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A wizard (from 'wise') is a practitioner of magic, especially in folklore, fantasy fiction, and fantasy role-playing games.

During the 15th century, the term "wizard" referred to "philosopher, sage", from Middle English wysard (from wys "wise" and the -ard suffix also in drunkard etc.). In popular use in 16th century England it was used to denote a helpful male folk magican, a cunning man as they were usually called. The semantic restriction to "sorcerer, magician" occurred in the 16th century.

 

Synonyms: Mage, enchanter, magician, sorcerer, thaumaturgist; necromancer

In most cases there is little to differentiate a wizard from similar fictional and folkloric practitioners of magic such as an enchanter, a magician, a sorcerer, or a thaumaturgist; but specific fantasy authors and role-playing games use the names with narrower meanings. When such distinctions are made, sorcerers are more often evil, "black magicians" (i.e., practitioners of black magic), and there may be variations on level and type of power associated with each name.

The word does not generally apply to Neopagans, or to stage magicians (properly termed illusionists) like David Copperfield, Paul Daniels, or James Randi. Wizards and sorcerers

For example, Dungeons & Dragons Third Edition, distinguishes between sorcerers and wizards:

"Sorcerers create magic the way poets create poems, with inborn talent honed by practice."

"Wizards depend on intensive study to create their magic. ... For a wizard, magic is not a talent but a deliberate rewarding art."

Another example: "The difference between a wizard and a sorcerer is comparable to that between, say, a lion and a tiger, but wizards are acutely status-conscious, and to them, it's more like the difference between a lion and a dead kitten." (Steve Pemberton, The Times & Life of Lucifer Jones).

 

Black and white wizards

However, the term black mage or black magician is found only in western society, as similar roles in other cultures are usually known by names without the color association. It is often supposed that the term 'black magic' originated as a corruption of the latin "necromantia" (necromancy) to "nigromantia" (black art or magic). The color black does connote evil and death in other societies, as evidenced by the Nordic Svartalfr (black elves) known to bring nightmares, but its application to magic and its practitioners is unique.

'Black' and 'White' shamans appear in the Siberian shamanic tradition, and the white ones deal with the powers of the upper world, while black ones work with the lower world, but their roles in society do not seem to reflect western concepts of black and white magic.

Despite the stereotypes of western cultures, the Black Mages of Final Fantasy are no more predisposed towards evil than their white counterparts.

Necromancers

A Necromancer is a death wizard who dabbles in magic of the undead, cornering almost on black magic.

Shamen

 

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