Besides Gryffindor, Slytherin is the most commonly seen and mentioned Hogwarts house in the Harry Potter franchise — here are the best and worst Slytherin traits. Hogwarts house founder Salazar Slytherin was responsible for selecting the traits that make up Slytherin house. Unfortunately, he was a blood purist who designed the Chamber of Secrets, which held the basilisk utilized by Voldemort and was defeated by Harry in Chamber of Secrets. Throughout the series, Slytherin gets a bad rap for housing some of the darkest wizards, but its reputation is arguably unfair.
Despite holding some of the darkest wizards in history, Slytherin has also contained some of the bravest, like Severus Snape or Andromeda Tonks née Black. The hallmark of all Slytherin traits is ambition, and a thirst for something greater can be a trait of the good and the bad alike. Other major Slytherin traits like cunning and shrewdness are double-edged swords in their own right, and it isn’t hard to see some of the best Slytherin traits become the worst if taken too far. Here are some of the best and worst Slytherin traits exemplified through the most iconic Slytherin characters in Harry Potter.
The Most Admirable Slytherin Traits
As with most characteristics regarding success or achievement, this is a positive quality that can be taken too far. But, in moderation, it’s arguably one of the best Slytherin traits. Being able to set goals and take the steps necessary to meet them isn’t always easy, but the ability to do so allows a person to achieve the things they want in life and be successful.
Goals don’t always have to be about career or money either, they can also be centered around bettering health, relationships, or something of that ilk. After the death of Lily Potter, Snape was single-minded in achieving his only goal: keep Harry Potter safe. While he was an outright bully to the boy, he tried to keep Quirrell from jinxing his broom in Sorcerer’s Stone, and risked his life as a double-agent to pay for his sins. Snape eventually succeeded in his goal, even though it was Dumbledore’s intention for Harry to face death anyway.
One of the defining traits of Slytherin as a house is ambition, and it’s one of the best Slytherin traits when used for good. While not every single student in the house is as ambitious or intelligent as others, overall they are a rather achieving bunch. These are people who want to do well and want to be perceived as successful. They also want to get respect in life, and this drives them forward to be the best at everything they can.
Of course, ambition can sometimes go too far, but having a healthy amount can be a great thing. Slytherin house pride was a huge element of the Harry Potter series, and every year Slytherins competed ruthlessly to be the best of the best in terms of the house cup competition and in the Quidditch league. Before Harry joined Hogwarts in Sorcerer’s Stone, Slytherin had won the house cup seven years in a row, proving they’re an ambitious bunch.
While Slytherins might get a bad reputation because they can seem self-centered, they can also be really self-confident in a good way, making it one of the best Slytherin traits. While there are times when being focused on self-preservation can go too far, caring about their own well-being is great, and sincerely liking themselves is even better. Self-care is essential to all people, and learning to love yourself and have confidence is something that many people can learn from Slytherins.
People from this house usually aren’t as insecure, and even when they are, they fake it until they make it. Snape and Draco may have had their faults and insecurities, but Snape was highly confident in his intelligence and quick to defend himself when Harry called him a coward in Half-Blood Prince. Draco, though constantly disparaged by his father for failing to beat Hermione Granger in terms of grades, never made a single derogatory remark about himself or his lack of ability.
This might seem like a bad thing, as it’s often associated with negativity, but in fact, it can be one of the best Slytherin traits and incredibly useful under the right circumstances. Deviousness speaks to intelligence, which is something that many Slytherins have in spades. And although many people wouldn’t like to acknowledge it, the ability to deceive and knowing just how to do it can be an essential part of success.
After all, if it weren’t for Severus Snape’s cunning, then the Dark Lord wouldn’t have been defeated. Severus used his cunning to act as a double agent and had a huge part in Voldemort’s downfall. Another Slytherin that had a major impact on Voldemort’s defeat who often goes unmentioned is Narcissa Malfoy. She used her cunning to find her son after the Battle of Hogwarts by lying and saying that Harry Potter was dead when he was still alive.
This is one of the positive Slytherin traits that definitely doesn’t get talked about by Harry Potter audiences enough. Leadership is something that is mentioned by the Sorting Hat and that also comes across to any viewer that is paying attention. While not all Slytherins make great leaders, the other core traits of the house lend to leadership positions.
Being ambitious, cunning, and resourceful are all important qualities that can help someone achieve the top of their chosen field. Sirius’ ancestor Phineas Nigellus Black was a Hogwarts headmaster, albeit unpopular, and a Slytherin. Snape led his house to victory several years in a row in the house cup competition before Harry Potter joined the school. The famed Merlin was also a Slytherin, creating the Order of Merlin and achieving countless other feats.
Although being shrewd isn’t necessarily good in the eyes of some, it can be used in a very positive way and is arguably one of the best Slytherin traits. The ability to stay calm under pressure and see advantages in a situation that most people might miss is an incredibly powerful talent that many of Salazar’s students seem to exhibit. The Slytherin characteristic of astute intellect allows them to evaluate situations with the insight to make quick decisions.
These are definitely people who are sharp and aware of what’s going on around them. Snape’s decision to make an Unbreakable Vow with Narcissa Malfoy was definitively one of his shrewdest decisions in Half-Blood Prince. Dumbledore’s fate had been sealed, and Snape needed to prove his loyalty to Voldemort in a major way to keep the act going. The Unbreakable Vow did the trick, and effectively kept his true loyalties hidden until the end of the series.
This trait is often associated with Gryffindors or even Hufflepuffs, but it’s a strong aspect of Slytherin’s ideals as well, and one of the best Slytherin traits. While Gryffindors are very steadfast and true, this is another example of how they and Slytherin are two sides of the same coin. Slytherins can be quite devoted and dedicated too, but they tend to be more dutiful towards particular people or more ardent in certain beliefs that might not adhere to the typical norms and standards.
Gryffindors are idealists who tend to cleave to the same ideals, while Slytherins often choose their own paths. Despite his previous path, Snape stayed loyal to Dumbledore until the very end, even if he didn’t like or agree with his ultimate plan of letting Harry die, “at the proper moment.” In stark contrast, Bellatrix displayed unyielding loyalty to Voldemort, searching fruitlessly for him even after Harry had bested him the first time around.
The confidence of most Slytherins could be intimidating to most, but the truth is that they just have faith in themselves above almost all others in most instances, and it can be one of the best Slytherin traits. They’re not the type to wait for someone else’s help or permission, and they live by the old adage “if you want something done right then do it yourself”.
They’re also not afraid to go it alone, sometimes they even seek out situations where they can achieve something purely by themselves, and that self-reliance is pretty admirable. While it was the wrong thing to do, Draco acted almost entirely alone in mending the Vanishing Cabinet in Half-Blood Prince, refusing Snape’s help at every turn. Snape too often acted alone, keeping his true motivations close to the chest so as not to betray his role.
The typical Slytherin’s ability to keep their emotions out of any situation (or at least conceal their emotions more skillfully than most would be capable of) is actually a huge strength and one of the best Slytherin traits. Sure, they can hold onto a grudge like no other, but they are ultimately pragmatic and will engage with people that they dislike in order to achieve their greater goals.
As quite a few Slytherins demonstrated throughout the course of Harry Potter, they had no love lost for Harry but were still willing to team up with him or help him if it was to their advantage. Pragmatism is best displayed in the Malfoy family. Voldemort’s second coming turned out to be a curse on their family. In The Deathly Hallows, they realized they were on the wrong side and Draco refused to identify Harry to Bellatrix when they were caught by snatchers. Narcissa lied to Voldemort’s face to find her son, and it was her actions that kept them out of Azkaban.
Slytherin may have a bad reputation, but it’s no coincidence that the Wizarding World was nearly conquered by Voldemort, and his plan was foiled by Severus Snape, two of the most iconic Slytherins of all time. The natural knack for strategic thinking that can be found within this Hogwarts house likely explains why that is, as their students seemingly have a natural gift for planning ahead and sussing out what moves their adversaries will make before they make them.
Being strategic is arguably one of the best Slytherin traits, but it can be used for the dark side. Snape’s strategy is leagues above anyone else in the Harry Potter series, as he managed to keep Harry safe countless times and gifted him the sword of Gryffindor through his Patronus in The Deathly Hallows. Narcissa was also strategic in backing Snape into a corner to make the Unbreakable Vow to ensure Draco’s safety in light of Voldemort’s plans.
The Worst Slytherin Traits
It’s been noted by many Harry Potter fans that in many ways Slytherins and Gryffindors have a lot in common, which unfortunately leads to many of the worst Slytherin traits. While they might have a big rivalry and seem like total opposites, this isn’t really the case. Slytherins and Gryffindors are the two houses that are most prone to rule-breaking. While Gryffindors might be more brazen in how they go about it, Slytherins tend to be more sneaky in their flouting of rules.
They tend to fly under the radar and break rules quietly and discreetly without getting caught. Draco broke a myriad of school rules during his time at Hogwarts, and most of the time it was in an effort to make Harry’s life miserable. He got the Golden trio (and himself) caught for being out after curfew in Sorcerer’s Stone. He also let a bunch of Death Eaters into Hogwarts in Half-Blood Prince, which certainly must’ve been against the rules.
Each house has its own ways in which they can be judgmental, and they tend to judge based on different things. For example, Ravenclaws can be rather judgmental of those who they don’t think are smart enough. However, Slytherins, along with Gryffindors, are probably some of the most judgmental of all, making it one of the worst Slytherin traits.
They can be a rather proud house, which makes them look down on people that they think don’t measure up to their standards, which can be quite severe and exacting. Lucius was judgmental of his own son, Draco, for not being able to best a muggle-born at school in Chamber of Secrets. However, the Malfoys in general were supremely judgmental of those who were less well-off and not of pure blood.
Slytherin is a house that is associated with being prideful and having a lot of self-assurance. While these aren’t necessarily bad things all of the time, they can lead them to be stuck-up and haughty, and being haughty is one of the worst Slytherin traits. Many members of this house will treat other people with disdain or think they are inherently superior to them, and unfortunately, they tend to think that they are better than almost everyone.
This can lead to Slytherins being unkind to others in general because they tend to stick to themselves, or it can end with even more serious and dangerous consequences. The Malfoys and the Blacks were supremely haughty toward others, with Lucius Malfoy seeing himself as superior to Arthur Weasley, a fellow pure-blood, because of his wealth and Arthur’s interest in Muggles. Tom Riddle also built his entire movement on being superior to Muggles, and was so disdainful of them that he even murdered his own Muggle father.
Salazar’s students are certainly known for being prideful, and that unfortunately often means being egotistical to a fault. They don’t take any slight easily, and they never forget being scorned either, making their vindictiveness one of the worst Slytherin traits. Everyone can hold a grudge sometimes, but the fact that Severus Snape punished Harry Potter for the things James did decades ago is over the top.
The same goes for the fact that Harry’s casual insult in Sorcerer’s Stone seemingly made a rival out of Draco Malfoy for his remaining time at Hogwarts. Both Snape and Draco went to extreme lengths to bully Harry for these slights. Draco never turned down an opportunity to make Harry look like a fool, whether its faking Dementor attacks in Prisoner of Azkaban, using his affluence to fund the entire Quidditch team with new brooms just to best Harry in Chamber of Secrets, or making the “Support Cedric Diggory, Potter Stinks” badges in Goblet of Fire.
Although not every student in Slytherin is a pure-blood, one of their core values is focused on keeping wizard bloodlines together and excluding regular Muggles from the Wizarding World, making clear prejudice one of the worst Slytherin traits. This isn’t a good reflection upon Slytherin students under any circumstances, but this prejudice can obviously have disastrous consequences in the long run.
It should come as no surprise that many of Voldemort’s followers were Slytherins, simply because their thoughts about wizard superiority were already baked into the foundation of their Hogwarts house. Pure-blood supremacy was bred into Draco Malfoy from birth thanks to his parents, and Hermione was usually the target of his bigoted insults, first calling her a Mudblood in Chamber of Secrets. However, it’s worth noting that Salazar Slytherin himself didn’t want to accept muggle-borns into Hogwarts.
There is nothing wrong with aiming high in life, but sometimes the students and alumni from this particular house take it to an unnecessary extreme, making elitism one of the worst Slytherin traits. Many Slytherins seem to think of themselves as better than everyone, and thus only want to socialize or surround themselves with those that they believe are on their level.
They will also sometimes go out of their way to exclude people that they don’t think are worthy of them, which is not a good look. Horace Slughorn was a prime example of this. The potions master and his titular “shelf” was known for favoring students of high achievement or wealth and status. Despite Harry, Ginny, and Hermione being the Slug Club, Slughorn never bothered to learn Ron’s last name, and often called him the wrong thing for the entire year in Half-Blood Prince.
This is another way in which Gryffindors and Slytherins are quite similar; they are both houses that are known for having a good deal of arrogance, and it’s one of the worst Slytherin traits. The difference is the way this attitude is presented and perceived by others. While Gryffindors are more likely to be outwardly cocky, Slytherins have a more introverted smugness about them.
They definitely think they’re the best house, just like the Gryffindors. It’s no wonder the two houses can’t stand each other. Lucius Malfoy was possibly one of the most arrogant characters in the Harry Potter series. He foolishly believed that his wealth, status, and connections could protect his family, even from Voldemort. Unfortunately, he found out this wasn’t the case in The Deathly Hallows, which saw the family switch sides at the very end.
This is definitely one of the worst Slytherin traits, and it’s an area where they differ greatly from Gryffindors. While other houses such as Gryffindor and Hufflepuff are known for caring about others and being oriented towards other people, Slytherins are a more self-preserving house. They are more independent and out for themselves, and they aren’t very likely to play the hero or put their own lives on the line.
Tom Riddle, aka Voldemort, embodied selfishness to the highest degree. He tortured and killed countless people, some of them being his own followers, to achieve his own selfish ends of ruling the world and living forever. The Malfoys had their own selfish reasons for joining him, namely power, and Draco displayed nothing but disregard for others as he bullied Harry from the get-go up until The Deathly Hallows.
Considering that the mascot of Slytherin is a snake, it’s no wonder that the students sorted into this house are associated with sneakiness, one of the worst Slytherin traits. As a whole, many of the students who were sorted here tend to be good at getting out of trouble and not getting caught. They are rather good at evading and sneaking around. This is definitely not a great quality, as it often means they throw other people under the bus, and Slytherins are also prone to lying.
This is probably one of the worst characteristics of the house that comes out the most often. Draco snuck around often to get Harry in trouble, catching him for breaking curfew in Sorcerer’s Stone, and also used the utmost discretion when repairing the Vanishing Cabinet in Half-Blood Prince. His multiple failed attempts at killing Dumbledore also spoke of a sneakiness streak, as none of the attempts were able to be tied back to him.
This is by far one of the worst Slytherin traits in Harry Potter. While not all the students in the house are cruel, there are a few that are truly uncaring and nasty. It’s a bit unfair how some Slytherins are viewed, but the bad eggs in the group are so bad that it gives the rest a likewise reputation. People like Malfoy and his friends were quite brutal.
They didn’t really care much about what happened to the people around them, and they even hurt and attempted to kill other Hogwarts students and teachers in The Deathly Hallows. Voldemort was obviously the cruelest of them all, unafraid to torture and kill his own followers for their failures, and Lucius Malfoy purposely put the diary in Ginny’s cauldron in Chamber of Secrets knowing that it would unleash a monster on the school (but not knowing it was a Horcrux). All in all, Slytherins are a complex bunch and have a number of good and bad traits.