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"HARRY, NO! The name's Taboo! I told you, Harry, I told you, we can't say it any more — we've got to put the protection back around us — quickly — it's how they find —"
— Ron explaining how the Taboo worked[src]

The Taboo (incantation unknown) was a powerful jinx which designated a word as a key to revealing the speaker's location. This spell was used during the Second Wizarding War. During the said war, saying Voldemort's name was made Taboo and therefore used as a means of capturing members of the Order of the Phoenix, whom the Death Eaters believed to be the only ones who dared to speak it.[1]


"You know who used to like using the Dark Lord's name, Weasley? The Order of the Phoenix. Mean anything to you?... Well, they don't show the Dark Lord proper respect, so the name's been Tabooed. A few Order members have been tracked that way."
— Greyback commenting on Voldemort's use of the Taboo[src]

After seizing indirect control of the British Ministry of Magic in 1997, Voldemort made his own name Taboo. Thus, whenever his name was spoken aloud, Death Eaters and Snatchers were alerted to the location of the speaker. Since the only individuals who weren't Death Eaters themselves who dared speak Voldemort's name were members of the Order of the Phoenix or their allies, the Taboo allowed Voldemort's followers to track down their enemies.[1] Anyone who dared to speak the name and break the Taboo would be hunted down as criminals.

Hermione Granger broke the Taboo once while the trio were at Tottenham Court Road, which led two Death Eaters (disguised as construction workers) to their location.[2] Harry Potter broke the Taboo while they were camping during the hunt for Voldemort's Horcruxes, leading to their capture by Snatchers.[3] Kingsley Shacklebolt broke the Taboo and had to fight off several Death Eaters before going on the run, which was what alerted the Order of the Phoenix to the Taboo's existence.[1]

The anti-Voldemort radio programme Potterwatch, which was run by Order members and sympathisers, took to referring to Voldemort as "Chief Death Eater" as one of their methods of avoiding detection.[3]


"No! Sorry, but the name's been jinxed, Harry, that's how they track people! Using his name breaks protective enchantments, it causes some kind of magical disturbance — it's how they found us in Tottenham Court Road!... It was only people who were serious about standing up to him, like Dumbledore, who even dared use it. Now they've put a Taboo on it, anyone who says it is trackable — quick-and-easy way to find Order members!"
— The trio learning of the Taboo spell[src]

The Taboo worked in a similar manner to the Trace spell, but rather than being triggered when any magic at all was used, it was triggered when a certain specific word was spoken.[2] It worked regardless of the age of the speaker and disabled some weaker protective magical enchantments.[3] If the speaker was in a building protected by the powerful Fidelius Charm, for example, it might reveal the general area around the speaker's house, but would not break the charm.[1][4] This spell controlled individuals by limiting their freedom to speak, and thus caused great stress, terror, and frustration. Because of these reasons, it was considered to be Dark Magic.


The Taboo, when triggered, could break normal defensive enchantments (invisibility, etc.) such as when Harry Potter, Hermione Granger, and Ron Weasley were captured by the Snatchers.[3][5] However, when inside the protection of very powerful enchantments such as the Fidelius Charm, the protection seems to have remained unchanged.[4] This may have been why the trio were protected at 12 Grimmauld Place, even though they repeatedly used Lord Voldemort's name while hiding there in 1997, as whenever Harry looked outside the window, he could see Death Eaters lurking around the place.[2][6][7]

The Taboo spell could not break a Fidelius Charm, but merely directed a person near the location, if the person did not know the address or the Secret Keeper. Actually, considering the Fidelius Charm was supposed to be the most powerful spell for protecting secrets, it is unlikely the Taboo affected it at all. More likely is the explanation that the Death Eaters knew the general placement of the building. The Ministry of Magic must have had archives, and the Ministry was under Death Eater control at the time. Alternatively, Bellatrix Lestrange likely knew of the house, as she was originally a Black.

Known triggers[]

Person(s) Date Notes
Trio 1 August 1997 Death Eaters Antonin Dolohov and Thorfinn Rowle used the Taboo spell to trace Harry Potter, Ron Weasley, and Hermione Granger to a café on Tottenham Court Road shortly after they Disapparated from Bill Weasley and Fleur Delacour's wedding.[1] The trio managed to escape. Although they did not know about the Taboo for some time, they stopped using Voldemort's name at Ron's request.[8]
Hermione dueling
Kingsley Shacklebolt Winter 1998 Death Eaters also used it to track down Kingsley Shacklebolt, but the Auror and Order member escaped capture and went on the run.[1]
Harry Potter March 1998 Harry Potter accidentally broke the Taboo in the spring of 1998, leading to the trio's capture by a gang of Snatchers led by Fenrir Greyback and subsequent detention at and escape from Malfoy Manor.[3] It also led to Harry deducing the location of one of Voldemort's Horcruxes, Helga Hufflepuff's Cup.[9]

Possible triggers[]

Person(s) Date Notes
Dean Thomas March 1998 The Taboo spell might have been responsible for the capture of Dean Thomas and Griphook. It also might be responsible for the deaths of Ted Tonks, Dirk Cresswell, and Gornuk, at the hands of Snatchers.[3]
Ted Tonks
Dirk Cresswell

Behind the scenes[]

  • It is currently unknown from whence the Taboo spell actually originated, although it can be presumed that, following the fall of the Ministry, the Committee on Experimental Charms was coerced into helping the Death Eaters come up with a manner that would make it easier for them to track down enemies of the Dark Lord. It is also possible that Voldemort invented the Taboo spell himself, as it seemed that no one was aware how his Death Eaters were able to track people who spoke Voldemort's name.
  • In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1, Xenophilius Lovegood purposely triggered the Taboo in order to lure Death Eaters to his house to capture Harry.


Notes and references[]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 1.8 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 20 (Xenophilius Lovegood)
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 9 (A Place to Hide)
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 22 (The Deathly Hallows)
  4. 4.0 4.1 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 30 (The Sacking of Severus Snape)
  5. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 23 (Malfoy Manor)
  6. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 10 (Kreacher's Tale)
  7. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 11 (The Bribe)
  8. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 14 (The Thief)
  9. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 25 (Shell Cottage)