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"Oh you may not think I'm pretty, but don't judge on what you see, I'll eat myself if you can find a smarter hat than me."
— The opening lines of the Sorting Hat's 1991 song[src]

The Sorting Hat was a sentient magical hat at Hogwarts that was used to determine which of the four school Houses was the best fit for each new student. These four Houses were Gryffindor, the house of bravery, Hufflepuff, the house of hard work, Ravenclaw, the house of intelligence, and Slytherin, the house of ambition.[2] The Sorting Hat originally belonged to Godric Gryffindor, one of the four founders of Hogwarts.[3] It was normally kept in the Headmaster's office until it was needed for the Sorting Ceremony at the annual Start-of-Term Feast.[1]


Sorting Hat 1995

The Sorting Hat singing during the 1995 Start-of-Term Feast

The famous Hogwarts Sorting Hat gave an account of its own genesis in a series of songs.[3] During the opening banquet at the beginning of each school year, the first-year students were lined up and their names read aloud alphabetically by last name. Each then took a seat on a stool and placed the hat on their heads.[2]

The hat was battered and old by 1991; it was patched, frayed, and extremely dirty. In order to speak and sing, a tear along the brim opened like a mouth. It spoke to the wearer inside of the hat with a small, quiet voice, using Legilimency to interpret their thoughts and respond to them. After a time of consideration, the hat announced its choice aloud for all to hear, and the student joined the selected house.[3] The moment of consideration varied in time period from less than a second to over five minutes (known as "hatstall").[4]

The Sorting Hat was notorious for refusing to admit it had ever made a mistake in its sorting of a student. On those occasions when Slytherins behaved altruistically or selflessly, when Ravenclaws flunked all their exams, when Hufflepuffs proved lazy yet academically gifted, and when Gryffindors exhibited cowardice, the Hat steadfastly backed its original decision. On balance, however, the Hat had made remarkably few errors of judgement over the many centuries it had been at work.[4]

Although most people believed that the Sorting Hat used its Legilimency to see which House would be the most suitable for the student, the Hat actually used its Legilimency to see which House the student would be happiest in, which it judged by the student's mental reaction to mention of the House. This, it claimed, was the reason why it was never wrong when picking a House, as it wasn't the Hat picking the House at all but instead the students themselves.[5]


Main article: Sorting Ceremony
"Sings a different [song] every year. It's got to be a pretty boring life, hasn't it, being a hat? I suppose it spends all year making up the next one."
— Ron Weasley's opinion of the Sorting Hat's existence[src]

The Sorting Hat, Sorting students into their respective Houses at the ceremony

Legend had it that the Sorting Hat was sewn roughly one thousand years ago and began as a normal hat belonging to Godric Gryffindor. When Gryffindor, along with Salazar Slytherin, Rowena Ravenclaw and Helga Hufflepuff, wondered how they would continue to sort the students when the four were dead, Gryffindor pulled his hat from his head and, along with the other founders, enchanted it with their combined intelligence. All four founders wanted to ensure that students would be sorted into their eponymous Houses, which would be selected according to each founder's particular preferences in students.[3]

B2C12M1 Sorting Hat in Dumbledore's office

The Sorting Hat on a shelf in the Headmaster's office

The Sorting Hat, now animated, was able to sort and divide the students into the Hogwarts Houses, and continued to do so for a millennium, passed down to each new Headmaster or Headmistress of the school. When not in use, it is placed on a shelf in the current Headmaster's or Headmistress's office.[1]

The hat continued to carry out its duty each September at the beginning of the start-of-term feast, when it was placed on a three-legged (sometimes four-legged) stool at the front of the Great Hall.[2]

In 1858, Angus Buchanan, an eleven-year old Scottish Squib managed to sneak into the feast with the help of his wizard brother and put the Sorting Hat on his head. The Sorting Hat then kindly said he was a good-hearted chap, but no wizard.[6]

Sword appears in hat

The Sword of Gryffindor appears in the hat

The Sword of Gryffindor, one of the founder's only other known relics, could be magically pulled out of the hat by any Gryffindor considered worthy, no matter how secure the sword's location.[7] It was unknown why this was possible, but was linked to loyalty of the highest regard in relation to Hogwarts. There were two known instances of this happening within 1992 to 1998, once when Harry Potter was in the Chamber of Secrets,[7] and once when Neville Longbottom refused to join Lord Voldemort during the Battle of Hogwarts.[8]

During the Calamity in the late 2010s or early 2020s, the Sorting Hat spoke with a Calamity Investigator working for the Statute of Secrecy Task Force who was visiting Hogwarts, with the investigator being surprised by its ability to more articulately explain its experience being a Foundable than anyone else they had interviewed. The investigator theorised that the hat's enchanted origins might have enabled it to better understand the Calamity's effects.[9]

The Sorting Hat and the Sword of Gryffindor were the only two relics that hadn't been turned into Horcruxes by former Hogwarts student Tom Marvolo Riddle during his transformation into Lord Voldemort.

The Sorting Hat's songs[]

Before sorting the students each year, the hat recited a new introductory song. These songs vary in length and content though they generally introduced the hat and its role in sorting new students.[2] Ron Weasley expressed the opinion that the Hat spent the entire school year making up its next song.[10]

They also occasionally warned of danger to come, as in its 1995 song,[11] though it was not known how the Hat was aware of upcoming events. It was suggested that the Hat picks up some of its information from Albus Dumbledore, though it was not known whether it would have done so before such an influential figure in the wider wizarding world was in office.

1991 song[]

1994 song[]

1995 song[]

2008 song[]

2017 song[]

I've done this job for centuries
On every student's head I've sat
Of thoughts I take inventories
For I'm the famous Sorting Hat.

I've sorted high, I've sorted low,
I've done the job through thick and thin
So put me on and you will know
Which house you should be in...


2019 song[]

Are you afraid of what you'll hear?
Afraid I'll speak the name you fear?
Not Slytherin! Not Gryffindor!
Not Hufflepuff! Not Ravenclaw!
Don't worry, child, I know my job,
You'll learn to laugh, if first you sob.


Relationship with students[]

Harry Potter[]

Sorting Hat: "Hmm. Difficult. Very difficult. Plenty of courage, I see. Not a bad mind either. There's talent, oh my goodness, yes — and a nice thirst to prove yourself, now that's interesting... So where shall I put you?"
Harry Potter: "Not Slytherin, not Slytherin."
Sorting Hat: "Not Slytherin, eh? Are you sure? You could be great, you know, it’s all here in your head, and Slytherin will help you on the way to greatness, no doubt about that — no? Well, if you’re sure — better be GRYFFINDOR!"
— The Sorting Hat and Harry discussing the latter's future house[src]

Harry Potter being sorted

The Sorting Hat appeared to have a difficult time in the sorting of Harry Potter. It suggested that Harry would have great fame and glory by joining Slytherin House, as Harry possessed Slytherin qualities such as cunning and determination. Harry requested specifically to be spared that fate. Instead, based upon this choice, the Hat placed him in Gryffindor, where both his parents had also been Sorted.[2] When Harry spoke to the Hat in his second year, it repeated its earlier declarations — that Harry would have done well in Slytherin.[1] This was possibly due to the fragment of Voldemort's soul which lived inside Harry during his sorting; the hat would have registered its presence, as well, noticing Harry's potential.

Fawkes brings harry the sortig hat

Fawkes brings Harry Potter the Sorting Hat

In the next year at Hogwarts, the Hat also played a critical role in Harry's success against the Basilisk. Fawkes had brought the Sorting Hat to Harry's aid in the Chamber of Secrets. This provided him with Godric Gryffindor's Sword, which Harry used to slay Slytherin's Basilisk. The sword and hat together are the only two known relics of that wizard.[7]

Almost two decades after the Battle of Hogwarts, Albus Severus Potter expressed worry over his own Sorting. He indicated that the Sorting Hat might put him in the Slytherin House, and that its judgement may be faulty after being repaired. However, as the hat is said to be old and patched from its first appearance, it would seem this worry is needless. Harry also reassured him that Albus' middle name was named after Severus Snape, a Slytherin headmaster, and Harry would had no hard feelings towards Albus, Slytherin House or the Hat if he was to be sorted to there.[13]

Hermione Granger[]

Minerva McGonagall: "Granger, Hermione!"
Sorting Hat: "GRYFFINDOR!"
— Hermione being sorted[src]

Hermione Granger being sorted

The Sorting Hat also appeared to have had a disagreement in the sorting of Hermione Granger, as her expansive intelligence made her well suited for Ravenclaw, but it decided to place her in Gryffindor.[14] However, it can be argued that Hermione saw a greater challenge in herself in becoming bold and courageous, some of the traits of Gryffindor House. This can be clearly seen when Hermione doubted books and cleverness as the traits of a great witch and instead shows that friendship and bravery are more important. Hermione also stated that she thought Gryffindor House was by far the best of the four.

Ron Weasley[]

"Then it was Ron's turn. He was pale green by now. Harry crossed his fingers under the table and a second later the hat had shouted, 'GRYFFINDOR!' Harry clapped loudly with the rest as Ron collapsed into the chair next to him."
— Ron being sorted[src]
Ron And The Sorting Hat

Ron Weasley being sorted

It was not hard for the Sorting Hat to place Ron Weasley, as all the Weasley family have been placed into Gryffindor House. Ron was afraid that he would be the only Weasley not to make it into Gryffindor. Mere moments after the Hat touched his head it announced his house,[2] considering Ron to be "brave at heart" and "daring".[15] A year later his little sister Ginny was also sorted into Gryffindor.[16]

Draco Malfoy[]

SortingHat WB F1 DracoMalfoyInTheSortingHat Still 100615 Land

Draco Malfoy being sorted

The moment the Sorting Hat was placed on Draco Malfoy, the hat instantaneously declared Draco would join the house of Slytherin.[2] In addition to being selfish and cunning, Malfoy was a pure-blood, like most Slytherins. Almost all of his family was sorted into that house, including his parents Lucius and Narcissa Malfoy, and aunt Bellatrix Lestrange, as well as a long line of his ancestors from the House of Black.

Tom Riddle[]

According to Albus Dumbledore, the Sorting Hat declared Tom Riddle a Slytherin almost instantly after it touched his head. He had many of the qualities associated with the Slytherin house, and he was a descendant of Salazar Slytherin himself.[17]

Neville Longbottom[]

Neville being Sorted

Neville Longbottom being sorted

The Sorting Hat took a long time to decide upon where to put Neville Longbottom. During his sorting Neville argued with the hat, saying he was best in Hufflepuff. The Hat argued otherwise, and declared Neville to do greatly in Gryffindor. Neville was intimidated by Gryffindor's reputation; however, his persistence did not work and the hat successfully sorted him into Gryffindor.[18] Considering the bravery Neville showed in his seventh year,[8] and standing up to Draco, Harry, Ron, and Hermione in his first year, this choice was not regretted.[19][20][21]

In addition, during the Battle of Hogwarts, Neville was able to draw Gryffindor's sword from the Hat (if done so, the person was considered a true Gryffindor), despite Voldemort attempting to destroy it, and then used it to behead the snake Nagini.[8]

Minerva McGonagall[]

Minerva McGonagall was what was considered a Hatstall, meaning the Sorting Hat took over five minutes to decide where to put her. Hatstalls were very rare. The Sorting Hat considered sorting Minerva McGonagall into Ravenclaw before choosing Gryffindor. Later, she became a teacher at Hogwarts and head of her old house. It was her job to place the Sorting Hat on the heads of new students.[4]

Filius Flitwick[]

The Sorting Hat considered Sorting Filius Flitwick into Gryffindor before choosing Ravenclaw. Later, he became a teacher at Hogwarts and head of his house, and joked with Minerva McGonagall about the fact that they had the opposite experiences and if things had gone another way, they could have had each others' jobs.[4]

Gilderoy Lockhart[]

The Sorting Hat considered Sorting Gilderoy Lockhart in Slytherin, but, in the end, decided to place him in Ravenclaw.[22]

Peter Pettigrew[]

The Sorting Hat needed more than five minutes to decide whether Peter Pettigrew should be Sorted into Slytherin or Gryffindor. He was, thus, a true Hatstall. It chose Gryffindor. This decision was considered a mistake by many, though the Sorting Hat itself never considered it a mistake afterwards.[4]

Personality and traits[]

Sorting Hat: "Bee in your bonnet, Harry Potter?"
Harry Potter: "Er, yes. Er — sorry to bother you — I wanted to ask —"
Sorting Hat: "You’ve been wondering whether I put you in the right House. Yes... you were particularly difficult to place. But I stand by what I said before — you would have done well in Slytherin —"
Harry Potter: "You're wrong."
— Harry Potter speaking to the Sorting Hat in 1992[src]

Though it was a hat, the Sorting Hat was sentient and had its own personality.[2] At the beginning of every term, the hat sung a new song,[2] which Ron Weasley speculated it spent the rest of the year thinking up,[10] describing each of the four houses of Hogwarts.[2] Despite its use in the purposes of "sorting," the Hat had been known to urge students to maintain a united front in the face of adversity and danger. Its songs could be used in warning of troubles to come, and ultimately the hat represented the unity of the four houses under the Hogwarts school.[11]

The hat also appeared to have a sense of humour and expansive memory (as in the cases of the Weasleys all being in Gryffindor, and the Malfoys all being in Slytherin).[2]

Behind the scenes[]

Sorting Hat LEGO

The Sorting Hat in LEGO Harry Potter form

L MAGICALWORLD Headwear Novelty HarryPotter Headwear SortingHat 1219098

The Sorting Hat at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Sorting Hat WU

The Sorting Hat as seen in Harry Potter: Wizards Unite


Hermione Granger (wearing the Sorting Hat) as a POP! Vinyl

Ron with Sorting Hat pop vinyl

Ron Weasley (wearing the Sorting Hat) as a POP! Vinyl

PAS Sorting Hat

The Sorting Hat as seen in Harry Potter: Puzzles & Spells

  • While the book describes the sorting had speaking through a rip near the brim, the movie's approach was giving the hat folds that would move like a mouth and eyebrows, making it much more expressive, while also having more movement, even to the point of moving Harry's own head in his speech.
  • It seems that the Sorting Hat tends to place students based on qualities they value rather than qualities they personify. This is never more apparent than with Peter Pettigrew, who was Sorted into Gryffindor but ultimately turned out to be quite cowardly, self-serving and corruptible. He was probably placed there because at the time, he admired strong, brave individuals like James Potter and Sirius Black. Though it is possible Pettigrew was placed in Gryffindor because he aspired to these qualities.
  • The Sorting Hat can detect nascent qualities in a student and place them in the House that will challenge them the most and put their character to the test. Case in point, Neville Longbottom is Sorted into Gryffindor because the Hat sensed that he was capable of demonstrating bravery and leadership during his time at Hogwarts. However, these qualities do not fully surface until he learns to believe in himself. He also places Hermione Granger in the same House, presumably because he realises just how much she will need Harry and Ron in the future.
  • The Hat also appeared to take each student's wishes into account. Just because someone is placed in a certain House does not mean that they can not possess characteristics of other Houses. Dumbledore claimed that choices can show just as much, if not more, about who someone is as their abilities. Harry Potter, for instance, embodies many of the traits that are appreciated by Salazar Slytherin. He is clever, resourceful and cunning, yet the Sorting Hat made him a Gryffindor because he didn't feel like he belonged there. However, the hat denied Neville from being in Hufflepuff even though he begged for it.
  • Another prime example of this happening is Severus Snape. At one point, Albus Dumbledore said that his loyal, courageous nature was much more befitted to Gryffindor. However, as a child, Snape's ambition, social-climbing behaviour and secret inclination towards sadism made him an obvious Slytherin when he first came to Hogwarts.
  • In the film adaptation of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, the Sorting Hat appears to speak so all the students can hear, whereas in the book the Sorting Hat speaks so only the wearer can hear.
  • In the first two, fifth (cut from the final edit) and final Harry Potter films, it is voiced by the late actor Leslie Phillips.
  • Sorting Ceremonies are only featured in books 1, 4, 5 and 7 (in a Pensive flashback). This is because the books almost exclusively follow Harry, and the fact that coming up In Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, he was preoccupied with the Whomping Willow. In Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, he is taken aside by McGonagall. In Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, he was late to the feast Draco Malfoy's antics. He does not attend Hogwarts in the final book.
  • Songs are only featured in books 1, 4, and 5, and are omitted entirely from the films (although the for the fifth was filmed).
  • According to Rowling, the hat detected the piece of Voldemort's soul in Harry which strongly tempted it to put Harry in Slytherin.[25]
  • In Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Harry saw that "there were only three people left to be sorted," but then Professor McGonagall read off four more names (Dean Thomas, Lisa Turpin, Ron Weasley and Blaise Zabini). Dean Thomas did not appear in the British edition. It is possible, however, that Harry did not see one of the first-years ahead of him.
  • The Sorting Hat bears a certain resemblance to The Archchancellor's Hat from Terry Pratchett's Discworld novel Sourcery.
  • It is possible that the Sorting Hat, or general nature of the sorting, is not generally mentioned in books of wizarding history for some reason. In Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, when the students are nervous about what sort of test they will face to be sorted, Hermione Granger is said to be whispering very fast about all the spells she'd learned and which one she would need. This is despite having read a number of books about wizarding history prior to entering the school.
  • A LEGO version of the Sorting Hat was released, entitled 4701 Sorting Hat. It featured a dial with the four house symbols on it that could be spun to land on one and sort the figures.
  • One of the possible choices on the W.O.M.B.A.T. aptitude test was that the hat was stolen and substituted by delinquent students in 1325, and the whereabouts of the real hat remain unknown.
  • One can purchase a copy of the Sorting Hat at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
  • Prior to creating the Sorting Hat, Rowling considered using a Magical Gateway, founder statues, a Ghost Court, or a Selection Committee.
  • Just before the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride at The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, the Sorting Hat makes an appearance and delivers a final safety spiel, in the manner of one of his Sorting songs:
"Your journey is about to start, but safely you must go,
And so the Hogwarts Sorting Hat tells all you need to know.
These benches are not safe for you if you are still too small.
You must be more than goblin-sized, 48 inches tall.
Now rid yourself of objects that might poke or scratch or fall.
Take jewellery, cell phones, all loose change and stow them, one and all.
To keep your treasures safe and sound, Smart Lockers are supplied.
Gringotts-made and wizard-proofed, for all you need to hide.
And now, a warning; do not ride if flying makes you queasy.
If pregnant or else sore in back or neck, then leave, it's easy!
You've travelled far, you’re very near, the waiting’s been long,
But smoking, drinking, eating, one and all, are very wrong.
Now thank you for listening. My safety lesson's done.
We hope you live to tell the tale, and most of all, have fun!"

Author's comments[]

  • In an interview, when asked about the Sorting Hat, J. K. Rowling stated that it had never been wrong and asked for theories, though no specific character was mentioned.[26] In exclusive content released for Pottermore, however, she was a bit more shrewd, stating that it "has made remarkably few errors of judgement over the many centuries it has been at work." She also stated that in those cases where students did not exhibit the qualities traditionally associated with their house, or were noted for those associated with others, "the Hat steadfastly backs its original decision."[3]
  • According to Rowling, the Sorting Hat wasn't her first idea of how new Hogwarts student shall be sorted into Houses. She wrote:
"The Sorting Hat does not appear in my earliest plans for Hogwarts. I debated several different methods for sorting students (because I knew on early from that there would be four houses, all with very different qualities). The first was an elaborate Heath Robinson-ish machine that did all kind of magical things before reaching a decision, but I did not like it: it felt at once too complicated, and too easy. Next I placed four statues of the four founders in the Entrance Hall, which came alive and selected students from the throng in front of them while the school watched. This was better, but still not quite right. Finally, I wrote a list of the ways in which people can be chosen: eeny-meeny-miny-mo, short straws, chosen by team captains, names out of a hat - names out of a talking hat - putting on a hat - the Sorting Hat!"
J. K. Rowling's thought[src]

The Sorting Hat on Pottermore[]

Main article: Hogwarts sorting quiz

The Sorting Hat on Pottermore uses a set of question to determine the house of a user. The questions vary in style and do not necessarily have four answers (one for each house). There are 27 questions in all, and each user can be asked a maximum of 7, or 8 if the hat can not decide between houses and asks your opinion. Generally, a set of a few questions can be given to a user for each question, there are, of course, occasional exceptions to the order.


The Harry Potter Wiki has 144 images related to Sorting Hat.

Notes and references[]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Chapter 12 (The Polyjuice Potion)
  2. 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 2.11 2.12 2.13 Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Chapter 7 (The Sorting Hat)
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 3.7 3.8 3.9 Writing by J. K. Rowling: "The Sorting Hat" at Wizarding World
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 Writing by J. K. Rowling: "Hatstall" at Wizarding World
  5. Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery, Year 5, Side Quest "Out of Sorts"
  6. Writing by J. K. Rowling: "Scottish Rugby" at Wizarding World
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Chapter 17 (The Heir of Slytherin)
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 36 (The Flaw in the Plan)
  9. Harry Potter: Wizards Unite
  10. 10.0 10.1 Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Chapter 12 (The Triwizard Tournament)
  11. 11.0 11.1 Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 11 (The Sorting Hat's New Song)
  12. 12.0 12.1 Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Act One, Scene Four
  13. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Epilogue (Nineteen Years Later)
  14. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 19 (The Lion and the Serpent)
  15. The Sorting Ceremony! (Harry Potter Magical Movie Moments IRL) (1:21)
  16. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Chapter 5 (The Whomping Willow)
  17. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Chapter 17 (A Sluggish Memory)
  18. PotterCast #122
  19. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Chapter 13 (Nicolas Flamel)
  20. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Chapter 16 (Through the Trapdoor)
  21. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Chapter 17 (The Man with Two Faces)
  22. Writing by J. K. Rowling: "Gilderoy Lockhart" at Wizarding World
  23. IMDb favicon Jason Anthony at the Internet Movie Database
  24. IMDb favicon Dan Donohue at the Internet Movie Database
  25. The Leaky Cauldron - JK Rowling interview
  26. The Leaky Cauldron and MuggleNet interview Joanne Kathleen Rowling: Part Two - The Leaky Cauldron, 16 July 2005

See also[]