The Latin phrase “Draco Dormiens Nunquam Titillandus” translates to “never tickle a sleeping dragon” in English. It’s engraved on Hogwart’s Crest and is the Hogwarts school motto. The Four Founders of Hogwarts likely chose it.
Origin of the Crest
The Crest incorporates all the original four founders:
- Godric Gryffindor – gold lion on a red background
- Salazar Slytherin – silver serpent on a green background
- Rowena Ravenclaw – bronze eagle on a blue background
- Helga Hufflepuff – black badger on a yellow background
The Crest is beautiful because all the four founders and their personalities come together on one Crest. Even though they clearly had their differences, and even a falling out, their legacies of creating the school together.
5 Possible Meanings of the Hogwarts School Motto
There are a lot of theories as to why “Draco Dormiens Nunquam Titillandus” is the Hogwarts school motto and the meaning behind it.
There’s not necessarily one correct answer, only fan-based assumptions and the little that J.K. Rowling has said about it. The following are some of the most common theories.
1. The Sleeping Dragon Refers to Hogwarts
One of the popular theories is that the “sleeping dragon” in the motto refers to Hogwarts, and “never tickle” a sleeping dragon means that people should never mess with Hogwarts.
When it’s left alone, Hogwarts is a school of talented witches and wizards that encourages its students to stand up for what they believe in and pushes them to be their best selves.
However, if you dare to mess with Hogwarts or seek to attack it in any way, then you can be sure it will fight back, just like a dragon rudely awakened from its slumber. As we see in the Battle of Hogwarts, the students, and teachers (along with help from alumni and their families) all rise up to protect and fight.
Voldemort is the one who comes to mind when thinking of someone who tickled the metaphorical “dragon,” and this leads to his ultimate downfall. Moral of the story: Don’t mess with Hogwarts.
2. Each Word of the Phrase Correlates to a Hogwarts House
Another common theory is that each word of the motto, “Draco Dormiens Nunquam Titillandus,” corresponds to a House.
Titillandus means “to be tickled,” which definitely encompasses a Gryffindor. For example, Fred and George Weasley are some of the biggest jokesters and pranksters of all time.
After all, they opened their own joke shop called Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes.
Draco means “dragon,” and since dragons are technically serpents (and the mascot of Slytherin is a silver serpent), it most accurately represents Slytherin House.
There is some speculation over the fact that Draco could also refer to Draco Malfoy, who, of course, is a member of Slytherin.
Nunquam means “never” and could be a nod to Edgar Allan Poe’s poem, “The Raven.” Even though Ravenclaw’s signature mascot is actually an eagle, they also have things in common with the intelligent raven.
Poe’s poem mentions “nevermore” more than ten times throughout it.
Dormiens means “sleeping,” and while Hufflepuffs are not thought of as “sleepy,” their mascot, the badger, sleeps all day because they’re mainly active at night.
Additionally, many people stereotype Hufflepuffs as lazy, even though it couldn’t be further from the truth.
3. It’s Simply Sound Advice
A plausible theory is that “never tickle a sleeping dragon” is just good advice. Why would anyone dare to wake a large, dangerous, fiery creature?
While mottos usually convey something important about the institution they represent, sometimes they might just be a catchy phrase. It’s similar to the advice of “let sleeping dogs lie.” Overall, when you mess with dangerous things, you’re sure to experience the consequences.
“You know the way that most school slogans are things like persevere and nobility, charity, and fidelity or something, it just amused me to give an entirely practical piece of advice for the Hogwarts school motto. Then a friend of mine who is a professor of Classics — my Latin was not up to the job, I did not think it should be cod Latin, it is good enough for cod Latin spells, that is they used to be a mixture of Latin and other things. When it came to a proper Latin slogan for the school, I wanted it to be right. I went to him and asked him to translate. I think he really enjoyed it. He rang me up and said, “I think I found the exactly right word, ‘Titillandus,'” that was how that was dreamt up.”– J.K. Rowling
4. It Refers to Draco Malfoy
While less likely, this theory is that the word “Draco” in Hogwarts motto quite literally refers to Draco Malfoy. And that he might be a sleeping dragon, you wouldn’t want to wake by tickling.
This might not hold up because Draco doesn’t act like we would imagine a feisty, bold dragon would. Even though he is a member of Slytherin, he is often scared, timid, and insecure during his time at Hogwarts.
5. J.K. Rowling Found It Amusing
It’s quite possible that J.K. Rowling found the Latin phrase amusing and decided to use it as the school’s motto. Granted, the spells incorporate Latin; it only fits that the motto would too.