I'm learning new words from Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality and I don't get the difference between 'robe' and 'cloak'. The dictionary does not explain it clear to me.

Here is some sample sentence from the book.


One of Malkin's two assistants was examining the white-haired boy and the chequerboard-gridded robe he was wearing;


The letter said: This is the Cloak of Invisibility of Ignotus Peverell, passed down through his descendants the Potters.

  • 2
    You should add what dictionary you checked (with definitions or at least links to them), along with how the difference wasn't clear.
    – user3169
    Apr 15, 2015 at 22:30

3 Answers 3


A cloak is a full garment worn (usually outdoors) over all other clothes for warmth and protection. It is usually cut as a circle or partial circle, and is usually sleeveless but open at the front to give the hands and arms freedom. Cloaks are rarely worn in western cultures today; they have mostly been superseded by overcoats.


Robes are much more various. In mediaeval usage the word signified a sleeved garment with an ankle- or floor-length skirt, worn for non-strenuous activity; descendants of that sort of robe are usually rich, ornamented mantles worn over court dress on ceremonial occasions.


In more ordinary contexts a robe is a garment worn in very casual situations over swimsuits or pyjamas or nothing; it may be of very heavy or very flimsy fabric, depending on what activities are contemplated.

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In Rowling's universe the word appeals to the mediaeval tradition, as a garment appropriate to sorcerers, but sober rather than flamboyant, like the gowns worn by present-day barristers, judges and scholars.



A robe is either a garment donned after taking a bath or shower (a "bath-robe") or a special-purpose garment worn on festive occasions, such as an "academic robe" or a royal robe.

A cloak is either just a long coat without buttons or sleeves, or a similar garment but with special powers that is worn by magicians, mages, and shamans.

Since this is Harry Potter, you can decide.


In all honesty, when talking in the general sense of the terms, they are highly similar in the sense that they are both worn over the rest of the clothing one is wearing. However, a Cloak tends to have no sleeves being only secured by string or a clasp of some sort (mainly metal, in Harry Potter). Whereas, a robe can either refer to an overcoat with no buttons, with sleeves fastened around the neck much like a cloak or in some cases it refers to a dress like artefact which has a hood attached and is fully buttoned down the front, similar to what Professor Snape wears in the films.

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