“Avada Kedavra” known as the killing curse is one of the three unforgivable curses monitored by the Ministry of Magic. The use of this curse will earn the user a lifetime in Azkaban prison. There are no defenses against it. If one is hit with this curse, it kills them immediately. The only person to have survived the Avada Kedavra curse is Harry Potter, on whom a scar remained.
Avada Kedavra Quick Facts
|Full Name||Avada Kedavra|
|Incantation||Avada Kedavra (a-VAH-dah ke-DAH-vra)|
|Nick Name||Killing curse|
|Hand Movement||Lightning bolt|
|Last Updated||May 4, 2022|
Avada Kedavra History
During the First Wizarding War, Avada Kedavra was used so often that the Ministry of Magic had to capture those responsible for its use. Barty Crouch was the head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement, and he made it legal for aurors to use any of the three unforgivable curses, including Avada Kedavra, when they fought Death Eaters. Mad-Eye Moody was the only auror who did not use Avada Kedavra up if he could help it. He preferred to bring Death Eaters in to stand trial for what they had done.
Avada Kedavra made history during this time because no one had ever survived it. This killing curse killed anyone Voldemort or his Death Eaters decided should die. On October 31st, 1981, Voldemort showed up in the town of Godric’s Hollow. he burst into the home of the Potter family and murdered James Potter with Avada Kedavra.
He tried to kill Harry Potter using the same purse, but Lily stepped in front of him. So, Voldemort killed Lily Potter with Avada Kedavra and then tried to kill Harry Potter. When he did, the curse rebounded off Harry Potter back on to Voldemort, leading to his demise.
Once Voldemort was defeated because of Harry Potter, this rule was repealed.
When Barty Crouch, Jr. impersonates Mad-Eye Moody using polyjuice potion, he teaches his Defense Against the Dark Arts class the three unforgivable curses, demonstrating them in turn on a spider. He points out that Dumbledore agreed the children needed to learn them in order to understand what they are up against, even though using them (in this case, on the spiders) is illegal.
During that same time, Lord Voldemort was regaining power and continued to use Avada Kedavra against his enemies or anyone who got in his way. He was a prolific user of Avada Kedavra, known for using it more than any other wizard. This was the curse that helped him make his various Horcruxes, each of which required him to tear his soul apart by killing another person.
When Lord Voldemort took over the ministry of magic, he legalized the use of the three unforgivable curses, including Avada Kedavra. At Hogwarts, they practiced these curses regularly as part of their curriculum. After Voldemort’s final death, when the ministry was reformed, they were made forbidden again.
Avada Kedavra Nature
The hand movement takes a similar curve as a lightning bolt, with the final flourish pointing the wand at the intended target and saying the incantation, “Avada Kedavra.” From there, a green light bursts forth and kills the victim. However, extremely powerful witches and wizards can use the curse without an incantation, applying nonverbal Magic. Bellatrix Lestrange used this to kill a fox without saying the incantation, and Voldemort used it several times without saying the incantation allowed.
Avada Kedavra is most easily identified because of the bright green lights that flash from the wand when used. Harry Potter described being hit with the curse as an ironclad punch. Most victims fall dead, while others might be pitched from a rooftop or thrown backward because of the impact.
If Avada Kedavra is used and it doesn’t hit its intended target, it will collide with anything else and produce a small explosion and fire.
Avada Kedavra Restrictions
Avada Kedavra is highly advanced magic that takes skilled witches or wizards to complete. However, the use of Avada Kedavra is illegal. It is restricted by the Ministry of Magic, and use of it will land one in prison in Azkaban for life.
Avada Kedavra Prevention
There is no prevention against it. Technically two people have survived it, though. Harry Potter survived Avada Kedavra as a baby when his mother’s love protected him and caused the curse to rebound onto Voldemort. Similarly, when the curse hit Voldemort, it could not kill him completely because Voldemort had set up Horcruxes. Therefore, it killed him but could only manage to kill his body. His spirit or essence lived on, eventually forcing himself to live in other creatures until he rebuilt a body.
The only way to avoid Avada Kedavra is to use countercurses or shields to deflect it or to jump out of the way and let it hit something else.
Avada Kedavra Known Uses
Avada Kedavra is used regularly throughout the books, in the First Wizarding War and the second. It is primarily used by Lord Voldemort and his Death Eaters, though on occasion; it is used by members of the Order of the Phoenix when they are fighting the Death Eaters.
When Hagrid escorted Harry during the Battle of the Seven Potters, Avada Kedavra was used regularly, filling the sky with green and red lights. Multiple death eaters tried to kill Hagrid with it, but Hagrid’s half-giant blood imbued him with protections that their spells could not permeate. Other members of the Order of the Phoenix were also attacked with Avada Kedavra, used by death eaters, and they had to deflect and avoid being hit.
During the Battle of Hogwarts, Crabbe tried to use Avada Kedavra against Ron and Hermione as they battled within the Room of Requirement, but he failed.
When walking to see Severus Snape, Bellatrix Lestrange uses Avada Kedavra on a fox that had popped up when they apparated, killing it instantly.
Bellatrix Lestrange unsuccessfully used it to kill Ginny Weasley during the Battle of Hogwarts, an act that prompted Molly Weasley to intercept and duel to the death.
Wormtail used Avada Kedavra to kill Cedric Diggory under orders from Voldemort.
In Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, when Draco Malfoy duels Harry Potter in the bathroom, Draco attempts first to use the Avada Kedavra curse on Harry. Later, when Hermione is admonishing Harry for using the sectumsempra curse without realizing its full effect, Ron comes to his aid, pointing out that had Harry not known that curse, Malfoy could have killed him.
Severus Snape killed Dumbledore with Avada Kedavra. Draco was meant to do it but could not, and Dumbledore had arranged ahead of time for Severus to do it if he could. This would protect Draco’s soul from damage, and the use of a killing curse by Severus wouldn’t damage Snape’s soul as much because Snape knew that he was doing it to help spare a dying friend.
An unknown death eater used Avada Kedavra to kill Hedwig during the Battle of the Seven Potters.
When Voldemort was younger, he used Avada Kedavra to kill his father and grandparents as revenge for leaving Tom’s mother. These three murders were blamed on the groundskeeper Frank Bryce, who was eventually let go because no evidence of harm could be found during the autopsy.
Voldemort used it against many of his enemies, including Harry Potter’s parents. Voldemort used Avada Kedavra to kill the groundskeeper at his father’s estate, Frank Bryce. He also used Avada Kedavra on Bertha Jorkins after he tortured her for information.
Voldemort tried to kill Dumbledore using Avada Kedavra, but Fawkes shielded Dumbledore. The curse killed Fawkes, but as he is a Phoenix, Fawkes was reborn from his ashes.
Voldemort used Avada Kedavra during the Battle of the Seven Potters resulting in Mad-Eye Moody’s death. Voldemort killed Charity Burbage for supporting Muggles.
Voldemort killed a German family while on his quest to find Gregorovitch; said family lived in the home once occupied by Gregorovitch. Later, Voldemort killed Gregorovitch too. Tangentially, Voldemort used Avada Kedavra to kill Gringlewald on his continued quest to find the Elder Wand.
When Voldemort learned that someone had broken into Gringotts and stolen one of his Horcruxes, he let fly Avada Kedavra from his wand in chaotic anger, hitting anything and anyone in his sights. He killed multiple death eaters, guards, and goblins. The death eaters who got away (like Bellatrix) did so by throwing other people in front of them.
Voldemort tries to use Avada Kedavra regularly on Harry Potter to prove that Harry was just an ordinary wizard who was coincidentally protected by other people each time he outsmarted Voldemort. It was Avada Kedavra that Voldemort used on baby Harry, resulting in Voldemort’s body being ripped apart.
Voldemort then used it in the graveyard against Harry after his rebirth into a new body. Voldemort wanted to show his Death Eaters, and everyone else that Harry was nothing special and Lord Voldemort’s powers were beyond any other wizard. However, in dueling, when Voldemort used Avada Kedavra and Harry used expelliarmus, the wands connected in the center, neither spell was able to reach the other. This resulted in priori incantation where the previous victims of Lord Voldemort’s use of Avada Kedavra were expelled.
In their final battle at Hogwarts, Harry once again used expelliarmus when Voldemort used Avada Kedavra. This resulted in the wands dueling down the center again. Ultimately the wand used by Harry was much stronger and led to Voldemort’s death.
Avada Kedavra Trivial and Fun Facts
Voldemort first used this curse at the age of sixteen when he killed his father and grandparents. He may very well have been the youngest wizard to use the killing curse successfully.
Harry Potter survived Avada Kedavra twice. He is the only character to have survived Avada Kedavra in the only two ways possible: protection from love and from a Horcrux. He was also the only one who could describe what it felt like (an ironclad punch) because he had survived it.
For the first three books, Harry Potter would have dreams that involved a flash of green light, but he had no idea exactly how his parents had died, only that Lord Voldemort had killed them. After his class taught by Mad-Eye Moody, he saw the curse used on a spider and had the realization that this was also how his parents had died.
Bellatrix Lestrange teases Harry Potter during the Battle of the Department of Mysteries that in order to use a killing curse, one really has to mean it. Righteous vengeance isn’t enough. Temporary anger isn’t enough either.
That is why when Harry used an unforgivable curse on her, it only knocked her down. Similarly, Barty Crouch, Jr. impersonating Mad-Eye Moody, told the class that were they simultaneously to use Avada Kedavra on him, he would, at most, get a nosebleed because the children weren’t strong enough to use it. As such, when people like Draco Malfoy tried to use it immediately on Harry Potter, it indicates that Draco had used the curse before and that he had the power to mean it.
During the Battle of the Seven Potters, Harry Potter refused to use the killing curse against Death Eaters because he said it made them just as bad as the Death Eaters if they used the same tactics.
This resulted in an argument with Lupin, who pointed out that using the expelliarmus spell was childish and a dead giveaway that he had been the real Harry Potter out of the group. Lupin made it clear that the Death Eaters were aiming to kill, and they had no reservations about using the killing curse; therefore, Harry Potter should have used it. However, Harry Potter maintained his stance against the use of the killing curse and never used it even against Death Eaters.
In Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Lucius Malfoy starts to use Avada Kedavra on Harry Potter after Harry loses Malfoy their house-elf, Dobby. Even though the curse had not been introduced in the films, it was part of the book series, and the actor who played Malfoy was scripted to adlib a curse; Avada Kedavra was the first curse that came to mind.
There is no biological reason behind the death which follows Avada Kedavra. An autopsy does not reveal any damage to the body, just instant organ failure.
The killing curse is the only one of the unforgivable curses Harry never used when fighting death eaters.
Bellatrix Lestrange used Avada Kedavra to kill Sirius Black in the films, although in the books, he is hit with a spell that knocks him through the veil; it is falling through the veil that ultimately leads to his death.
“Avada Kedavra” were the last words Voldemort said before he died.
This is the only unforgivable curse that does not have a Latin origin but an Aramaic one.
Avada Kedavra Appearances in Books
Avada Kedavra appears in the following books:
- Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone
- Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
- Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
Avada Kedavra Appearances in Films
Avada Kedavra appears in the following films:
- Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
- Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
- Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2
Quotes About Avada Kedavra
A description of it from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire when Mad-Eye Moody demonstrates Avada Kedavra:
“There was a flash of blinding green light and a rushing sound, as though a vast, invisible something was soaring through the air — instantaneously the spider rolled over onto its back, unmarked, but unmistakably dead.”
Mad-Eye Moody explaining the prevention against it:
“Not nice, Not pleasant. And there’s no countercurse. There’s no blocking it. Only one known person has ever survived it, and he’s sitting right in front of me.”
Also explaining the amount of skill and power required to use it:
“Avada Kedavra’s a curse that needs a powerful bit of magic behind it — you could all get your wands out and point them at me and say the words, and I doubt I’d get so much as a nosebleed.”
Harry Potter realizing how his parents had died:
“So that was how his parents had died… exactly like that spider. Had they been unblemished and unmarked too? Had they simply seen the flash of green light and heard the rush of speeding death, before life was wiped from their bodies?”
Voldemort using Avada Kedavra recklessly in anger:
“The Elder Wand slashed through the air and green light erupted through the room; the kneeling goblin rolled over, dead; the watching wizards scattered before him, terrified: Bellatrix and Lucius Malfoy threw others behind them in their race for the door, and again and again his wand fell, and those who were left were slain, all of them, for bringing him this news, for hearing about the golden cup — “
Answer: Avada Kedavra is an unforgivable curse which means to cause instant and painless death to a creature or person without leaving any trace of violence on the bodies.
Answer: Avada Kedavra is the hardest to perform. It is very advanced magic. It is the hardest to perform because it requires magical skill, nerve, and intention. The user has to truly intend to kill their victim.
Answer: Arguably you need a great deal of skill and nerve as well as magical ability to use this spell correctly. Trying to use the killing curse without really meaning to kill your victim will not work. However, one does not have to be a bad person to use it successfully.
When Snape used it to kill Dumbledore, he had the skill and nerve, as well as the pure intention to kill Dumbledore. However, that pure intention came from a good place which was helping a friend who is already dying and saving not only that friend from a painful, drawn-out and embarrassing death at the hands of Death Eaters, but saving the soul of a still somewhat innocent child, Draco Malfoy.
Answer: The root of “Avada Kedavra” is Aramaic and comes from “abracadabra”, a phrase featured in Aladdin-based books and films, as well as magic-based books and films. The phrase means “let the thing be destroyed”. An even older version of the phrase is “avra kehdabra”, also Aramaic, meaning “I will create as I speak”.
Answer: Harry does not. He does try to use an unforgivable curse on Bellatrix Lestrange, but he uses Crucio and Imperius. He uses the imperius curse when breaking into Gringotts Bank in order to steal a horcrux, so even though he uses an unforgivable curse, he does so for legitimate reasons.
This is very similar to how aurors were allowed to use unforgivable curses during the first Wizarding War for legitimate reasons as well. He used crucio when he was protecting the students at Hogwarts against the Carrows and that was the first time he noted how he finally understood what Bellatrix Lestrange meant when she informed him that you really had to mean it in order to use an unforgivable curse, because he truly meant to do harm to the Carrows for spitting in Professor Mcgonagall’s face and hurting the students. Harry regularly uses expelliarmus against Avada Kedavra, particularly when battling Voldemort.
Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. New York: Scholastic, 1999. Print.
Rowling, J. K. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. New York: Scholastic, Inc., 2000.
Rowling, J. K. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. New York: Arthur A. Levine Books, 1999.
Rowling, J. K. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. New York: Scholastic, 2002.
Rowling, J. K. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. New York: Listening Library, 2003.
Rowling, J. K. (2010). Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. London: Bloomsbury. Chicago (Author-Date, 15th ed.) Rowling, J. K. 2010.
Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. New York: Arthur A. Levine Books, 2007.