First Harry Potter Book Was Renamed In The US Because They Didn’t Think Americans Would Understand It

The first 'Harry Potter' book was renamed in the US because they didn't think Americans would understand it.
Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

J.K. Rowling’s first ‘Harry Potter’ book was renamed in the US over fears that Americans wouldn’t understand the title.

The ‘Harry Potter’ books have sold millions of copies all over the world and the stories have been turned into eight blockbuster films starring Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint.

But not everyone was confident in the first book’s success, and that led to a big change in the novel’s original title across the pond.

Related Article: Harry Potter Actor Alan Rickman Slammed Emma Watson’s Acting In His Diary

Related Article: Netflix Cancels Fantasy Series Dubbed ‘X-Rated Harry Potter’ After Just One Season

Prior to the UK release of ‘Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone’ in June 1997, nobody could have predicted the global phenomenon the fantasy series would soon become. 

The book was an immediate commercial success in the UK – but before it hit shelves in the US, publishers felt it required some tweaks.

That meant an overhaul of the title, something Rowling now regrets.

The title was changed in the US as the publisher, Scholastic, feared Americans wouldn’t associate the word ‘philosopher’ with magic.

Instead, Rowling helped come up with a different name.

J.K. Rowling
J.K. Rowling’s first Harry Potter book was renamed in the US over fears that Americans wouldn’t understand the title. Credit: Alamy

“They changed the title but with my consent,” the author explained. 

“To be honest, I wish I hadn’t agreed now, but it was my first book, and I was so grateful that anyone was publishing me I wanted to keep them happy.”

And with that ‘Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone’ became ‘Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone’ for the US market.

It’s easy to see how Rowling and Scholastic came up with the reworked title.

Related Article: Harry Potter Actress Evanna Lynch Had 9-Year Relationship With Her Co-Star

Related Article: Harry Potter Director’s Child Wasn’t Allowed To Speak In The Film Due To J.K. Rowling’s Rule

The official definition of the word ‘philosopher’ is ‘learned in philosophy as an academic discipline’, while a sorcerer is simply a ‘wizard’. 

However, Scholastic’s former chief, Arthur A. Levine, actually wanted to make the title even more obvious. He is reported to have also suggested ‘Harry Potter and the School of Magic’.

Thankfully, Rowling was having none of it.

“Levine noted that he needed a title that said ‘magic’ more overtly to American readers,” Philip W. Errington explains in his bibliography of Rowling’s works.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone.
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone’ became ‘Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone’ for the US market. Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

While Scholastic chief Levine adds: “So the title that I had suggested to me, and which I then turned to Jo, was ‘Harry Potter and the School of Magic’.

“Jo very thoughtfully said, ‘No, that doesn’t feel right to me’.”

Rowling apparently said that there were other ‘objects’ she wanted to feature in the title before eventually settling on ‘Sorcerer’s Stone’. 

Interestingly, the ‘Philosopher’s Stone’ is an actual real-life legend from the Middle Ages.

People believed that it was able to make them immortal. However, the Sorcerer’s Stone is completely made up.

This is probably another reason why Rowling regrets renaming her book.

Do you have a story for us? If so, email us at [email protected]. All contact will be treated in confidence.

Written by Cal Gaunt

Cal is a former content editor at IGV who specialised in writing trending and entertainment news. He previously worked as a news reporter at the Lancashire Telegraph and earned an NCTJ in Sports Journalism.