Avada Kedavra - What You Should Know About The Killing Curse.

Avada Kedavra - What You Should Know About The Killing Curse.

Learn everything there is to know about one of the deadliest unforgivable curses.

Avada Kedavra is among the most iconic and memorable spells in the Harry Potter universe. As a Potterhead who grew up following the series, you probably have this incantation burned into your skull, much like Harry’s lightning bolt scar

But while you may be aware that Avada Kedavra is a killing curse and among the three unforgivable curses, you must have tons of questions like, where does this curse originate? How does it kill you? Is there really no way to block it? 

Lucky for you, we’ve come up with this comprehensive article to answer all the burning questions you may have about the unforgivable curse. We’ll delve into what the incantation means, where it comes from, how it works and so much more. So, read until the end to learn everything about Avada Kedavra. 

Wands on the ready, let’s start with the most burning question…

What Does Avada Kedavra Actually Mean?

There are actually contradictory meanings to Avada Kedavra depending on where you consider the word stems from. J.K. Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter series, explained that the chant is loosely translated as “disappear from this world” or “let the thing be destroyed”

Rowling claims to have gotten the inspiration from the Aramaic phrase, “Avra Kehdabra” which means “as I speak, so I create”. However, according to CBR,  her interpretation is more closely related to the Chaldean phrase, “Abbada ke Dabra” which means “perish like the word”

While the etymological origin of what Avada Kedavra means is not clear, the fact is that it is a fatal spell chanted with the intention to kill. This is one of the reasons it was considered an unforgivable curse and why whoever in the wizarding world used it was sentenced to life imprisonment in Azkaban. 

Who Created Avada Kedavra?

Incendio Avada Kedavra spell

There was never a mention of who created the killing curse. However,
according to Harry Potter Wiki, the curse was created by dark wizards and witches during the Middle Ages. The intention was to use it as a quick way of eliminating the opponent during a duel. 

Later in 1717, the Wizarding Council became stricter regarding the use of various forms of magic when it reformed into the Ministry of Magic. This was the first time Avada Kedavra was declared one of the three unforgivable curses in the wizarding world across the whole of Great Britain. 

The penalty for using the unforgivable curses on a human was a life sentence in Azkaban. The only exception was if there was enough evidence to prove the caster was under the dark magic influence. 

Even so, there were several occasions where the killing curse was used despite being banned. In 1927, the killing curse was used by the Magical Congress of the United States of America to kill dangerous magical creatures. Avada Kedavra was also used by Aurors and dark wizards who supported Grindelwald, during the Global Wizarding War. 

The curse was even legalized for Aurors during the First Wizarding War to fight against death eaters. It was again legalized for all wizards and witches to use, during the Second Wizarding War, when Lord Voldemort took over the Ministry of Magic with the help of Pius Thickness.. But after Lord Voldemort was finally defeated and the war ended, the killing curse, along with the other unforgivable curses, was once again forbidden. 

How Does Avada Kedavra Kill You?

The killing curse is known to cause a painless and instantaneous death.  After chanting the words Avada Kedavra, a flash of green light shoots out of the caster’s wand with a rushing noise emitted. When the green light hits the person standing they die instantly.

The curse is painless because it does not cause any internal or external injuries. The theory is that the ancient spell kills by disembodying your soul from your body. This theory mainly stems from the Dark Lord’s first experience of the killing curse when he tried to kill Harry. 

Voldemort described the moment as his soul and consciousness being torn from his body. You can further prove this by how Harry’s body was separated from his soul for a brief moment during the Battle of Hogwarts after Voldemort used the Killing Curse on him. 

Harry, however, described his experience as feeling like an iron-clad punch

But for Avada Kedavra to be cast successfully, you need to be exceptionally skilled and determined. In Goblet of Fire, when Bartemius Crouch Jr was disguised as Alastor Moody, he claimed a similar thing. He stated that even if all the students in his class performed the Killing Curse on him at once, they couldn’t give him more than a nosebleed if they lacked the power. 

Aside from being powerful, you also need a genuine deep desire and willingness to kill. This is what Snape meant during the Battle at the Astronomy Tower when he said you need both nerve and the ability to cast unforgivable curses. 

In fact, the most powerful wizards and witches could cast Avada Kedavra without an incantation. A good example is during the Battle of the Department of Mysteries, where Voldemort uses the curse non-verbally several times while dueling Dumbledore. There was also a point when Bellatrix Lestrange killed a fox in the series without chanting Avada Kedavra. 

Is Avada Kedavra The Only Spell That Kills?

Incendio Reading about Avada Kedavra  spell in a book

Avada Kedra is the only mentioned Killing Curse in the entire series, however, it is not the only spell that can be used to kill in the wizarding world. The following are some of the underrated but fatal spells in the Harry Potter Universe that could kill:

Cruciatus Curse

Considered one of the unforgivable curses, the Cruciatus curse may be even more fatal than the Killing curse. This torture spell works by inflicting excruciating and intense pain on the recipient, by chanting the words “Crucio”. While Avada Kedavra kills you instantly and painlessly, the Cruciatus Curse will torture you to the point of begging for death. A good example is Neville Longbottom’s parents who died from being tortured by this deadly curse. 

Imperius Curse

At face value, the Imperius Curse may not seem so dangerous but it is one of the unforgivable curses for a reason. By chanting the word “Imperio”, as the caster, you can take control of your victim’s actions. 

This is achieved by putting the victim in a trance-like state and relieving them of any anxiety or responsibility so they become more susceptible to your commands. While Death Eaters used this spell a lot, there is no record of anyone using it to kill. But while under your command, you could easily order the victim to kill themselves or others, which is what makes it so fatal.

Repello Inimicum

When used with Protego Maxima and Fiantu Duri, this spell creates a powerful barrier that instantly disintegrates anyone who tries to get past it. The Hogwarts professors used it to protect the castle during the Battle of Hogwarts. Even though death eaters managed to destroy the barrier, they hesitated to go into Hogwarts until the shield vanished. That’s because they knew a simple touch of the barrier could end their lives.   

Protego Diabolica

The devastating effects of this spell were first seen in Fantastic Beasts, but it is still one of the fatal spells in the Harry Potter franchise. The dark charm works by conjuring up a protective ring of black fire around the caster that can be expanded in any direction. This black fire is used to incinerate your enemies but leave your allies unharmed making it a deadly weapon in a duel.  


A powerful curse that creates a wildfire in the shape of different creatures that kill everything in its path. The only disadvantage is that the flames easily grow out of control making it a deadly spell even for the caster. Vincent Crabbe is a good example of this. In Deathly Hallows 2, he met his demise after performing the Fiendfyre in the Room of Requirements but lacked the power to control it. 


This spell cuts into the flesh of the victim causing them to bleed to death. It’s a slow and painful death and can be considered even crueler than Avada Kedavra. In the Half-Blood Prince, Harry almost killed Draco Malfoy using this spell. Luckily Snape was there to save Malfoy.


Configro, although seemingly harmless, is a spell that produces a fiery explosion that could cause severe injury or even death. Hermione used this spell on Nagini, one of Voldemort’s evil Horcruxes in Godric Hollows. The spell may not have killed Nagini, but the sight of it squirming is proof of how lethal Configro may be when used on someone who wasn’t a Horcrux. 

Get a well-crafted fire-shooting replica of Hermione’s wand and practice the Configro spell today! 

Did Harry Potter Ever Use Avada Kedavra?

Incendio Harry Potter's Magic Wand

Image courtesy of Times Knowledge

Harry never used Avada Kedavra throughout the entire series. Aside from the fact that it was the curse that took his parents' and godfather’s lives, he also had a strong moral stance against murder. 

Even though Voldemort tried killing Harry for various reasons, using Avada Kedavra on many occasions, Harry never once tried to use it against him. During Lord Voldemort’s demise at the Battle of Hogwarts, the Dark Lord was the one who cast the Killing Curse to kill Harry. 

However, because Harry was the true master of the Elder wand, the curse rebounded, instantly killing the Dark Lord and ending the second wizarding war. 

But even though Harry never used the Killing Curse, he was known to use the other two unforgivable curses. He was commonly known for using the Imperius Curse and even used Imperio multiple times during the Gringotts heist. He also used the Cruciatus Curse on Amycus Carrow shortly before the Battle of Hogwarts.

Who Used Avada Kedavra?

Aside from Harry, several good and bad wizards and witches used the Killing curse. The following are the ones commonly known for it:

  • The Dark Lord - Avada Kedavra was known to be his signature move. He used it to kill many people during the First and Second Wizarding Wars, including James Potter and Lily Potter.
  • Bellatrix Lestrange - As a loyal follower of the Dark Lord, it’s no surprise that Bellatrix used the Killing curse on many occasions. Among them was when she killed her cousin Sirius Black  
  • Severus Snape - Unlike his fellow death eaters, Snape only used the Killing Curse on Albus Dumbledore to gain Voldemort’s trust and spy on him. It was a precalculated move that would later ensure Harry’s win in the end. 

What Can Block Avada Kedavra?

Incendio Sacrificial Protection spell being used against  Avada Kedavra

Image courtesy of Rotten Tomatoes

Avada Kedavra is an unblockable killing curse because no spell is known to block it nor are there any counter-curses that can defend against it. However, there have been instances where different characters, especially Harry Potter survived the Killing curse. The methods used in those cases include:

Sacrificial Protection

This is considered to be the most effective way to survive Avada Kedavra. It involves sacrificing your life for another and using the manifestation of the powerful magic of love to defend against the potent curse. When she shielded her son with her body, Lilly Potter’s protection was the sacrifice that blocked the Killing Curse and saved Harry’s life.  

Blood with Sacrificial Protection

This is almost as good as sacrificial protection. That is why the Dark Lord used some of Harry’s blood during his resurrection to reconstruct his body. He did this for himself because he knew the blood contained Lily Potter’s protection. In the end, however, in doing so, Voldemort saved Harry yet again from the Killing Curse. Although Harry’s soul was separated from his body, he was still tethered to life thanks to his blood in Voldemort’s veins. 


This was how the Dark Lord managed to survive the Killing Curse himself. Thanks to the Horcruxes, Voldemort’s soul remained tethered to life, even though his body was killed.  

Although not as effective as sacrificial protection, it is a great preventative measure. But it only works if done before the attack. 

Mastery of the Elder Wand

Another reason Harry survived was because he became the true master of the Elder wand. Because the wand was loyal to its master, it could not kill Harry when the Dark Lord cast the Killing Curse. Instead, it flipped and rebounded the curse, killing Voldemort. Let’s not forget that the wand is also said to be unbeatable in a duel. So get yourself the powerful Elder wand here. 

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