Nicholas de Mimsy-Porpington

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Nicholas de Mimsy-Porpington
Nicholas de Mimsy-Porpington.PNG
Biographical information

Great Britain or Ireland[1]


31 October, 1492[2]

Blood status

Muggle-born (possibly)[3]

Also known as
  • Nearly Headless Nick[4]
  • Sir Nicholas (preferred)
  • Nick[2]


Physical information


Hair colour


Skin colour


Family information
Magical characteristics

Unknown length, wood and core materials[6]


Gryffindor House Ghost[4]



I haven't eaten for nearly five hundred years. I don't need to, of course, but one does miss it. I don't think I've introduced myself? Sir Nicholas de Mimsy-Porpington at your service. Resident ghost of Gryffindor Tower.

–Sir Nicholas greets the Gryffindor first-years in 1991., Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone

Sir Nicholas de Mimsy-Porpington, known after his death as Nearly Headless Nick, (d. 31 October, 1492) was a wizard who attended Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and was Sorted into Gryffindor House. He was a wizard of the royal court as an adult. He was executed by an improper decapitation, after he had a magical mishap with Lady Grieve, in which he tried to straighten her teeth but it backfired and she grew tusks. Since then, he is the resident ghost of Gryffindor Tower at the Hogwarts Castle.


Early life[edit]

I hope I, Sir Nicholas de Mimsy-Porpington, have never been guilty of cowardice in my life! The noble blood that runs in my veins —

–Sir Nicholas relays some information on his past., The Tales of Beedle the Bard

Little is known about Sir Nicholas's childhood. He lived in the fifteenth century and was born into the noble Mimsy-Porpington family[8] somewhere in the British Isles.[4]

When he turned eleven, Nicholas attended Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, where he was Sorted into Gryffindor.[7] It is unknown at which subjects he excelled in, but he was apparently poor at Transfiguration.[9]

In his adulthood, Sir Nicholas openly associated with Muggles. He was knighted and was a courtier at King Henry VII's royal court.[6]


It was a mistake any wizard could make / Who was tired and caught on the hop / One piffling error, and then, to my terror, / I found myself facing the chop.

A self-penned ballad relaying Sir Nicholas's death., J. K. Rowling Official Site

Sir Nicholas met Lady Grieve while strolling in the park on the evening of 30 October, 1492. She was certain he could straighten her crooked teeth, but his attempt to do so backfired, causing her to grow a tusk.[9]

Sir Nicholas was immediately taken into custody and sentenced to death as a result of this mistake. Before being locked in a dungeon, his wand was taken from him, thus preventing him from using magic to escape.[6] Throughout the night he cried that he would soon undo the damage done to Lady Grieve.[9]

A priest came to Sir Nicholas's cell to comfort him and escort him to the execution site at dawn the following day. He became a "gibbering wreck" when the executioner told him to kneel before the block. However, the executioner's axe was blunt, as the grindstone used to sharpen it had been misplaced. Thus, it took forty-five hacks to kill Sir Nicholas, and even then his head was only partially severed.[9]


I was afraid of death. I chose to remain behind. I sometimes wonder whether I oughtn't to have… well, that is neither here nor there… in fact, I am neither here nor there… I know nothing of the secrets of death, Harry, for I chose my feeble imitation of life instead.

–Sir Nicholas tells Harry Potter of how he chose to remain among the living after his death., Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Sir Nicholas chose to linger as a ghost rather than "go on", because, by his own admission, he feared death.[10] He became the resident ghost of Gryffindor Tower at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.[4] "Nearly Headless Nick", as he was called by the majority of the student body, was always happy to point new Gryffindors in the right direction when late to class.[11]

1991—1992 school year[edit]

So — new Gryffindors! I hope you're going to help us win the house championship this year? Gryffindors have never gone so long without winning. Slytherins have got the cup six years in a row! The Bloody Baron's becoming almost unbearable — he's the Slytherin ghost.

–Nicholas de Mimsy-Porpington during the 1991 Start-of-Term Feast., Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone

On 1 September, 1991, Sir Nicholas, the Fat Friar and the other ghosts had an argument on whether Peeves should be allowed to attend the Start-of-Term Feast or not. Sir Nicholas was of the opinion that the poltergeist gave the ghosts a bad name with his misdoings, while the Friar wanted to "forgive and forget". During this discussion, the ghosts passed through the Chamber of Reception, in which the first years were waiting for the start of the Sorting ceremony. Sir Nicholas was surprised to see the newcomers.[4]

At the feast, Sir Nicholas sat opposite Harry Potter and patted his arm when the latter was Sorted into Gryffindor. He later introduced himself, and showed the result of his botched beaheading, his chopped neck, when Seamus Finnigan wondered how could someone be Nearly Headless.[4]

Later in the year, Sir Nicholas told the Grey Lady how Harry Potter was made Seeker of Gryffindor.[12]

1992—1993 school year[edit]

Half an inch of skin and sinew holding my neck on, Harry! Most people would think that's good as beheaded, but oh, no, it's not enough for Sir Properly Decapitated-Podmore.

–Nick bitter at his rejection by the Headless Hunt, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

In 1992, Sir Nicholas tried to join for the Headless Hunt, although his application was denied by Sir Patrick Delaney-Podmore, who only accepted huntsmen "whose heads have parted company with their bodies". Nick was embittered that "half an inch of skin and sinew" connecting his head and neck was not good enough to qualify as "beheaded".[2]

After Harry Potter returned to the Castle after a rainy Quidditch practice on 24 October, 1992, Argus Filch took him to his office in order to fill in a write-up in which Filch accused Harry of "befouling the castle" with mud. Sir Nicholas convinced Peeves to smash the school's Vanishing Cabinet over the office as a distraction. Nicholas later invited Harry Potter to his upcoming five-hundredth Deathday Party, in order to try and convince Sir Patrick to let his join the Headless Hunt.[2]

In the evening of 31 October, Harry Potter, Ronald Weasley and Hermione Granger went to Sir Nicholas's Deathday Party. Sir Nicholas greeted the attendees at the entrance of the dungeon in which the party was held. The Headless Hunt arrived at the party at the time for Sir Nicholas speech, and became the centre of attention, as they began a match of Head Hockey leaving the embittered host ignored.[2] Later that same evening, a message was left on one of the Castle's walls, announcing the opening of the Chamber of Secrets and Mrs. Norris, Argus Filch's cat was Petrified.[2][13]

Later in the year, on 18 December, 1992, Sir Nicholas was Petrified on one of the Castle's corridors, along with Justin Finch-Fletchley.[14] Sir Nicholas saved Justin's life by taking the brunt of the Basilisk's otherwise-lethal gaze, with Justin seeing the basilisk through Nick rather than being directly exposed to its vision; Nick received the full blast of its power, but as a ghost it was naturally impossible for him to die again.[15] Justin was carried up to the hospital wing by Professor Flitwick and Professor Sinistra, but nobody seemed to know what to do for Sir Nicholas. In the end, Professor McGonagall conjured a large fan and gave it to Ernie Macmillan with instructions to waft the ghost up the stairs.[14]

By the end of the year, Professor Sprout's Mandrakes had fully matured, and were used to make a Mandrake Restorative Draught which was aministred to revive all those who had been Petrified, including Sir Nicholas.[16]

1993—1994 school year[edit]

The feast finished with an entertainment provided by the Hogwarts ghosts. They popped out of the walls and tables to do a bit of formation gliding; Nearly Headless Nick, the Gryffindor ghost, had a great success with a reenactment of his own botched beheading.

–Description., Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

During the Halloween feast on 31 October, 1993, the school ghosts provided the entertainment, as they did a bit of formation gliding. On his five-hundred and first Deathday, Sir Nicholas hosted a reenactment of his own beheading, which was deemed a success.

1994—1995 school year[edit]

Nicholas de Mimsy-Porpington: "You're lucky there's a feast at all tonight, you know. There was trouble in the kitchens earlier."
Harry Potter: "Why? Wha' 'appened?"
Nicholas de Mimsy-Porpington: "Peeves, of course. The usual argument, you know. He wanted to attend the feast — well, it's quite out of the question, you know what he's like, utterly uncivilized, can't see a plate of food without throwing it. We held a ghost's council — the Fat Friar was all for giving him the chance — but most wisely, in my opinion, the Bloody Baron put his foot down."
— Nicholas de Mimsy-Porpington tells Harry Potter, Ronald Weasley and Hermione Granger of the ghost council about Peeves.[src]

In the afternoon of 1 September, 1994, the Hogwarts ghosts gathered to decide whether Peeves should be allowed to attend the Start-of-Term Feast. The Fat Friar wanted to give him another chance, but both Sir Nicholas and the Bloody Baron decided against it. As a result, Peeves wreaked havoc in the kitchens, spilling soup all over the place and scattering pots and pans everywhere. At the Start-of-Term Feast, Sir Nicholas let this incident slip at the Gryffindor table, shocking Hermione Granger that "slave labour" made their dinner.[17]

1995—1996 school year[edit]

By 1995, there was a tetraptych of Sir Nicholas hung in the Suspension Bridge entrance.[18]

At the Start-of-Term Feast in 1995, Harry Potter, Ronald Weasley, Hermione Granger and Neville Longbottom found seats together about halfway down the table, between Sir Nicholas and Parvati Patil and Lavender Brown. As the Sorting Hat sung a song warning students to stand together, Sir Nicholas told them that the Hat gave warnings at times when it detects periods of great danger for the school and that peaceful cooperation between the Houses is the key. Ron ended up saying Sir Nicholas was terrified of the Bloody Baron, annoying the ghost.[8]

A week later, on 7 September, Sir Nicholas looked for the Bloody Baron to see if he could dissuade Peeves from dropping a bust of Paracelsus on top of anyone who passed the corridor in which the bust stood.[19]

On 20 November, 1995, Harry Potter, Ronald Weasley and Hermione Granger, while on their way to visit Rubeus Hagrid after his return, crossed paths with Sir Nicholas, who was gliding along absent-mindedly humming something that sounded like Weasley is Our King.[20]

After Sirius Black, Harry Potter's godfather, was killed at the hands of Bellatrix Lestrange during the Battle of the Department of Mysteries on 18 June, 1996, Harry asked Sir Nicholas if he could return as a ghost. Sir Nicholas explained to him that only a wizard afraid of death might choose to become a ghost, and that a person like Sirius would not do something like that. Nicholas apologises that he cannot be of more help to Harry and departs for the End-of-Term Feast.[10]

1996—1997 school year[edit]

Nicholas de Mimsy-Porpington: "There has been much talk on that very subject even amongst the ghosts. I am considered something of a Potter authority; it is widely known that we are friendly. I have assured the spirit community that I will not pester you for information, however. 'Harry Potter knows that he can confide in me with complete confidence,' I told them. 'I would rather die than betray his trust.' "
Ronald Weasley: "That's not saying much, seeing as you're already dead."
Nicholas de Mimsy-Porpington: "Once again, you show all the sensitivity of a blunt axe."
— Sir Nicholas to Harry Potter during the Start-of-Term Feast in 1996.[src]

With the rumours of Harry Potter's status as the 'Chosen One' following the Battle of the Department of Mysteries, Sir Nicholas noted during the Start-of-Term Feast, on 1 September, 1996, that his friendship with Harry had increased his own reputation among the other ghosts as a possible source of information. However, Nicholas openly stated his loyalty to Harry, and his refusal to pester him for information.[21]

On the early hours of 22 April, 1997, the Bloody Baron saw Albus Dumbledore return to the Castle from one of his missions to find Lord Voldemort's Horcruxes, and reported it to Nicholas de Mimsy-Porpington. Sir Nicholas later told this to Harry Potter.[22]

Albus Dumbledore, Headmaster of Hogwarts, was killed at the hands of Severus Snape in the former's plan on 30 June, 1997.[23] The Hogwarts ghosts were known attendees of his funeral in early July; this likely included Sir Nicholas.[24]

1997—1998 school year[edit]

On 1 August, 1997 the Ministry of Magic was taken over by Lord Voldemort's Death Eaters.[25] By 1 September, 1997, Severus Snape was made Headmaster of Hogwarts while his fellow Death Eaters, Alecto Carrow and Amycus Carrow became the Muggle Studies and Defence Against the Dark Arts teachers respectively.[26]

The Carrows were put in charge of all discipline and punishments, which were violent. It is likely that Sir Nicholas, as did the Heads of House, tried to protect the pupils from Alecto and Amycus.[27]

On 2 May, 1998, the Battle of Hogwarts ensued after Lord Voldemort learned Harry Potter was in the premises. The ghosts, including Sir Nicholas, attended a gathering in the Great Hall, in which Professor McGonagall gave instructions on evacuation of underage students and Kingsley Shacklebolt organised the participants for battle. Harry Potter, needing information on the whereabouts of Rowena Ravenclaw's Diadem, asked Nick who the ghost of Ravenclaw Tower was. Although he was initially slightly hurt that Harry needed another ghost rather than him, he pointed her to him.[28] Later on, the ghosts gathered at the Great Hall, joining the mass mourning over the fallen.[26]

When the Second Wizarding War comes to an end, it is possible that the ghosts (including Sir Nicholas) celebrated Harry's victory and Voldemort's demise.

Physical appearance[edit]

Pearly white and semitransparent, Nick was dressed tonight in his usual doublet, but with a particularly large ruff, which served the dual purpose of looking extra-festive, and insuring that his head didn't wobble too much on his partially severed neck.

–Description., Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

As a ghost, Sir Nicholas was pearly-white and slightly transparent.[4] He had long curly hair.[2] He would usually sport a ruff, which would ensure his partially severed head stayed in place,[2] as well as tights,[4] a pair of breeches,[5] a doublet[17] or, occasionally, a tunic.[2] He had a preference for extravagant plumed hats.[2][10] He also sported a small moustache and goatee.[5] He carried himself in a prim fashion[8] and spoke in an airy,[2] delicate tone.[4]

Personality and traits[edit]

Ronald Weasley: "I know who you are! My brothers told me about you — you're Nearly Headless Nick!"
Nicholas de Mimsy-Porpington: "I would prefer you to call me Sir Nicholas de Mimsy —"
Seamus Finnigan: " Nearly Headless? How can you be nearly headless?"
Nicholas de Mimsy-Porpington: "Like this."
— Sir Nicholas shows the Gryffindor first-years his poorly chopped neck.[src]

Sir Nicholas is affable, kind and always willing to lend a hand to Harry and other fellow Gryffindors whenever they need it.[11] Nicholas apparently enjoyed eating during his lifetime, as after his death he spent the feasts at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry looking wistfully at the food. [8] Sir Nicholas was polite and delicate, staying away from potentially indiscreet questions[11] and sensible about the fact that he was no longer living.[8][21] Nicholas showed interest in the lives of the students at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and took delight in showing off his wound to the dismay of those around him.[11] He was very proud about his bravery and noble heritage, getting easily offended if anyone referred to him as a coward.[8] He was very sociable, being friends with the Grey Lady[12], Harry Potter,[2] and a number of other ghosts who attended his five-hundredth Deathday Party.[2] He also had a cordial relationship with the Bloody Baron[8] and Sir Patrick Delaney-Podmore.[2]


Nicholas is from the Greek Nikolaos, "victory of the people." Nick is a jokey, ironic nickname and pun -- one definition of nick is "to cut slightly," and he received more than just a little cut when he was beheaded. Sir indicates he was knighted by a British monarch when he was alive. Porpington is a name Rowling made up and is closest to porpentine, an obsolete name for a porcupine. "Like quills upon the fretful porpentine...": From Shakespeare's Hamlet. Nick can be a prickly-tempered person at times. Mimsy may have come from the same word coined by Alice in Wonderland author Lewis Carroll. It appears in his nonsense poem "The Jabberwocky": "All mimsy were the borogoves..."

Behind the scenes[edit]

  • In the film adaptations of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Nearly Headless Nick is played by John Cleese.
  • In the Welsh translation, Nicholas is called "Syr Goronwy ap Gwallter", which literally translated as "Sir Goronwy son of Gwallter", commonly Anglicised as "Walter".
  • Sir Nicholas was originally planned to also appear in the film adaptation of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix in a film adaptation of the scene where he discusses, with Harry, the likelihood of Sirius Black returning as a ghost. This scene, however, was ultimately removed due to time constraints.
  • In Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Nick says he had not eaten in nearly 400 years; however, he had, at the time, already been dead for nearly 500 years. In later editions this was changed to "in nearly five hundred years".
  • It should be noted that Sir Nicholas's clothes do not match the time period he's said to be from. The ruff, doublet and breeches did not come into fashion until the sixteenth century and are mostly associated with the reign of Elizabeth I. This would be more consistent with earlier versions of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone in which Sir Nicholas claims to have been dead for four hundred years.
  • The Harry Potter time-line is originally based upon Nick's death-day party in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Having died in 1492, and celebrating his 500th death day, this ostensibly places the novels in the early to mid 1990s. The timeline was later reinforced in Deathly Hallows on James and Lily Potter's graves.
  • In the first draft of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Nick sang a self-penned ballad explaining how his head had (nearly) come off. There was a priest who comforted him.
  • While most of the Hogwarts students call him "Nearly Headless Nick", he prefers the more formal "Sir Nicholas de Mimsy Porpington" or "Sir Nicholas". Harry, however, also calls him Nick.
  • Although Nick claims that he has never been guilty of cowardice in his life, he also claims to have broken down sobbing when they told him that he would die.
  • He also admits to not being as brave as Sirius Black; Nick chose to become a ghost because he feared death, but Sirius would have "gone on" in Nick's own words.
  • It is unknown as to how he recovered from petrification by the Basilisk since he is unable to drink potions.
  • Professor Dumbledore explains in his notes on "The Wizard and the Hopping Pot" that muggle executions of wizards such as Sir Nicholas are rarely successful, given that wizards can magically protect themselves and escape. Sir Nicholas had his wand taken away, however, and was unable to leave his dungeon cell.
  • In the PS1 versions of the first two video games he is seen wearing a high hat, and his head constantly falls off to the side.
  • In the German translation of the second game (PS1 version), Nicholas states that it is his 150th deathday. Which would incorrectly place his death in 1842.
  • Sir Nicholas was the first ghost named in the series.


Notes and references[edit]

  1. [1]
  2. 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 2.11 2.12 2.13 Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets - Chapter 8 (The Deathday Party)
  3. It is possible Nick was Muggle-born due to him being petrified by the Basilisk.
  4. 4.00 4.01 4.02 4.03 4.04 4.05 4.06 4.07 4.08 4.09 4.10 4.11 4.12 4.13 4.14 Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone - Chapter 7 (The Sorting Hat)
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone - Chapter 13 (Nick and Other Residents)
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 The Tales of Beedle the Bard - Albus Dumbledore on "The Wizard and the Hopping Pot"
  7. 7.0 7.1 "If a teacher is head of a house, can we assume that they were sorted into those houses when they were students at Hogwarts? Is that also true for the house ghosts? So was Snape a Slytherin?" on J.K.Rowling Official Site
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 8.4 8.5 8.6 Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix - Chapter 11 (The Sorting Hat's New Song)
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 Extra Stuff - "Nearly Headless Nick" on J.K.Rowling Official Site
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix - Chapter 38 (The Second War Begins)
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 11.3 Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone - Chapter 8 (The Potions Master)
  12. 12.0 12.1 Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (film) - Chapter 15 (New Seeker)
  13. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets - Chapter 9 (The Writing on the Wall)
  14. 14.0 14.1 Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets - Chapter 11 (The Dueling Club)
  15. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets - Chapter 16 (The Chamber of Secrets)
  16. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets - Chapter 18 (Dobby's Reward)
  17. 17.0 17.1 Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire - Chapter 12 (The Triwizard Tournament)
  18. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (video game)
  19. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix - Chapter 14 (Percy and Padfoot)
  20. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix - Chapter 20 (Hagrid's Tale)
  21. 21.0 21.1 Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince - Chapter 8 (Snape Victorious)
  22. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince - Chapter 23 (Horcruxes)
  23. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince - Chapter 27 (The Lightning-Struck Tower)
  24. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince - Chapter 30 (The White Tomb)
  25. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Chapter 8 (The Wedding)
  26. 26.0 26.1 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Chapter 12 (Magic is Might) Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "DH12" defined multiple times with different content
  27. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Chapter 29 (The Lost Diadem)
  28. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Chapter 31 (The Battle of Hogwarts)

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