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Harry Potter houses - all the secrets of the Sorting Hat explained

The Sorting Hat is one of the most important items for any Harry Potter student. But it's worth knowing more about the Harry Potter houses and that magic hat.

Harry Potter houses explained - Gryffindor, Slytherin, Ravenclaw, and Hufflepuff

What are the four Harry Potter houses at Hogwarts? It’s the most important question that any Harry Potter fan wants to answer: which house would you be in at Hogwarts? In fact, when the Potter fan site Pottermore was launched, the Sorting Ceremony was every user’s first port of call.

The Harry Potter franchise uses the Hogwarts houses as a bit of a shorthand for how much you should like the best Harry Potter characters. If a member of the Harry Potter cast ends up in the dreaded Slytherin, for example, then you can expect them to do something awful. However, if someone wears the red of Gryffindor, they’re a hero you’ll be rooting for throughout the Harry Potter movies in order. At least, as long as their name isn’t Peter Pettigrew.

So let’s delve a little deeper into the Harry Potter houses and find out what they have to teach us about the best movies in the series. Grab that copy of Hogwarts: A History to learn more about the four school founders and how their teachings shaped generation upon generation of magical kiddies.

What are the houses in Harry Potter?

Hogwarts School in Harry Potter has four houses. Students end up in one of the four based on their personality traits. The houses are Gryffindor, Slytherin, Ravenclaw, and Hufflepuff.

The first thing that new Hogwarts students do when they arrive at the castle is to line up in the Great Hall for the Sorting Ceremony. In front of the entire school, they wear the Sorting Hat for as long as it takes the magical object to decide which house would best suit them.

Harry Potter houses explained - Sorting Hat

Sometimes, it’s a speedy process. The hat had barely touched Draco Malfoy’s head before he was placed in Slytherin, for example, and it didn’t take long for Ron Weasley to be sorted in Gryffindor with the rest of his family.

However, there are more difficult cases. When Harry Potter himself was sorted, he had a full dialog with the hat after it suggested that he could be “great” in Slytherin. Harry pleaded that he wouldn’t be placed in the house he had just learned was home to all of the best Harry Potter villains and the hat took his preference into account. What an accommodating piece of headwear.

The four Harry Potter houses are:

  • Gryffindor
  • Slytherin
  • Ravenclaw
  • Hufflepuff
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How does the Sorting Hat know which house students belong in?

The Sorting Hat uses Legilimency to look inside the minds of new Hogwarts students to see which house’s traits they most closely align with.

The hat, despite its shabby appearance, is a very powerful magical object that can see deep into the minds of students when it is placed on their heads. It takes multiple factors into account and arguably knows kids better than they know themselves.

For example, it knew to put Neville Longbottom into Gryffindor, despite his nervousness and aptitude for Herbology suggesting he was a more natural Hufflepuff. By the end of the first movie, Neville’s bravery had been proven and, in Deathly Hallows, he showed his true Gryffindor status by withdrawing Godric Gryffindor’s sword from the Sorting Hat.

Dumbledore himself pondered whether the Sorting Ceremony took place too early, but it seems that even he under-estimated the hat’s capabilities and wisdom.

Harry Potter houses explained - Gryffindor

Gryffindor in Harry Potter explained

Gryffindor students in Harry Potter are defined by their bravery with many of the best Harry Potter characters ending up here, including all three members of the main trio.

In the Sorting Hat’s monologue in the book version of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, it explains that Gryffindor is home to “the brave at heart” who display “daring, nerve, and chivalry”. It’s little surprise then that most of our heroes come from this house.

Godric Gryffindor founded the house and, in fact, it’s his hat that was enchanted and became the Sorting Hat. That’s why Gryffindor’s sword can be extracted from the hat by a true Gryffindor in their time of need.

Best Harry Potter characters from Gryffindor:

  • Harry Potter
  • Ron Weasley
  • Hermione Granger
  • Neville Longbottom
  • Ginny Weasley
  • Albus Dumbledore
  • Sirius Black
  • Lily and James Potter
  • Minerva McGonagall
  • Rubeus Hagrid

Harry Potter houses explained - Slytherin

Slytherin in Harry Potter explained

Slytherin House prizes students for their cunning and ambition. Unfortunately, this means that more or less every dark witch or wizard in history started off in Slytherin, including Voldemort himself.

Salazar Slytherin had a major row with the other three Hogwarts founders over his desire to prevent Muggle-born witches and wizards from studying at Hogwarts. In response, he constructed the hidden Chamber of Secrets, concealed a massive killer snake inside it, and fled into the night. Not a nice dude.

In the Sorting Hat’s monologue, it describes Slytherin pupils as “cunning folk [who] use any means to achieve their ends”. Slytherin has been home to dozens of dark magic users over the years, but has also yielded heroes such as Severus Snape and Regulus Black. We probably can’t ever forgive the house for Voldemort though.

Best Harry Potter characters from Slytherin:

  • Lord Voldemort
  • Severus Snape
  • Draco Malfoy
  • Lucius Malfoy
  • Vincent Crabbe
  • Gregory Goyle
  • Bellatrix Lestrange
  • Dolores Umbridge
  • Regulus Black
  • Horace Slughorn

Harry Potter houses explained - Ravenclaw

Ravenclaw in Harry Potter explained

Ravenclaw is home to the smartest students, who prize wit and learning above all other things. Luna Lovegood and Cho Chang are among the most prominent Ravenclaw pupils we meet.

Guided by the idea that “wit beyond measure is man’s greatest treasure”, Rowena Ravenclaw sounds like the best of the Hogwarts founders to be honest. She was a big fan of cleverness and creativity, while at least two of the other founders were waving swords and wands around. Now now, no sniggering at the back.

The Sorting Hat says Ravenclaw students are “those of wit and learning” who have “a ready mind”. That explains Luna Lovegood‘s presence, but it doesn’t come close to explaining why Gilderoy Lockhart wore the blue robes. The man’s a complete buffoon!

Best Harry Potter characters from Ravenclaw:

  • Luna Lovegood
  • Cho Chang
  • Gilderoy Lockhart
  • Filius Flitwick
  • Ollivander
  • Professor Quirrell
  • Moaning Myrtle
  • Xenophilius Lovegood
  • Sybill Trelawney
  • Padma Patil

Harry Potter houses explained - Hufflepuff

Hufflepuff in Harry Potter explained

Hufflepuff is traditionally the least desirable of the Hogwarts houses, but chooses pupils based on their politeness and loyalty. Cedric Diggory and Fantastic Beasts protagonist Newt Scamander both came from Hufflepuff. 

Ah, poor Hufflepuff. We think they get an unfairly lame reputation, though we promise that’s not just because this writer is a Hufflepuff on Pottermore. The Sorting Hat describes Hufflepuffs as “just and loyal”, as well as “patient”, which isn’t perhaps the sexiest trait of them all. It’s almost as if they cast Robert Pattinson as Cedric Diggory just to offset that and give the house some sex appeal.

Helga Hufflepuff, the house’s founder, was happy to welcome all pupils to the school, while the three other founders had their favorites and preferences. She also gave something truly great to Hogwarts, though, as her food-related magical flair inspired many of the school’s recipes. Those feasts do look delicious. Thanks Helga!

Best Harry Potter characters from Hufflepuff:

  • Cedric Diggory
  • Newt Scamander
  • Nymphadora Tonks
  • Pomona Sprout
  • Justin Finch-Fletchley
  • Zacharias Smith
  • Susan Bones
  • Theseus Scamander

Harry Potter houses explained - Hermione Granger at the Sorting Ceremony

If that’s not enough Potter, find out why the most heart-breaking Harry Potter scene isn’t in the movies and learn why we still can’t forgive the Harry Potter finale for one book change. We’ve also rounded up the best Harry Potter spells and unearthed fascinating facts about Hagrid and Sirius Black.

As for new movies, we’ve got you covered. Learn more about the Fantastic Beasts 4 release date and the Harry Potter and the Cursed Child release date, as well as the Harry Potter TV series release date. And for more fantasy thrills, learn about House of the Dragon season 2.

The creator of the Harry Potter series, JK Rowling, has made a number of transphobic remarks on social media in recent years. If you’d like to learn more about transgender equality or lend your support, here are two charities we encourage you to visit: the National Center for Transgender Equality in the US and Mermaids in the UK.