A wizard (from 'wise') is a practitioner of paranormal magic, especially in folklore, fantasy fiction, and fantasy role-playing games (FRPGs). The word does not generally apply to Neopaganss or stage magicianss like David Copperfield, Paul Daniels, or James Randi.
In most cases there is little to differentiate a wizard from similar fictional and folkloric practicioners of magic such as an enchanter, a magician, a sorcerer, or a thaumaturgist; however specific fantasy authors and FRPGs 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.
For example, Dungeons & Dragons Third Edition (D&D3E), 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 Life & Times of Lucifer Jones
Lyndon Hardy's Master of the Five Magics suggests ascending ranks of thaumaturgist, alchemist, magician, sorcerer, and wizard.
Famous wizards in folklore and fantasy fiction (sometimes both) include:
- Merlin - from Arthurian legends and their modern retellings.
- Gandalf and Saruman - from J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings - are called Wizards, but are really supernatural entities.
- Elric of Melniboné - often called a sorcerer or a wizard - from Michael Moorcock's Elric of Melniboné and its sequels.
- Sparrowhawk or Ged - from Ursula K. LeGuin's A Wizard of Earthsea and its sequels.
- Cugel the Clever, Rhialto the Marvelous, and others - from Jack Vance's Dying Earth stories.
- Rincewind - strictly a "Wizzard" (it says so on his hat) and the wizards of Unseen University - from many of Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels.
- Elminster - featured in many of the Forgotten Realms fantasy novels and RPGs.
- Faust - supposedly a wizard, but maybe more of an alchemist.
- Belgarath - created by David Eddings as a leading character for The Belgariad series of fantasy novels (also called 'Belgarath the Sorcerer').
- Michael Scot - protagonist of Michael Scott Rohan's The Lord of Middle Air - a historical figure and an ancestor of the author!
- Harry Potter, Albus Dumbledore, Severus Snape, Lord Voldemort, and all other non-Muggle male characters from J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone and its sequels. (The females are witches).
- Prospero is the famous wizard in Shakespeare's "The Tempest", also said to be John Dee.
- Doctor Strange is a wizard superhero and Sorcerer Supreme in the Marvel Universe. Doctor Fate, Zatanna and Timothy Hunter are the major DC Universe equivalents.
- The Wizard of Oz
- Mondain was the villainous wizard of the first Ultima game.
The eponymous character of L. Frank Baum
's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
is a fake
wizard hiding behind stage effects.
Wizard is a slang term for an expert Pinball player.
Wizzard were a 1970s British glam rock band led by Roy Wood (formerly of The Move and the Electric Light Orchestra).