"Welcome, Patrick," said Nick stiffly.

"Live 'uns!" said Sir Patrick, spotting Harry, Ron and Hermione and giving a huge, fake jump of astonishment, so that his head fell off again (the crowd howled with laughter).

"Live 'uns!" seems to be a contraction of something. I can't find it anywhere. What does it mean?

-- From Harry Potter.


It means "live ones."

It can be a literal phrase (people who are alive), or it can be slang.

In terms of slang, Wiktionary provides three senses in its definition:

1 (idiomatic) Someone who is easily fooled, victimized, or ridiculed.
2 (idiomatic) Someone who is eccentric, nonconformist, or otherwise peculiar.
3 (idiomatic) A person, thing, or situation which is particularly interesting, noteworthy, or urgent.

For example, you might hear, "Oh, we've got a live one!" from a comedian on stage in response to a heckler.

In the short passage you quote, I believe (if memory serves) that the crowd is composed of ghosts, with the trio being the exception. So, in this case, the phrase would be meant literally.

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