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Update: The meaning of the new chapter title

by Dave Haber, Wizard News Wizard

Yesterday, J.K. Rowling revealed on her official website the names of three chapters from the upcoming book Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, one of which is Felix Felicis. In that article, I made quick mention of the fact that I believed felicis was Latin for happy, and asked Wizard News readers if anyone knew more. They did.

Wizard News readers Ed, Petrea and Joe wrote in to say that felicis is Latin for fruitful, fortunate, or lucky, depending on context. That fits with my original assumption, knowing no Latin, but knowing that Feliz in Spanish is happy, as in Feliz Navidad, so expanding it more, Feliz is happy as in a happy outcome.

Baxter wrote in with the exact definition of felix:

felix -icis [fruitful , fertile]. Transf., [of good omen, favorable, bringing good luck; fortunate, lucky, successful]; Felix, [the Lucky One, surname of Sulla]. Adv. feliciter, [fruitfully; auspiciously, favorably; luckily, successfully].

American readers will no doubt be familiar with the cartoon character Felix the Cat, and the above definition fits him, as in the Lucky One. One email suggested a possible connection with Felix the Cat and Hermione's cat, Crookshanks, but we think that's a stretch.

Or is it? Wizard News reader Maureen suggests that the word Felix could be related to feline, and another possible combination of the meanings of the words could be lucky cat, which isn't too far from describing Crookshanks.

A Wizard News reader who wishes to remain anonymous writes in to say that Felix officially means weed, Felicis is the genitivus form of the same word felix. So, felix felicis could also be the name of a plant, a weed most likely, perhaps something that could be used to poison someone, or have magical helpful qualities, like gillyweed.

But, if you use the definitions most readers are coming up with, we're left with the confusing situation that it appears that felix and felicis mean the same thing. Wizard News reader Petrea wrote back to say that after pondering a bit, he thinks the intended meaning of the title is "joy of joys", but that means the title should have been Felix Felicium. Felicis is a singular form, Felicium is plural. And Damian writes in to say it could also mean "the luckiest of the lucky".

Obviously, we know that with J.K., the title could mean anything. As there's still no date as to when book 6 will be released, we're all hoping we'll find out soon!

Thanks to all the Wizard News readers who helped with this article!

Related articles:
• J.K. Rowling releases three chapter names from Harry Potter 6 (10/31/04)

Published November 1, 2004

This article is Copyright © 2004, David Haber, and may not be reproduced on other web sites or in print, in whole or in part, without expressed permission

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