When she gave actual prophecies, Sybill Trelawney had a completely different "persona," not remembering what she said afterwards. Was she named after "the" Sybil (the one known for multiple personality disorder)?

  • Why the downvotes on this? Commented Jan 4, 2018 at 13:03
  • 1
    I have apparently upvoted, but I'd actually like to downvote this question for its seeming ignorance of the meaning of the word "sibyl". After seeing the title, I was very surprised to find that by "the Sybil" you mean a character in a book from the 1970s, when looking up "sybil" in a dictionary would give you the much more natural answer here.
    – Rand al'Thor
    Commented Jul 3, 2019 at 17:10
  • @Randal'Thor It honestly never occurred to me to even look there - it's kind of unusual for names to appear in the dictionary, so I don't think that the fact that I didn't think of that represents a lack of research effort on my part in this case. Commented Jul 3, 2019 at 17:49

1 Answer 1


JKR has stated this:

Sybill's first name is a homonym of 'Sibyl', which was a female clairvoyant in ancient times. My American editor wanted me to use 'Sibyl', but I preferred my version, because while it keeps the reference to the august clairvoyants of old, it is really no more than a variant the [sic] unfashionable female name 'Sybil'. Professor Trelawney, I felt, did not really qualify as a 'Sibyl'.

Going to the Wikipedia page for 'Sibyl', we see this:

The sibyls were women that the ancient Greeks believed were oracles. The earliest sibyls, according to legend, prophesied at holy sites. Their prophecies were influenced by divine inspiration from a deity; originally at Delphi and Pessinos, the deities were chthonic deities. In Late Antiquity, various writers attested to the existence of sibyls in Greece, Italy, the Levant, and Asia Minor.

So - no, she wasn't named after Sybil Dorsett; she was named after the sibyls of legend.

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