'As to our second new appointment,' Dumbledore continued, as the lukewarm applause for Professor Lupin died away, 'well, I am sorry to tell you that Professor Kettleburn, our Care of Magical Creatures teacher, retired at the end of last year in order to enjoy more time with his remaining limbs. However, I am delighted to say that his place will be filled by none other than Rubeus Hagrid, ...

I'm wondering if 'limbs' is used to mean its literal meaning or a special meaning. What does it mean exactly? (arms & legs, large branches of a tree, or something else)

-- From Harry Potter - and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Chapter 5.

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    I don't think this should be closed as off-topic. dan has researched the meaning of the word "limb" in the dictionary and is still confused. Although the answer turns out to be the literal one, it still needs some interpretation and a learner of English could reasonably believe that it doesn't just mean arms and legs in this context. – David Richerby Nov 13 at 18:39
up vote 29 down vote accepted

It's the literal meaning.

The joke is that Professor Kettleburn's job was Care of Magical Creatures, but presumably wasn't very good at it as he has lost at least one of his arms or legs, and he's retired before he can lose any more.

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    Another example of this use is the idiom "to risk life and limb", literally meaning to do something dangerous enough that you might die or lose an important part of your body. – Andrew Nov 13 at 14:39
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    To clarify this answer, the word "remaining" in "remaining limbs" indicates that at least one limb has been lost. – Brian Nov 13 at 20:05
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    It's pretty much the same joke as the safety notice occasionally seen in optical labs: "Do not look into laser with remaining eye." – Ross Smith Nov 13 at 21:11
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    @Brian: To slightly extend your clarification, "in order to enjoy more time with his remaining limbs" suggests that he was at risk of losing another limb soon had he continued his job, which suggests a particularly inept caretaker. – Flater Nov 14 at 10:26

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