Say the magic words: 10 phrases inspired by wizarding world of Harry Potter can add a spark to your essay

  • From the wands and brooms to the mystical adventures of Harry and his friends, the series has many sources of inspiration for interesting ways to write
  • A wave of a magic wand can’t solve every problem, but maybe it – and the other phrases we’ve listed below – can help you ace your next English assignment
Yanni ChowSue Ng |

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Harry Potter and his friends engaged in quite a few cloak-and-dagger operations. Photo: Warner Bros Pictures

It has been more than two decades since the first Harry Potter book was released, but the craze for the wizarding world is still on. These 10 phrases inspired by the series might work some magic for your writing.

1. Cloak-and-dagger

Meaning: describes something involving mystery, intrigue or secret agents. Harry’s convenient Cloak of Invisibility is useful for keeping him hidden in many of his cloak-and-dagger adventures.

Example: The spy was arrested in a cloak-and-dagger operation in which he was caught attempting to steal the country’s top secrets.

2. Crystal ball

Meaning: a means of predicting the future. In the series, a professor uses a crystal ball to foresee the return of the evil Lord Voldemort.

Example: You have to learn how to go with the flow – no one can just look into a crystal ball and predict exactly how life will turn out.

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3. Here be dragons

Meaning: a phrase to warn people away from unexplored or dangerous places. In the past, maps had this saying to warn people away from dangerous waters where sea monsters were believed to live. This would have made a good reminder for Harry before he stole a golden egg from a dragon in a deadly competition.

Example: Follow the map, and don’t enter areas with red flags – here be dragons.

4. Jumping the broom

Meaning: to marry. The phrase refers to a time-honoured wedding tradition in which the bride and groom jump over a broom, symbolising a new beginning. In the Harry Potter series, the broom has a more practical function: every witch and wizard must learn to transport themselves using a broom.

Example: David and Lucy have been dating for a decade. Will they be jumping the broom this year?

In the wizarding world, brooms are even used in sports. Photo: AFP

5. Graveyard shift

Meaning: a period of working time that is late at night. When Harry and his friends are punished for being out of their beds at night, they are sent late at night to help the gamekeeper Hagrid with his work.

Example: Derek usually sleeps in the morning after working the graveyard shift as a taxi driver.

6. Let the cat out of the bag

Meaning: to reveal a secret. In Harry’s third year at the Hogwarts wizarding school, convicted murderer Sirius Black escapes from prison. But the cat of Harry’s friend Hermione helps uncover the hidden truth behind the murders, demonstrating Black’s innocence.

Example: The singer was planning to surprise his fans with a new song, but someone on his team accidentally let the cat out of the bag.

A guide to cat idioms and expressions, and how to use them

7. Many moons ago

Meaning: a very long time ago. Many moons ago, Remus Lupin, a friend of Harry’s parents, was bitten by a werewolf, so whenever there is a full moon, he transforms into the vicious creature.

Example: My grandfather attended this school many moons ago, so he would be proud that I am here too.

8. Make castles in the air

Meaning: to entertain daydreams that will never come to pass. Many Harry Potter fans daydreamed about being part of the series’ fictional world and attending the wizarding school which is in a magical castle built by four powerful wizards.

Example: Stop lying in bed all day as you make castles in the air – go out and make your music dream into a reality.

Hogwarts is the magical castle where students learn to be wizards. Photo: AFP

9. Get a taste of your own medicine

Meaning: to teach someone a lesson by doing to them what they have done to you. Harry meets Professor Gilderoy Lockhart who is known for heroic acts. But Lockhart never did any of those feats, but instead used a spell to erase people’s memory and steal their glory. When he tries to use a damaged wand to erase the memories of Harry and his friend Ron, the professor gets a taste of his own medicine as the spell backfires and he forgets who he is.

Example: Teachers should be forced to take their exams so they get a taste of their own medicine.

10. Wave a magic wand

Meaning: to give an easy solution. Though wizards in the series can cast many spells with their magical wands, it doesn’t mean that all of their problems are quickly solved.

Example: You can’t erase your mistakes with a wave of a magic wand – you have to apologise and change.

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