As far as I am concerned, one is sorted into Ravenclaw when being highly intelligent or wise or scholar type.

In the real world, intelligence can be understood in different ways. Like there are people who are genius engineers, but struggle with simple grammar or those who extremely good in understanding other people's motives, but bad in math, or those who got wise views, but are not educated in general etc.

One would not question that Hermione is highly intelligent for example - she got all the features we normally see as signs of high IQ level: she is a scholar type with a good logical thinking, ability to analyze information, can understand other people well and find productive solutions in difficult situations.

But some Ravenclaw students does not seem that obvious which made me wonder what part of their personality was seen as "cleverness".

  • Gilderoy Lockhart does not seem as clever at all - he fails to predict the outcomes of his own actions, not capable of reading other people's reactions, is quite an incompetent wizard (apart from his memory charms) and even does not seem to value cleverness that much (he want to be famous for his bravery and heroic deeds, not necessarily intelligence).
  • Luna Lovegood. However I love Luna (who doesn't?) she doesn't seem to be particularly smart or scholar. She does show some amount of unexpected wisdom, but nothing we usually expect from people with high IQ level.
  • Cho Chang. We don't really know much about her, but she doesn't strike as an extra smart either. Why would it be her main feature of all?

I do not state the people in question were dumb, in fact I do believe all of them had their own share of wit. But the concept of being clever for Ravenclaw seems so vague that it looks like pretty anyone could be sorted in there, apart from some total trolls like Crabbe and Goyle.

So at the end of the day being a Ravenclaw says nothing about one's personality. My impression is they are just those who does not possess any prominent features required for other houses.

  • 1
    This is not to say that Lockhart had no talent. Indeed, his teachers felt that he was of above-average intelligence and ability, and that, with hard work, he might make something of himself - pottermore.com/writing-by-jk-rowling/gilderoy-lockhart
    – Niffler
    Commented Oct 2, 2018 at 14:09
  • @padfoot you should include that into your answer
    – Jenayah
    Commented Oct 2, 2018 at 14:10
  • @Jenayah okie day, i just dont see where i could include it, my answer is pretty straightforward.
    – Niffler
    Commented Oct 2, 2018 at 14:11
  • 2
    There is a whole write-up on Lockhart that might interest you.
    – Skooba
    Commented Oct 2, 2018 at 14:17

4 Answers 4


Ravenclaw’s defining traits are intelligence and a desire to learn.

During Harry’s first year, the Sorting Hat describes the type of people who would find into each house. He described Ravenclaw as being the house for students with a ready mind, which most likely means those who are eager and willing to learn. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re already smart when they start at Hogwarts, just that they’re willing to learn.

“Or yet in wise old Ravenclaw,
If you’ve a ready mind,
Where those of wit and learning,
Will always find their kind;”
- Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Chapter 7 (The Sorting Hat)

There does also seem to be an element of ‘natural’ intelligence included in the defining traits of Ravenclaw. Through the Sorting Hat’s description of her, Rowena Ravenclaw preferred to take the cleverest students, likely meaning the students who naturally had a certain degree of intelligence.

“For Ravenclaw, the cleverest
Would always be the best;”
- Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Chapter 12 (The Triwizard Tournament)

She also had said she thought Hogwarts should be for those whose intelligence was surest, which likely meant the young wizards who already had shown themselves to be smart.

“Said Ravenclaw, ‘We’ll teach those whose
Intelligence is surest.”
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 11 (The Sorting Hat’s New Song)

When the founders were alive to pick their own students, Rowena took the ones with the sharpest minds, which likely means they were quick at absorbing new knowledge.

“And only those of sharpest mind
Were taught by Ravenclaw”
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 11 (The Sorting Hat’s New Song)

So, the defining traits of Ravenclaw seem to be intelligence and a willingness to learn.

But the Sorting Hat considers students’ values and choices too.

Despite intelligence being one of the traits prized by Ravenclaw, not all smart people end up in Ravenclaw, because the Sorting Hat takes into consideration which house the student prefers. It’s also likely that some students who aren’t provably smarter than usual are put into Ravenclaw because of their preference or values rather than their actual abilities. The Sorting Hat was possibly going to put Hermione in Ravenclaw, but decided on Gryffindor instead.

“How come you’re not in Ravenclaw?’ he demanded, staring at Hermione with something close to wonder. ‘With brains like yours?’

‘Well, the Sorting Hat did seriously consider putting me in Ravenclaw during my Sorting,’ said Hermione brightly, ‘but it decided on Gryffindor in the end.”
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Chapter 11 (The Sorting Hat’s New Song)

In her case, this could be because she’d wanted to be a Gryffindor, because (as she said herself) she valued friendship and bravery over books and cleverness, or a combination of both.

“I’m not as good as you,’ said Harry, very embarrassed, as she let go of him.

‘Me!’ said Hermione. ‘Books! And cleverness! There are more important things – friendship and bravery and – oh Harry – be careful!”
- Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Chapter 16 (Through the Trapdoor)

Hermione considered Gryffindor the best choice, with Ravenclaw her ‘second best’.

“I’ve been asking around and I hope I’m in Gryffindor, it sounds by far the best, I hear Dumbledore himself was one, but I suppose Ravenclaw wouldn’t be too bad …”
- Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Chapter 6 (The Journey from Platform Nine and Three-Quarters)

That also means it’s likely other intelligent students might be put in a house other than Ravenclaw if they prefer it or value another trait more than intelligence. Similarly, students who aren’t obviously unusually intelligent might be in Ravenclaw because they value intelligence and learning, even if they themselves don’t necessarily have an objectively above average level of intelligence. I explain something similar for why students who don’t seem smart enough to have the cunning or ambition are in Slytherin, in my answer to this question: Why do less-bright students end up in Slytherin?

  • 1
    Wow, that's the fullest canonic answer I could expect, thank you! I think my problem here is that I see traits from other houses as something one can gain or grow into (like Neville did), so the sorting there can be quite liberal. But intelligence above average is more like a talent - you either have it or not, so the choice should be more straightforward. But it isn't. Being a proud Ravenclaw myself I will wisely accept it :)
    – Shana Tar
    Commented Oct 3, 2018 at 5:09
  • @ShanaTar Thanks, I’m glad you like it! :) Hopefully it helps explain some of the ‘odder’ choices for Ravenclaw. How I see it is that ‘natural’ intelligence might be something that some people just have, but others can and do work on their intelligence and may improve it over time - some people are ‘good learners’, and others may see knowledge as a valuable and pursue it. Thanks so much for accepting it! :)
    – Obsidia
    Commented Oct 3, 2018 at 21:00

People are sorted into Ravenclaw if they prize wisdom.

It can vary if they're actually smart or not but if you value brains over courage you'll probably be in Ravenclaw, Hermione was sorted into Gryffindor even though she was the brightest in the year, she was in Gryffindor because she valued being brave over being smart - Why was Hermione not in Ravenclaw?

Ravenclaws prize wit, learning, and wisdom.
- Hogwarts Houses:Ravenclaw - Pottermore

So Ravenclaw isn't actually a house that you have to be smart to get into, you just have to share the values of Rowena Ravenclaw.

  • 1
    I'd say the same is true to a greater or lesser extent for all the houses. Neville wasn't exceptionally brave at first, but he valued courage. (He grew into it, of course.)
    – Cadence
    Commented Oct 2, 2018 at 14:16
  • 2
    I think it should be both - your personal abilities AND your preferences. Hermione was good for both houses, so it was not a problem for the Hat to sent her to Griffindor where she could fulfill her potential. Neville at the end of the day was brave even if he didn't trust in himself, so he also fitted in Griffindor. But if you are not really smart, but you like smart people and want too look like one you still end up in Ravenclaw? Doesn't make much sense.
    – Shana Tar
    Commented Oct 2, 2018 at 14:38
  • 1
    @Adamant I'd disagree. It's about how extraordinary he is, not specifically clever. He doesn't seem to "prize wit, learning and wisdom" exactly.
    – Shana Tar
    Commented Oct 2, 2018 at 16:13
  • 2
    @ShanaTar - I would disagree. There are several definitions of wit, and he (GL) certainly regards himself as being witty. Given the hat takes personal desire into it, his perception of himself would certainly influence the hat.
    – JohnP
    Commented Oct 2, 2018 at 16:15
  • 1
    @JohnP That's actually was my question. How clever is clever for Ravenclaw? Surely if you are stupid, but want to look clever you don't go to Ravenclaw. I believe you should be able to perform above average to fit into a house. Did Lockhart, Luna, Cho really were able to show intelligence above average? Lockhart's wit differs a lot from Luna's wisdom - are they still measured the same by the Sorting Hat?
    – Shana Tar
    Commented Oct 2, 2018 at 16:36

In the seven books we are privy to three Sorting Hat songs, each of which define the Ravenclaw type using different terminology:

In Philosopher's Stone we have:

Or yet in wise old Ravenclaw,

if you've a ready mind,

In Goblet of Fire we have:

For Ravenclaw the cleverest

would always be the best;

In Order of the Phoenix we have:

Said Ravenclaw, "We'll teach those whose

Intelligence is surest."

And only those of sharpest mind

Were taught by Ravenclaw

Thus, in total we have the following descriptions of the Ravenclaw type:

  • A ready mind
  • The cleverest
  • Surest intelligence
  • Sharpest mind

Their abilities, but also their preferences are taken into account by the sorting hat. here's an example:

Even the Sorting Hat could get stumped sometimes Even holding an impossible, all-encompassing amount of knowledge didn’t mean the hat could just snap its fingers (if it had fingers, of course) and instantly know your house. Take the case of Minerva McGonagall, who took five and a half minutes to be sorted into Gryffindor over Ravenclaw; a testament to Minerva’s equal helpings of bravery and vast intelligence.

from: https://www.pottermore.com/features/why-being-sorted-is-not-as-simple-as-it-seems

  • sorry, I don't know how to do the quotes in yellow, I'd love some pointers Commented Oct 3, 2018 at 2:39
  • You can put a ">" in front of the text you want quoted, or highlite the text you want and click the quotation mark button (fourth from the left on top of the answer box). I've done it for this post; you can check the edit history to see what it looks like (choose "side-by-side markdown").
    – Alex
    Commented Oct 3, 2018 at 2:46

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