At least some content in this article is derived from information featured in: Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery & Harry Potter: Puzzles & Spells & Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore & Harry Potter: Magic Awakened & Hogwarts Legacy.
Slytherin was one of the four Houses at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, founded by Salazar Slytherin. In establishing the house, Salazar instructed the Sorting Hat to pick students who had a few particular characteristics he most valued. Those characteristics included cunning, resourcefulness, leadership, and ambition.
Many Slytherin students tended to clique together (often acquiring leaders) which further exemplified Slytherin's ambitious qualities. Examples of these included Draco Malfoy's gang, Merula Snyde's gang, Pansy Parkinson's gang and the Death Eaters.
The founder highly valued and favoured pure-blood students and the Sorting Hat admitted that it could be a factor when being sorted. Students of any blood status could be placed in the house. However, a Muggle-born student from that house was considered to be quite rare.
The emblematic animal of the house was a snake and the house's colours were green and silver. There were two notable heads of the house; Horace Slughorn took the role twice (first leaving in 1981 and then taking the role again from 1997 until leaving before 2016), and Severus Snape. The patron ghost of the house was the Bloody Baron.
Slytherin corresponded roughly with the element of water due to serpents being commonly associated with the sea and lochs in western European mythology, as well as serpents being physically fluid and flexible animals. Similarly, in Celtic mythology, water is seen as a portal to another world, leading some to believe that the element was chosen to symbolise a Slytherin's dream for a world in which their goals and ambitions had finally been achieved. Others speculate that it was chosen to symbolise many Slytherins' hope for a pureblood-only wizarding society.
The colours also corresponded with waters around lakes and lochs often being green, and silver being often associated with grey rainwater.
Salazar Slytherin was a pure-blood supremacist and believed half-bloods and, more specifically, Muggleborns to be unworthy of being taught magic. Slytherin's views at the time could have been attributed to the persecution of witches and wizards at the hand of Muggles during that century.
Slytherin's opposition over the idea to allow witches and wizards from half-blood and Muggle-born heritage to enrol at Hogwarts during its foundation created great controversy at the school, and it was the root of a feud between former friends Slytherin and Godric Gryffindor. Slytherin later decided to leave the school when an argument started between him and Gryffindor, and they either duelled or started a civil war between the two houses. Such an argument would be forever known as the origin of the feud between their two houses and also made them the houses that are most competitive.
When Slytherin departed Hogwarts, he would leave behind the Chamber of Secrets with the purpose of an heir opening the chamber one day and unleashing a means to 'protect' the school from those who, in his view, were enemies of magic: Muggle-borns. The chamber was opened twice and the Serpent of Slytherin was killed the second time by Harry Potter in 1992.
Slytherins tended to be ambitious, shrewd, cunning, strong leaders, and achievement-oriented. They also had highly developed senses of self-preservation. This means that Slytherins tended to hesitate before acting, so as to weigh all possible outcomes before deciding exactly what should be done.
According to Albus Dumbledore, the qualities which Salazar valued in the students he had chosen included cleverness, resourcefulness, determination, and "a certain disregard for the rules". Dumbledore noted that all of these were qualities possessed by Harry Potter, who was a Gryffindor but was almost placed in Slytherin.
Slytherins tended to take charge and possessed strong leadership skills. They were often self-assured and confident of their own competence and can be very loyal.
Another characteristic some Slytherins share was a tendency towards deep, unrequited love. Severus Snape and the Bloody Baron held abiding but unreturned feelings for Lily Evans and Helena Ravenclaw, respectively. Although some Slytherins, such as Tom Riddle, were incapable of feeling love at all, those that did were known to cherish their passion abidingly and unconditionally, although often tragically due to an inability to act appropriately on their feelings. Interestingly, Bellatrix Lestrange held feelings for Tom Riddle himself, which was a factor in her fanatical devotion to the Death Eaters; although Lord Voldemort was incapable of loving her in return, the existence of Delphini suggests that there was at least some kind of intimacy between them.
Although Merope Riddle likely never attended Hogwarts and therefore wouldn't have been sorted into Slytherin at all, she was a descendant of Slytherin himself and fit the pattern of those sorted into his house, as she held deep and unreturned feelings for Tom Riddle Snr, who often travelled by her house on his carriage.
- "I always knew Salazar Slytherin was a twisted old loony, but I never knew he started all this pure-blood stuff. I wouldn't be in his house if you paid me. Honestly, if the Sorting Hat had tried to put me in Slytherin, I'd've got the train straight back home..."
- — Ron Weasley expressing his opinions about Slytherin's views[src]
The Sorting Hat claimed that blood purity was a factor in selecting Slytherins. It was not the main factor, but it suggests that the Sorting Hat took into account the lineage of the student as well as traits. Muggle-born Slytherins existed, but were very rare, as noted insultingly by Scabior the Snatcher.
There had also been definite examples of half-bloods sorted into the house, including Tom Riddle, Dolores Umbridge, and Severus Snape. Harry Potter, a half-blood, was nearly sorted into Slytherin, but because he asked not to be, he was placed in Gryffindor instead. Also, pure-bloods were not automatically placed in Slytherin. There had been various examples of pure-bloods sorted into other houses; the Weasley family, Sirius Black, Neville Longbottom, and James Potter were all sorted into Gryffindor house, and Ernie Macmillan was sorted into Hufflepuff.
The concept of blood purity playing a part in picking students for Slytherin house stemmed from the founder Salazar Slytherin, who wanted a stricter policy of admission to the school — one limited strictly to pure-blood students. This was contrary to the wishes of the other founders at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, who wanted to accept students of any blood status.
It is important to note that not every student in Slytherin agreed with the idea of blood purity, but every member would still be affiliated with their founder's reputed views a thousand years later. Since the house would nearly always select students who shared his view for that house, many members would still give that impression of that house during their time at Hogwarts. For example, in December 1992, the password for the common room was "pure-blood".
Slytherin and Gryffindor were generally rivals in Quidditch and for the House Cup, of which the former had won six years in a row prior to Harry Potter's arrival at Hogwarts in 1991. It was also rare for Slytherin and Gryffindor students to be friendly with one another, and was also quite common for them to share animosity. There were exceptions, such as Slytherin Merlin who had a friendship with Gryffindor Sir Cadogan and Slytherin Severus Snape and Gryffindor Lily Evans, who were best friends until Snape's use of the slur "Mudblood", as well as his aspirations to be a Death Eater, caused Lily to sever their ties.
Their rivalry was particularly the case during the First and Second Wizarding Wars. During the second war, no Slytherin student joined the association known as Dumbledore's Army; however, this is likely the fault of Hermione Granger, Ron Weasley, and Harry Potter, who only invited people they trusted, and they were known for not trusting any Slytherin due to the often rivalries they had with people from that house.
There was a terrible tension, rivalry, and dislike among Gryffindors Harry Potter, Hermione Granger, and Ronald Weasley, and Slytherin Draco Malfoy to the point that Hermione even once punched Draco. Also, from the moment Harry and Draco met, they became immediate enemies, which was even before they were sorted into their respective houses.
Slytherin's relationship with the other two houses, Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw, was variable. By the time of Harry Potter's years at Hogwarts, Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw were frustrated at Slytherin's six-year winning streak and readily supported Gryffindor in their efforts to break it, to the extent that they even turned against Harry and his friends when their rule-breaking cost Gryffindor 150 points (and thus the lead) with Slytherin rubbing it in at every opportunity. This persisted generally with Quidditch matches, where Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff supported Gryffindor by default if they were facing Slytherin.
When Harry was named as a Hogwarts Triwizard champion alongside Cedric Diggory of Hufflepuff, the three other houses assumed he was trying to steal Hufflepuff's glory and supported Cedric as the "real" Hogwarts champion, though the Slytherin house may have likely only done this out of spite for Harry rather than any actual support for Cedric. After Cedric's death by Lord Voldemort's hands, the Slytherins joined the rest in toasting his memory but some, like Draco Malfoy, were not actually saddened by his death.
- "There's not a single witch or wizard who went bad who wasn't in Slytherin."
- — Wizarding prejudice against Slytherin House[src]
Slytherin had a well-known reputation for creating Dark Witches and Wizards that many would even say that every Dark Witch or Wizard was actually in Slytherin (it also didn't help that Voldemort himself was in Slytherin too when he was a student at Hogwarts). While it was true that many were in the house, it was untrue to say every single one of them was, as Peter Pettigrew, betrayer of James and Lily, was in Gryffindor and Quirinus Quirrell was in Ravenclaw.
It appeared that reputation had led to an ironic prejudice against the entire house. It is unknown how many Dark Witches and Wizards were from this house before Tom Riddle began recruiting Death Eaters, but many of them came from a family that valued blood purity and would prefer, like Riddle, to be in the house and recruit from there.
In fairer terms, there were many good witches and wizards in the house who opposed the use of the Dark Arts, as well as discrimination based on blood purity, such as Horace Slughorn, Andromeda Tonks, and Leta Lestrange. Andromeda was related to many dark witches and wizards, such as her own sister Bellatrix Lestrange, and brother-in-law Lucius Malfoy, but she chose to forsake the loyalty to her family in favour of marrying the Muggle-born Ted Tonks.
Leta was quite different from the majority of her family with her kind — albeit self-deprecating and bitter — personality, her love for both Newt Scamander and Theseus Scamander, her career ambition without ruthlessness, and her self-sacrificing bravery in the face of Gellert Grindelwald, in stark contrast to the usually compassionate Queenie of house Pukwudgie, who joined Grindelwald rather quickly. Also, the allegiance of Severus Snape was found to ultimately be towards Albus Dumbledore to the point of serving as a triple agent for the Order of the Phoenix, in stark contrast to Peter Pettigrew, the former Gryffindor who became a double agent for the Death Eaters instead. Merlin (of King Arthur fame) was also a Slytherin.
It might also be possible (though quite unlikely) that the Sorting Hat simply sorted anyone with ill intentions into Slytherin, regardless of whether they possessed cunning and ambition, which helped to unfairly give this house a bad name. Vincent Crabbe and Gregory Goyle were both incredibly stupid and did not have clever or cunning minds, but were still sorted into Slytherin. They could have possessed one of the minor traits as even Peter Pettigrew was not placed into Gryffindor for bravery, but for chivalry instead.
It is also likely that Crabbe and Goyle were simply placed there by process of elimination since they exhibited virtually none of the qualities valued by any of the other houses (lacking the work ethic or honesty of Hufflepuff, the academic prowess of Ravenclaw, or the bravery of Gryffindor). The Sorting Hat simply could have taken into account what house they wished to be placed in which, with their family history, was most likely Slytherin.
The behaviour of Slytherin house at the Battle of Hogwarts is also debated. The majority of their members departed Hogwarts before the battle started and a few joined their families in becoming Death Eaters. However, many of them returned to Hogwarts to fight against the Death Eaters and were led back by their Head of House, Horace Slughorn.
The traits of the house were considered obvious examples of people turning toward an ill purpose such as cunning and ambition, but they were not inherently negative. Furthermore, traits from the rest of the houses such as daring, intelligence, and loyalty could also become easily negative.
Another trait that could be seen as a negative one was self-preservation. The idea that many of them seemed to value their own lives more than the lives of others could make them less thought of and trusted, but that was not always the case. Phineas Nigellus Black gave that impression when he saw Harry Potter trying to run away because he was afraid that his presence was putting his friends in danger. He stated that "We Slytherins are brave, yes, but not stupid. For instance, when given the choice, we will always choose to save our own necks".
There were exceptions to this rule, however, such as Snape, who Harry said was a "Slytherin and... probably the bravest man I ever knew", and Regulus Black, who gave his life in an attempt to destroy one of the Horcruxes of Lord Voldemort and told his house-elf Kreacher to save himself and leave.
The truth is that while most Dark Wizards were Slytherins, many members of Slytherin House did not have dark leanings and were even kind and accepting, while smaller groups of Voldemort's supporters were aligned with the other three Houses. During the Battle of Hogwarts, while all of the Slytherin students left the school before the fighting started, several of them did return with Professor Slughorn as reinforcements to join the fight against Lord Voldemort and his Death Eaters, and some decided to fight as a part of Dumbledore's Army.
The Slytherin common room was in the dungeons of Hogwarts Castle and underneath the Black Lake. Because of this, the light in the common room was green. Harry Potter along with Ron Weasley entered the common room in his second year to find out if Draco Malfoy was the one opening the Chamber of Secrets. To enter the Slytherin common room one must merely speak aloud the current password in front of a stretch of a damp stone wall; once the word was uttered a concealed stone door would slide aside leaving a rectangular hole in the wall leading to the Slytherin common room. The only known Slytherin password was "pureblood", used in 1992.
Head of House
Slytherin's Head of House for Harry's first six years of school was Severus Snape; however, as he fled with the Death Eaters in 1997 at the end of Harry's sixth year, Potions Master Horace Slughorn became the head of Slytherin House. Upon Snape's return as Headmaster later that year, he apparently approved of Slughorn's appointment, as he did not assign any Death Eaters as the new Head of House.
Behind the scenes
- The fact that J. K. Rowling intended to place a character named Mafalda, who was the daughter of a Squib and a Muggle, in Slytherin, suggests that Rowling at least does not view the Slytherin House desire for blood-purity as particularly influential upon the Sorting Hat. Also, as Voldemort and Snape are both half-bloods, there seems no reason to suspect a "blood-pure" Slytherin.
- Slytherin students seem to possess a certain skill in Potions. Harry's two Potions masters, Severus Snape and Horace Slughorn, both belonged to the Slytherin house. However, it is possible that this talent in Slytherin students could merely be a coincidence, as students from other houses at Hogwarts also shared this talent, such as Harry Potter's mother, Lily Potter (nee Evans) (whose skills were shown through Slughorn's many references to her skill in the subject throughout most of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince), and Hermione Granger who were both Gryffindors, and Penny Haywood who was in Hufflepuff.
- Slytherin students also seem to be gifted in Occlumency. Most of the known Occlumens in the books come from Slytherin (namely Voldemort, Severus Snape, Bellatrix Lestrange, Draco Malfoy, and Horace Slughorn).
- J. K. Rowling stated in a PotterCast interview that some Slytherins were among the reinforcements brought by Slughorn during the Battle of Hogwarts.
- J. K. Rowling stated that by 2017, Slytherin is no longer the pure-blood bastion that it once was. However, its dark reputation still lingers, hence the reason for Albus Potter's fears.
- It is interesting to note that Slytherin is both the first Hogwarts house mentioned in the series (by Draco Malfoy), as well as the last mentioned in the series (by Albus Potter).
- In early drafts of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, members of the Slytherin house were known as "Slytherites".
- Slytherin House was the winner of the first, third and seventh house cup on Pottermore.
- The Sorting Hat considered placing Gilderoy Lockhart in Slytherin, as he showed cunning, resourcefulness and ambition, which are some of the qualities that fit Slytherin House. However, it finally chose Ravenclaw.
- In the Game Boy Advance Game Mother 3, there is an enemy called Slitherhen. The name is a reference to Slytherin.
- Peter Pettigrew was a Hatstall and considered for Sorting into Slytherin, but, in the end, was Sorted into Gryffindor.
- Scarlett Byrne, the actress who portrayed Pansy Parkinson in the films, was sorted into Slytherin on Pottermore.
Pottermore House Cup
- Slytherin won the first house cup with 72,734,274 house points.
- Slytherin came second for the second house cup with 48,495,275 points.
- Slytherin won the third house cup with 26,990,924 points.
- Slytherin came second for the fourth house cup with 24,865,387.
- Slytherin came second for the fifth house cup with 27,795,479 points.
- Slytherin came fourth for the sixth house cup with 31,926,625 points.
- Slytherin won the seventh house cup with 52,652,850 points.
- Slytherin came second for the eighth house cup with 26,564,159 points.
In translated editions, "Slytherin" remains the same and is used for the Arabic, Croatian, Danish, German, Hebrew, Icelandic, Indonesian, Irish, Polish, Portuguese (Portugal), Spanish, Swedish, Turkish, and Vietnamese editions. The following translations have changed the name:
|Chinese (Simplified)||斯莱特林 (Sī-lái-tè-lín)|
|Chinese (Traditional)||史萊哲林 (Shǐ-lái-zhé-lín)|
|Czech||Zmijozel||from Zmije "viper snake" or Zmij "adder"|
|Dutch||Zwadderich||from the old Dutch noun zwadder "snake poison"; zwadderig "dirty"|
|Finnish||Luihuinen||from the adjective luihu "deceptive" or "sneaky"|
|French||Serpentard||from serpent "snake" and the suffix -ard which gives it a pejorative consonance|
|Hindi||नगशक्ति (Nāgaśakti)||Nāga "Snake"; śakti "power"|
|Hungarian||Mardekár||mar "bite" (like snake), de kár "but it's a pity"|
|Lithuanian||Klastūnynas||from the noun klasta "guile" or "ruse".|
Also could be translated as "viper" or "scoundrel"
|Portuguese (Brazil)||Sonserina||from Sonso a term for "someone who pretends to be innocent or harmless"|
|Слизь (Sleezerin) "slime"|
/Пресмыкаться (Pryesmikat'sya) "to slither"
- Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (First appearance)
- Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (film)
- Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (video game)
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (film)
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (video game)
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (film)
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (video game)
- Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
- Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (film)
- Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (video game)
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (film)
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (video game)
- Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
- Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (film)
- Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (video game)
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (video game)
- Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
- Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (play)
- Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald - The Original Screenplay
- Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald
- Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore - The Complete Screenplay
- Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore
- Harry Potter: Quidditch World Cup
- LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4
- LEGO Harry Potter: Years 5-7
- LEGO Dimensions
- LEGO Harry Potter
- LEGO Creator: Harry Potter
- Creator: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
- LEGO Harry Potter: Characters of the Magical World
- Harry Potter for Kinect
- Fantastic Beasts: Cases from the Wizarding World (Seen on house scarf)
- Wonderbook: Book of Spells
- Harry Potter Trading Card Game
- Wizarding World
- Harry Potter: The Character Vault
- Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery
- Harry Potter: Wizards Unite
- Harry Potter: Puzzles & Spells
- Harry Potter: Magic Awakened
- Hogwarts Legacy
Notes and references
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Chapter 9 (The Writing on the Wall)
- Writing by J. K. Rowling: "Colours" at Wizarding World
- Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Chapter 3 (The Letters from No One)
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Chapter 11 (The Duelling Club)
- The Leaky Cauldron and Mugglenet interview Joanne Kathleen Rowling
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Chapter 18 (Dobby's Reward)
- All About Slytherin from Pottermore (via the Internet Archive)
- Celebrating Slytherin House Pride from Pottermore (via the Internet Archive)
- Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Chapter 7 (The Sorting Hat)
- Interview with J.K. Rowling on PotterCast
- Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Chapter 4 (Horace Slughorn)
- Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Chapter 8 (The Potions Master)
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Chapter 12 (The Polyjuice Potion)
- LEGO Harry Potter: Years 5-7 (see this video)
- Leaky Surprise
- Pottermore Introductions to Hogwarts Houses#Slytherin (Archived) from Pottermore
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 11 (The Sorting Hat's New Song)
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 23 (Malfoy Manor)
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Chapter 17 (The Heir of Slytherin)
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 33 (The Prince's Tale)
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 31 (The Battle of Hogwarts)
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 28 (Snape's Worst Memory)
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Chapter 15 (The Quidditch Final)
- Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Chapter 6 (The Journey from Platform Nine and Three-Quarters)
- Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Chapter 15 (The Forbidden Forest)
- Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Chapter 11 (Quidditch)
- Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Chapter 18 (The Weighing of the Wands)
- Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Chapter 37 (The Beginning)
- Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Chapter 5 (Diagon Alley)
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 36 (The Flaw in the Plan)
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 23 (Christmas on the Closed Ward)
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Epilogue (Nineteen Years Later)
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 10 (Kreacher's Tale)
- Short Stories from Hogwarts of Heroism, Hardship and Dangerous Hobbies, Chapter 3 (Horace Slughorn)
- F.A.Q. question (Internet archive) from J. K. Rowling's official site
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (video game)
- ARTICLE - Add to Template:WW at Wizarding World
- Extra Stuff: Mafalda at J. K. Rowling's official site
- Congratulations Slytherin on Winning...
- Pottermore biography of Gilderoy Lockhart. audio clip by J. K. Rowling
- Let's Test MOTHER 3 #15 - The Magyspy Scene That Isn't What You Think But Whatever
- Writing by J. K. Rowling: "Hatstall" at Wizarding World