(noun) A religious specialist with direct access and influence over supernatural power that typically uses magic or sorcery for controlling the environment, divination or healing purposes.

Example: A medicine person in Native American cultures such as the Cherokee Nation.

Audio Pronunciation: (sha·man)

Download Audio Pronunciation: shaman.mp3

Usage Notes:

  • Plural: shamans
  • The difference between a shaman and a priest is that a shaman’s role is often performed part time and with direct access or control of supernatural power and a priest’s role is often full time, but lacking direct control over supernatural power, acting only as an intermediary.
  • The roles of shamans and specific names for shamans (e.g. medicine man) change according to culture and society, thus a single definition cannot capture the continuum of shamans or shamanism.
  • Also called:
    • medicine man (medicine-man) or medicine woman (medicine-woman).
    • priest doctor (priest-doctor)
    • witch doctor (witch-doctor)
  • A (noun) shaman practices or (verb) shamanizes (noun) shamanism using (adjective) shamanic methods.

Additional Information:

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How to Cite the Definition of Shaman

ASA – American Sociological Association (5th edition)

Bell, Kenton, ed. 2014. “shaman.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Retrieved June 16, 2019 (

APA – American Psychological Association (6th edition)

shaman. (2014). In K. Bell (Ed.), Open education sociology dictionary. Retrieved from

Chicago/Turabian: Author-Date – Chicago Manual of Style (16th edition)

Bell, Kenton, ed. 2014. “shaman.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Accessed June 16, 2019.

MLA – Modern Language Association (7th edition)

“shaman.” Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Ed. Kenton Bell. 2014. Web. 16 Jun. 2019. <>.