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A wizard is a practitioner of magic, especially in folklore and fantasy fiction. In popular use during 16th century England, "wizard' was used to denote a helpful male folk magican, a cunning man as they were usually called. The word does not generally apply to pagans. Stage magicians and illusionists such as David Copperfield, Paul Daniels, or Derren Brown often use the term "wizard" to denote a fellow practitioner of magic. Indeed an early Magic Circle magazine, published in London in the 1900's, was named "The Wizard".

During the 15th century, the term "wizard" referred to a philosopher or sage, from Middle English wysard (from wys "wise" and the -ard suffix also in drunkard etc.) The semantic restriction to sorcerer or magician occurred in the 16th century. They have historical roots in the Shamans and the Magi.

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, a necromancer, or a thaumaturgist, but specific authors and works use the names with narrower meanings. When such distinctions are made, sorcerers are more often practitioners of evocations or black magic, and there may be variations on level and type of power associated with each name.

The ever-shifting chaos of fantasy writing has, of course, muddled the meaning of each term, but they should never be stuck with a single meaning, for they change depending upon where they're found.

Famous wizards in folklore and fantasy fiction (sometimes both) include:

Belgarath - created by David Eddings as a leading character for The Belgariad series of fantasy novels (also called 'Belgarath the Sorcerer').

Chun the Inescapable, Rhialto the Marvelous, and others - from Jack Vance's Dying Earth stories.

Chrestomanci in Charmed Life and sequels by Diana Wynne Jones

Rincewind - strictly a "Wizzard" (it says so on his hat) and the wizards of Unseen University - from many of Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels.

Doctor Strange is a wizard superhero and Sorcerer Supreme in the Marvel Universe. Doctor Fate is the DC Universe equivalent.

Elric of Melniboné - often called a sorcerer or a wizard - from Michael Moorcock's Elric of Melniboné and its sequels.

Gandalf, Saruman, Radagast, Alatar and Pallando - from J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings - are called Wizards, but are really supernatural entities. In the Middle-earth legendarium, "wizard" is a term applied only to the five members of the Order of the Istari; the term "wizard" could never be applied to a human, and a human magic user is simply called a sorcerer.

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).

J. Wellington Wells ("a dealer in magic and spells") - the eponymous Sorcerer of Gilbert and Sullivan's operetta, who also features in two books by Tom Holt.

Mordenkainen was the greatest wizard in the Greyhawk fantasy series by Wizards of the Coast. Other great wizards of Greyhawk were Bigby, Drawmij, Evard, Leomund, Melf, Nystul, Otiluke, Rary, Tasha and Tenser.
Morgon was the riddlemaster of Hed in books by author Patricia A. McKillip.

Obi-Wan Kenobi, as a master of the Force, has some wizard-like attributes in George Lucas' Star Wars films: "That wizard's just a crazy old man" said Uncle Owen to Luke Skywalker in Episode IV: A New Hope.

Randall Flagg, an evil entity from Stephen King's epic The Stand, oftentimes appears as a "wizard" in the author's other works. Notably in the Dark Tower series as Walter O'Dim (The Man in Black) and Marten Broadcloak (Steven Deschain's magician). He also plays the part of the antagonist in Eyes of the Dragon as "Flagg," King Roland's advisor.

Shazam, the ancient Egyptian wizard who gives Captain Marvel and the Marvel Family their powers.

Thw eponymous character of L. Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is a stage magician pretending to be a genuine wizard; in the 1939 movie version the wizard was also a fake. However, in later Oz stories, he studies magic with Glinda and becomes a genuine wizard. littlewitches_1.jpg

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