Friday, July 15, 2011


This is one of my favorite names from the Harry Potter series. Most people only pay attention to the names of the human characters, so they sometimes miss the lovely names that were given to the non-human characters as well.

Firenze (pronounced "fih-REHN-zey") is a centaur. He plays a large part in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, in which he saves Harry from Voldemort and carries him to safety. He is not at all as traditional as the rest of his kind, who find working with humans beneath them. He is cast out of his herd for allowing Harry to ride on his back "like a common mule." When Professor Trelawney was sacked, Firenze became the new divination teacher.

So why did this name appeal so much to me when I first heard it? Probably because I've heard it before? Firenze is what the Italians call their lovely city of Florence. I once spent the summer touring Italy with my high school music department, so I remember the Italian names very fondly.

Florence was established in 80 BC as a settlement for retired soldiers. It was originally called Fluentia, because it was situated between two rivers. The name was eventually corrupted into Florentia, which is why many sources list it as meaning "blooming." Later it became the birthplace of the Italian Renaissance, and it was culturally, economically, and politically one of the most important cities in Europe during this time. It is also the city where Galileo Galilee, arguably the most important astronomer of all time, chose to live out his final years. In this, there is an interesting connection to the character, because Firenze and the other centaurs spend a lot of time stargazing. His divination class centers on astronomy and astrology, as opposed to Trelawney's tea leaves.

I've noticed that Florence is getting a lot of attention from name enthusiasts, which has an old-fashioned charm in the United States even though it's more popular elsewhere. But personally, I love the Italian names for their cities more. Firenze for Florence, Venitia for Venice, Roma for Rome, Napoli for Naples, they're all somehow more poetic. But I'm half Italian American, so I'm biased.

I can see Firenze as a daring option for some Neo-Pagans. It could work for either gender. And I'm not sure how many people would immediately connect it to the centaur, since he's a secondary, nay, tertiary character. I think that they'll just see it as an exotic oddity. It's a unique name that's connected to the books without being dominated by them. And to that end, Firenze is awesome.


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1 comment:

  1. I almost featured Firenze yesterday -- I like it a lot too! Could get wearying though, always correcting the pronunciation. Even Hagrid pronounces it 'Fi-RENZ' in HP1!


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