Is there any mention on the abilities/capabilities that make Albus Dumbledore the finest wizard of his age? I know he defeated Grindewald and Voldemort was afraid of him too because of his magical knowledge.

What I want to know is as a reader, did we get to glimpse exactly what all those abilities were? We came to know that he was excellent in transfiguration (Book 5) and he could speak Mermish (Book 4) and Can perform magic using strange unknown languages (Book 2 and Book 6)..Also his work on Alchemy and Discovery of Uses of Dragon's Blood (Book 1).

Anything else that might suggest he was more knowledgeable than any other wizard alive?

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    Dumbledore is generally acclaimed to be the greatest wizard. That in itself seems to answer the question.
    – Valorum
    Commented Nov 4, 2015 at 10:26
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    @Richard - That precisely is what I am asking - Why he is acclaimed to be the greatest wizard. If you are thinking that he defeated Grindewald then Harry also defeated Voldmort. But that doesn't mean Harry is the Greatest Wizard after Dumbledore. There are many factors in the greatness which I intend to dig into. Having a profound magical knowledge can be one of those factor. Like his work with Nicolas Flamel and his discovery of Uses of Dragons Blood but there must be many factors affecting this Greatness Notion..won't you agree?
    – Harsimrat
    Commented Nov 4, 2015 at 10:33
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  • 8
    I'm pretty sure we can all agree it was his beard Commented Nov 5, 2015 at 0:24
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    The fact that nobody cared about his face-shifting between 2nd and 3rd movies is a proof that Dumbledore performing sophisticated spells is a daily routine.
    – Taladris
    Commented Nov 6, 2015 at 0:49

7 Answers 7


Since the books are written mainly from the point of view of school pupils, many greater and more advanced forms of magic remain unexplained, and it is these which differentiate one wizard's skills from another's at the very top of the range. However, there are some things we can say about Dumbledore's abilities (in addition to those you've already listed), starting from his early years:

  • He mainly taught himself magic. From an interview with JKR:

    I see him primarily as someone who would be self-taught. However, he in his time had access to superb teachers at Hogwarts, so he was educated in the same way that everyone else is educated. Dumbledore’s family would be a profitable line of inquiry, more profitable than sweet wrappers.
    -- J K Rowling, 16 July 2005

  • He was creating new magic during his school years:

    "Examined him myself in Transfiguration and Charms when he did NEWTs ... Did things with a wand I'd never seen before..."
    -- Griselda Marchbanks, HP and the Order of the Phoenix, chapter 31: OWLs.

    And from Elphias Doge's obituary:

    By the end of his first year, he would never again be known as the son of a Muggle-hater, but as nothing more or less than the most brilliant student ever seen at the school. [...] He not only won every prize of note that the school offered, he was soon in regular correspondence with the most notable magical names of the day, including Nicholas Flamel, the celebrated alchemist, Bathilda Bagshot, the noted historian, and Adalbert Waffling, the magical theoretician. Several of his papers found their way into learned publications such as Transfiguration Today, Challenges in Charming and The Practical Potioneer.
    -- The Daily Prophet, HP and the Deathly Hallows, chapter 2: In Memoriam

  • He defeated Grindelwald, holder of the Elder Wand.
    Grindelwald was one of the most dangerous Dark wizards of all time, right up there with Voldemort, yet Dumbledore defeated him singlehandedly in a duel, despite both his own personal feelings for Grindelwald and the fact that Grindelwald held the Elder Wand, which was supposed to make its bearer almost invincible.

  • He can make himself invisible without an Invisibility Cloak.

    "I don't need a cloak to become invisible." said Dumbledore gently.
    -- HP and the Philosopher's Stone, chapter 12: The Mirror of Erised

    Since we later discover that Harry's Cloak is the only one in existence that provides everlasting protection, to be able to replicate its effects without even having a cloak is quite a feat.

  • He can Apparate silently:

    A man appeared on the corner the cat had been watching, appeared so suddenly and silently you’d have thought he’d just popped out of the ground.
    -- HP and the Philosopher's Stone, chapter 1: The Boy Who Lived

    The only other wizard known to have this skill is Voldemort.

  • He discovered the twelve uses of dragon blood:

    "Considered by many to be the greatest wizard of modern times, Dumbledore is particularly famous for his defeat of the Dark wizard Grindelwald in 1945, for the discovery of the twelve uses of Dragon's blood, and his work on alchemy with his partner, Nicolas Flamel. Professor Dumbledore enjoys chamber music and tenpin bowling."
    -- Dumbledore's Chocolate Frog Card

  • He can easily outwit the entire Ministry of Magic.
    The Ministry has an entire office of Aurors trained in apprehending law-breaking wizards, but when Dumbledore is set against them (as in HP and the Order of the Phoenix), he easily escapes the clutches of the Minister and two Aurors, and proceeds to remain out of their reach for the next several months until his reinstatement as Headmaster.

  • He could have escaped Azkaban.
    Sirius Black was the first person ever known to escape from Azkaban, although Barty Crouch Jr. probably did so earlier and undetected. As far as I know, nobody else managed this feat except some Death Eaters while the Dementors were under Voldemort's influence. Yet Dumbledore remarks - just before eluding the Minister and his Aurors - that:

    "I have no intention of going to Azkaban. I could break out, of course -- but what a waste of time, and frankly, I can think of a whole host of things I would rather be doing."

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    @randal'thor actually the invisibility charm is not a big feat. Crabbe and Goyle managed the learn a spell with a similar effect in their seventh year.
    – vap78
    Commented Nov 4, 2015 at 13:54
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    ^ Dumbledore's use of the disillusionment charm likely would have rendered him completely invisible to an 11-year-old Harry Potter who had never even seen dishes cleaning themselves before (AKA total magic novice; which Dumbledore would've known and been able to take advantage of). I don't think there's enough detail given in the books to determine how invisible Dumbledore really is.
    – TylerH
    Commented Nov 4, 2015 at 15:58
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    Yeah, but could he cleanse Saidin? Commented Nov 4, 2015 at 16:00
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    I like this answer. +1 for silent apparition, which, as you say, seems to be uncommon. Two things: unfortunately, Dumbledore's work with Flamel almost certainly did not lead to the creation of the Philosophers Stone. Flamel was born around 1327, and Dumbledore was born in 1881. At minimum, Flamel must have lived 554 years before he started collaborating with Dumbledore, which is almost certainly beyond the naturally attainable Wizarding lifespan. Second, perhaps you should reference DH22 too, to show that a Disillusionment Charm was the specific spell he used.
    – Adamant
    Commented Nov 4, 2015 at 17:37
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    To be fair one the aurors (Kingsley) was really on Dumbledores side, and the other auror is not considerd particularly powerful, among aurors at least
    – user13267
    Commented Nov 5, 2015 at 10:03

Alongside Dumbledore's achievements, as listed by rand al'thor, one might also mention the personal traits and abilities that preconditioned them. On the whole, I believe, these are unrelated to magic essentially, so it is easy to fathom that Dumbledore would have become great in something else had he not been a wizard in the first place.

Yes, Harry, blessed as I am with extraordinary brainpower, I understood everything you told me. I think you might even consider the possibility that I understood more than you did.

[Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince]

Brainpower can be pretty much anything, from problem solving to strategic thinking to empathy, but Dumbledore clearly has a lot of all. It obviously eased things for him from early on, because of the very positive feedback effect on further learning.

In particular, Dumbledore can read people and situations. He saw through so many characters and events: Voldemort, Lockhart, Fudge, Slughorn, etc.

Also, Dumbledore is quick on the uptake, to borrow Rowling's wording (about Kingsley). This is difficult to emulate if not born with, and potentially crucial in situations where being a smartass does not really help (such as, on the roof towards the end of HBP).

Also, he is quite unconventional. Being an oddball in a few respects (such as, his family condition or his sexuality) made it easier for him, later, to be an oddball in general. People will talk about his passion for candy but I think he made his mark by telling his pupils openly about Voldemort's return, addressing them as adults rather than children.

Ultimately, of course, no attempt at such an account can be complete (especially after being repeated ad nauseam in the books) without mentioning that he recognized love as the power that makes the world go round, so to speak, and also, he chose to explore it as a magic force. This was crucial in protecting Harry during his childhood years.

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    You should perhaps consider that he may have been using British-style sarcasm there, rather than just downright bragging. In other words, this was a nice self-deprecating way of saying, "You do know I'm not an idiot, right?"
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Nov 4, 2015 at 20:49
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    @T.E.D. That is a valid point, it may have been a sarcasm, but it also happens to be true. Viz, "[...] I would say that I think it has been demonstrated, particularly in books five and six that immense brainpower does not protect you from emotional mistakes and I think Dumbledore really exemplifies that. [to be continued ...]
    – anemone
    Commented Nov 4, 2015 at 21:19
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    [continued] In fact, I would tend to think that being very, very intelligent might create some problems and it has done for Dumbledore, because his wisdom has isolated him, and I think you can see that in the books, because where is his equal, where is his confidante, where is his partner? He has none of those things. He’s always the one who gives, he’s always the one who has the insight and has the knowledge." [JKR Interview by Leaky and MuggleNet, 2005, accio-quote.org/articles/2005/0705-tlc_mugglenet-anelli-1.htm]
    – anemone
    Commented Nov 4, 2015 at 21:21
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    IIUC, that's how British-style sarcasm works. It isn't saying something that's 100% wrong (like what we call sarcasm in the US), just exaggerated. For example, sarcastically calling Bob Geldof "Saint Bob", in the UK doesn't mean he isn't a nice guy, rather he's actually really nice but not quite that nice.
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Nov 4, 2015 at 23:46
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    @Ellesedil it always looked to me that Dumbledore knew it was cursed he just didn't care, and he might have been tempted by his guilt with the death of his sister (the ring was also the stone of resurrection if I remember right) and besides this could have been a way to remove the curse before Harry needed to touch it/reunite the death relics
    – Freedo
    Commented Nov 6, 2015 at 13:58

Just wanted to add he also invented the Deluminator, which can extinguish any light source and set it back.

  • What happens if they try it on the sun?
    – Aloha
    Commented Dec 3, 2015 at 0:35
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    You won't like to get close enough to try. Range is about the lenght of private drive I suppose. And remember the sun hold some magic. Commented Dec 3, 2015 at 6:09
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    What magic does the Sun have?
    – Adamant
    Commented Dec 30, 2015 at 2:45
  • @Adamant Sorry for late answer, the Sunlight dispels the curses and erodes everything magic related Commented Aug 12, 2016 at 23:36

Quoting the OP's comment:

"I think a list of his detailed accomplishments and abilities will suffice the answer."

Sometimes, the whole is more than the sum of its parts.

Take sports as an example. An athlete does not need to be the strongest, or the fastest, or the smartest of them all to excel in his sport. It helps, but what really counts is the overall package:

  • Dumbledore was quite skilled in many different disciplines of magic (apparition, transfiguration, charms etc. as mentioned in other answers).

  • He was smart, in a way that few wizards are. I point to the potions scene in Philosopher's Stone, where Hermione states that many (or was it "most"?) wizards "don't have an ounce of logic in them" (IIRC). Dumbledore was clearly an exception. His use of the mirror Erised was nothing short of genius, and I don't see how this protection could have been overcome by any of Voldemort's agents.

  • He was able to inspire trust and loyalty in others -- both through his virtues, and through being a deft manipulator (ref. Slughorn). Minerva, Severus, the whole of Dumbledore's Army, the Order of the Phoenix... they were willing to follow his lead, risk things for him, stay loyal to him even when it meant personal danger and sacrifice. While this might not amount to much in a one-on-one wizarding duel, it certainly is a factor in a prolonged confrontation as the one played out by the books.

  • He was aware of things. Either through magic, personal research, or his social network, he was seldom surprised by any of the events unfolding, and indeed usually one or two steps ahead of everyone else. (Somehow I hear Hannibal Smith... "meeting an enemy's move before it's even been made, that is a 'plan'.")

  • He was not cowed by much. He was one of the few to ever name Voldemort. Take his instructions to Harry when they were about to recover the locket, or his instructions to Snape regarding Draco: This man had the courage to follow through on things.

This is by no means a complete summary of Dumbledore's character. But I think it shows why he is considered a formidable force to be reckoned with.

  • "Wit beyond measure is man's greatest treasure" - Rowena Ravenclaw would certainly have considered Dumbledore's intelligence to be a major part of his success.
    – Jon Story
    Commented Nov 6, 2015 at 11:30
  • @JonStory: He also had the courage of a Gryffindor, the network and loyalty of a Slytherin, and the perseverance of a Hufflepuff. The package is the magic. ;-)
    – DevSolar
    Commented Nov 6, 2015 at 11:44

I believe from what I've read is that he was the greatest wizard because he was in possession of the Elder Wand... Which makes the wizard almost unbeatable... The legend of the Three Brothers is what leads me to believe this

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    In my views, greatness is measured by the abilities of the person and not by the things he possess. Elder wand was possessed by many wizards but not all of them were considered as great as Albus. I could be wrong here..let's hear what rest of the community has to say on this :)
    – Harsimrat
    Commented Nov 4, 2015 at 10:37
  • Can you tell us what it is that you have read that leads you to believe this?
    – Chenmunka
    Commented Nov 4, 2015 at 10:44
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    Dumbledore defeated Grindelwald - a dark wizard nearly as powerful as Voldemort - when Grindelwald had the Elder Wand. That's how he got it in the first place. His abilities don't come from the wand.
    – DavidS
    Commented Nov 4, 2015 at 10:50
  • Moreover, I don't think lot of people knew it was the wand. Commented Nov 5, 2015 at 10:48
  • You're still incorrect whether you believe it or no. I don't think anyone even knew he had the Elder Wand with the exception of Grindelwald and perhaps Hagrid (if he did indeed fix his wand into the umbrella). He even states in his copy of the Tales of Beetle the Bard that the Elder Wand isn't all it's claimed to be: how is the unbeatable wand the wand that has changed so many hands? Because it's not unbeatable, that's why.
    – Pryftan
    Commented Jan 13, 2018 at 21:52

In Order of the Phoenix Hagrid also says Dumbledore charmed a branch to burn forever, which Hagrid presents to the giants if I remember correctly.


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    And is that a particularly extraordinary ability Dumbledore has?
    – Rand al'Thor
    Commented Dec 2, 2015 at 4:02
  • It may be... As Hagrid says, its not a thing any wizard could do.. Commented Dec 2, 2015 at 4:09
  • @randal'thor Is my answer ok? Commented Dec 2, 2015 at 4:09
  • @prakharlondhe Sure, have a +1.
    – Rand al'Thor
    Commented Dec 2, 2015 at 4:10
  • @randal'thor should I add more details to the same answer if I keep remembering them and they are not in any of the above answers? Commented Dec 2, 2015 at 4:14

Also He could detect invisible magic,

Groping for something in midair, his hands clenched and with a tap of wand, A thick Chain became visible

he could detect magic according to style.

I know Voldemort's style

He could Outsmart Voldemort by taking Harry to the cave.

Voldemort would never have thought that a sixteen year would be able to enter the cave.

He could do strongest magic even in the weakest situations, After drinking he horrible potion, he was still able to create a ring of fire. He didn't lose sanity.

He is one of some wizards known to have domesticated a Phoenix.

He had the ability to trust, and always looked upon the equality of Wizards and other magical creatures.

And He was not afraid of sacking or discrediting, as long as they didn't take him out of the chocolate frog Card (:P)

And the list will go on endlessly......

  • well, about that style thing, i don't think that it was how the charm was cast but what charm was chosen that told him it was voldemort. he knew voldemort for a very long time and knew his personality. so it was a simple deduction of personal traits IMO.
    – Armin
    Commented Jan 13, 2016 at 10:05
  • the personal traits are the things that are considered to be one's style :).. Commented Jan 13, 2016 at 11:48
  • but detecting magic that a spell is childbirth voldemort's style is not something that would be unique to dumbledore... It is a combination of his deduction skill and his knowledge of Tom Riddle's personality.
    – Armin
    Commented Jan 13, 2016 at 11:53
  • I never said he deduced how the charm was cast. He could detect it according to style meant that he knew what kind of spells would Voldy use... oh sorry, does the answer convey the meaning that he had the ability to detect any kind of magic.. Sorry.. could you please edit the answer accordingly? I am not able to frame the statements.. Commented Jan 13, 2016 at 11:58
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    the problem is, that I wouldn't mention it at all, because it is like you reading a letter and already knowing who wrote it before looking at something that identifies that person. Is that a trait which makes you great in any way? Sadly, no. It just means you know that person.
    – Armin
    Commented Jan 13, 2016 at 12:01

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