelled)


Avada Kedavra is based on the Aramaic אַבַדָא כְּדַברָא, avada kedavra, meaning "let the thing be destroyed". J. K. Rowling confirmed this during an audience interview at the Edinburgh Book Festival on 15 April, 2004, where she had this to say about the spell's etymology: "Does anyone know where avada kedavra came from? It is an ancient spell in Aramaic, and it is the original of abracadabra, which means 'let the thing be destroyed'. Originally, it was used to cure illness and the 'thing' was the illness, but I decided to make it the 'thing' as in the person standing in front of me. I take a lot of liberties with things like that. I twist them round and make them mine."[55]

This phrase is also the origin of abracadabra, which, like Hocus Pocus, is used by magicians as a magic word when they perform tricks.[56]

"Kedavra" also sounds very similar to the English word cadaver, which means "corpse", and derives from the Latin cadere, "to fall".[57]

Behind the scenes

  • The biological reasons for the victim's death have never been fully explained. In any case, it is something that does not affect the health of the victims, as Muggle autopsies show that there is no change aside from outright death. It may simply be that this curse just causes every organ in the body to instantaneously shut down, causing the death, despite the victims looking "perfectly healthy" apart from this.
  • It is likely that if a caster could successfully prove they only cast the Killing Curse under the influence of the Imperius Curse, they would avoid imprisonment in Azkaban.
  • Out of the three Unforgivable Curses, the Killing Curse is the only one that Harry did not use.
  • While the curse is noted to be unblockable, there are many exceptions listed: the seventh book shows jets of red and green light colliding and shooting off into multi-coloured sparks, much like fireworks, while the films show it being blocked with Shield Charms.
  • This is the only known spell whose sole and primary application is death. However, it is not the only spell that can prove fatal; Fiendfyre, Sectumsempra, Confringo, Diffindo or even Stupefy in exceptional circumstances. Antonin Dolohov used an unnamed curse that could also prove fatal and Molly Weasley also used an unnamed curse on Bellatrix Lestrange that caused Bellatrix's death; it is unclear whether any of the other attack spells being used by non-Death Eaters during the battle at Hogwarts were intended to kill the target, or simply disable.
  • The curse's incantation were Voldemort's last words in life in the novels.
  • Worth noticing is the similarity between the hand movements for the Killing Curse and the shape of Harry's scar; both resemble lightning bolts.
  • This is the only one of the three Unforgivable Curses without a Latin incantation.
  • During the Encounter at the Shrieking Shack, Sirius Black and Remus Lupin intended to kill Peter Pettigrew for his betrayal of James and Lily Potter.[58] It is unknown how they wanted to do it, but it was possibly by using this curse. If it would have been used, Peter would have died the same way as his former friends.
  • In the films the curse has been seen as a flash, jet, or burst of green or bluish turquoise light.

The Killing Curse as seen in LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4

In films

Nagini DHF2

A green spell cast by Ron Weasley in an attempt to kill Nagini

  • In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2:
    • All of Voldemort's victims when he massacred them with the Killing Curse were covered in blood, which contradicts this curse's effect of not leaving any physical damage on the bodies.
    • Voldemort kills Pius Thicknesse with the Killing Curse after Pius interrupts Voldemort's concentration on feeling the destruction of his Horcrux Ravenclaw's Diadem. It is unknown if Pius survived the Battle of Hogwarts in the book, but it is certain that Voldemort did not kill him.[59]
    • Ron Weasley casts a green spell in an attempt to kill Voldemort's snake Nagini (one of his Horcruxes). Though if this was indeed the Killing Curse that Ron used against Nagini, she would have been destroyed as Horcruxes can be destroyed by being hit with a Killing Curse. This is proven when Harry surrenders to Voldemort and he is hit with the curse, while Harry was "killed", Voldemort simultaneously destroyed the Horcrux that resided in Harry's body. However, it may be that Ron did attempt the curse, but simply lacked the power and will to actually make it effective, based on prior observations that the person casting the Unforgivables must really want to achieve their intended purpose. It is also possible that the fragment of Voldemort's soul that was in Harry was only destroyed by the Killing Curse as Harry was an accidental Horcrux, and as such he lacked the additional enchantments that gave the other Horcruxes their invulnerability.
    • The Killing Curse rebounds on Voldemort during his duel with Harry by the green light of the curse emitting through the crack in the Elder Wand, causing Voldemort's hand to turn black and spread through his body, which in turn led to his death.
    • The rebounding Killing Curse affects Voldemort by causing him to disintegrate into ashes instead of leaving his physical body dead, although development screencaps for the film indicated he was originally going to leave his body behind like in the book.
  • In Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore, Gellert Grindelwald fires a green spell[60] at Credence Barebone in Bhutan, that his father and uncle parry with joint uses of golden light, which appears to be the Killing Curse, but neither the film nor screenplay identify the spell used, nor is it cast with an incantation; however Albus Dumbledore does later describe Grindelwald's act of firing this spell as him having "sought to kill".[61] If this is the Killing Curse, this also raises very serious questions of how Albus and Aberforth were able to block the spell, as the Killing Curse is said to a spell that cannot be blocked.[1][62]
    • Earlier in the film, Vinda Rosier fires similarly green spells at the mother Qilin, eventually killing her,[60] whereas in the screenplay, this attack is merely described as Rosier and Carrow "firing SPELLS, flaying the mother Qilin's hide".[63] The Killing Curse does not cause any physical injury to its victims, thus the spells used in the screenplay are definitely not Killing Curses; the screenplay is higher canon in the films, thus even if Rosier's green spells are Killing Curses in the film, this cannot be considered a canonical appearance of this curse. Furthermore, the Killing Curse causes instantaneous death, not requiring multiple uses (Rosier uses the green spell more than once to kill the Qilin, and even then, the Qilin was still alive long enough to give birth to a second Qilin).
    • In a deleted scene of the movie, Credence uses a non-verbal spell with a green light to kill someone in an alleyway. However, this spell is never identified.


The Harry Potter Wiki has 146 images related to Killing Curse.

Notes and references

  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 1.13 1.14 1.15 1.16 1.17 1.18 1.19 Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Chapter 14 (The Unforgivable Curses)
  2. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (film) - Chapter 1 (The Riddle House)
  3. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (film) - Chapter 7 (The Unforgivable Curses)
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 4.6 Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Chapter 1 (The Riddle House)
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Chapter 17 (A Sluggish Memory)
  6. 6.0 6.1 Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 37 (The Lost Prophecy)
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Chapter 34 (Priori Incantatem)
  8. 8.00 8.01 8.02 8.03 8.04 8.05 8.06 8.07 8.08 8.09 8.10 8.11 8.12 8.13 Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 36 (The Only One He Ever Feared)
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 9.4 Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Chapter 36 (The Parting of the Ways)
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 10.4 10.5 10.6 10.7 Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Chapter 33 (The Death Eaters)
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 11.3 11.4 11.5 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 17 (Bathilda's Secret)
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Chapter 27 (The Lightning-Struck Tower)
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 13.3 13.4 13.5 13.6 13.7 13.8 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 36 (The Flaw in the Plan)
  14. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (film) - Chapter 28 (Voldemort)
  15. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Chapter 28 (Flight of the Prince)
  16. 16.0 16.1 Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Chapter 2 (Spinner's End)
  17. 17.0 17.1 17.2 17.3 17.4 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 31 (The Battle of Hogwarts)
  18. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 26 (Gringotts)
  19. 19.0 19.1 19.2 19.3 Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Chapter 4 (The Keeper of the Keys)
  20. 20.0 20.1 20.2 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 35 (King's Cross)
  21. 21.0 21.1 21.2 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 1 (The Dark Lord Ascending)
  22. 22.0 22.1 22.2 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 34 (The Forest Again)
  23. 23.0 23.1 Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Chapter 23 (Horcruxes)
  24. 24.0 24.1 24.2 Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Chapter 17 (The Man with Two Faces)
  25. 25.0 25.1 Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Chapter 32 (Flesh, Blood and Bone)
  26. 26.0 26.1 26.2 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 4 (The Seven Potters)
  27. Hogwarts Legacy, Main Quest "The Final Repository"
  28. 28.0 28.1 The Tales of Beedle the Bard, "Babbitty Rabbitty and Her Cackling Stump"
  29. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2017 edition)
  30. 30.0 30.1 30.2 Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald - The Original Screenplay, Scene 114
  31. 31.0 31.1 Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald - The Original Screenplay, Scene 23
  32. 32.0 32.1 Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald - The Original Screenplay, Scene 24
  33. 33.0 33.1 Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald - The Original Screenplay, Scene 56
  34. 34.0 34.1 Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Chapter 27 (Padfoot Returns)
  35. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Chapter 19 (The Servant of Lord Voldemort)
  36. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Chapter 1 (The Boy Who Lived)
  37. Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery, Year 5, Chapter 28 (About Merula)
  38. 38.0 38.1 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 12 (Magic is Might)
  39. 39.0 39.1 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 23 (Malfoy Manor)
  40. 40.0 40.1 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 27 (The Final Hiding Place)
  41. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 29 (The Lost Diadem)
  42. Hogwarts Legacy - (San Bakar's Trial)
  43. 43.0 43.1 43.2 43.3 43.4 43.5 Hogwarts Legacy (Wand Mastery)
  44. Hogwarts Legacy (In the Shadow of the Relic)
  45. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 5 (Fallen Warrior)
  46. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 14 (The Thief)
  47. Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery, Year 6, Chapter 18 (Into the Forest)
  48. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Chapter 29 (The Phoenix Lament)
  49. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 33 (The Prince's Tale)
  50. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Act Three, Scene Nineteen
  51. 51.0 51.1 51.2 Hogwarts Legacy
  52. Hogwarts Legacy (Lodgok's Loyalty)
  53. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 35 (Beyond the Veil)
  54. 54.0 54.1 Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Act Four, Scene Eleven
  55. Edinburgh Book Festival interview
  56. Wiktionary favicon abracadabra on Wiktionary
  57. "Cadaver" on The Online Etymology Dictionary"
  58. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Chapter 18 (Moony, Wormtail, Padfoot and Prongs)
  59. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2
  60. 60.0 60.1 Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore
  61. Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore - The Complete Screenplay, Scene 95
  62. The Killing Curse at Wizarding World
  63. Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore - The Complete Screenplay, Scene 9
Defence Against the Dark Arts (D.A.D.A.)
D.A.D.A. at Hogwarts
Classroom 3C · Classroom 3C backrooms · Temporary Classroom · Hogwarts Turris Magnus · Teacher's Office · Storeroom · Staircase · Storage room · Lesson Cup · Race Cup · Duelling Club · Dumbledore's Army
Isidora Morganach · Dinah Hecat · Arsenius Jigger · Albus Dumbledore · Galatea Merrythought · 1984–1985 professor · 1985–1986 professor · 1986–1987 professor · 1987–1988 professor · Patricia Rakepick · 1989–1990 professor · First 1990–1991 professor · Olivia Green · Quirinus Quirrell · Gilderoy Lockhart · Remus Lupin · Bartemius Crouch Junior (as Alastor Moody) · Dolores Umbridge · Severus Snape · Amycus Carrow (as Dark Arts teacher) · Unidentified professor · Brindlemore
The Dark Forces: A Guide to Self-Protection · Advanced Defence Against the Dark Arts · Break with a Banshee · Gadding with Ghouls · Holidays with Hags · Travels with Trolls · Voyages with Vampires · Wanderings with Werewolves · Year with the Yeti · The Essential Defence Against the Dark Arts · Defensive Magical Theory · Dark Arts Defence – Basics for Beginners · Confronting the Faceless · Defence Against the Dark Arts
Spells studied at Hogwarts under D.A.D.A.
Aqua Eructo · Boggart-Banishing Spell (Riddikulus) · Bombarda Maxima · Cave inimicum · Concealment Charms · Counter-curses · Counter-jinxes · Cruciatus Curse (Crucio) · Curse of the Bogies (Mucus ad Nauseam) · Cursed barrier spell · Densaugeo · Deprimo Spell (Deprimo) · Disarming Charm (Expelliarmus) · Ear-Shrivelling Curse · Everte Statum · Freezing Spell (Glacius) · Full Body-Bind Curse (Petrificus Totalus) · Fumos Duo · Green Sparks · Hex-Breaker· Hex-deflection · Hex Zapper · Homorphus Charm · Human-presence-revealing Spell (Homenum Revelio) · Impediment Jinx (Impedimenta) · Imperius Curse (Imperio) · Imperturbable Charm · Killing Curse (Avada Kedavra) · Knockback Jinx (Flipendo) · Lacarnum Inflamari · Langlock · Levitation Spell (Levioso) · Limbo Mist anticharm · Nonverbal spells · Patronus Charm (Expecto Patronum) · Pimple Jinx (Furnunculus) · Protective enchantments · Red Sparks (Vermillious) · Reductor Curse (Reducto) · Salvio hexia · Sea Urchin Jinx · Seize and pull charm (Carpe Retractum) · Shield Charm (Protego) · Smokescreen Spell (Fumos) · Snake-Vanishing Spell (Vipera Evanesca) · Softening Charm (Spongify) · Stretching Jinx · Tickling Charm (Rictusempra) · Tongue-Tying Curse (Mimblewimble) · Trip Jinx · Twitchy-Ears Hex · Verdimillious Charm (Verdimillious) · Verdimillious Duo Spell (Verdimillious) · Verdimillious Tria · Vermillious Duo · Vermillious Tria · Wand-Lighting Charm (Lumos)
Creatures studied at Hogwarts under D.A.D.A.
Banshee · Boggart · Chameleon Ghoul · Charmed skeleton · Cornish Pixie · Dementor · Dugbog · Erkling · Flesh-Eating Slug · Ghost · Ghoul · Gnome · Grindylow · Gytrash · Hag · Hinkypunk · Iguana · Imp · Inferius · Kappa · Manticore · Nocturnal beasts · Nogtail · Poltergeist · Red Cap · Snake · Troll · Vampire · Vampire bat · Werewolf · Yeti · Zombie