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Definition of Shaman

(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 of Shaman

Shaman Pronunciation

Pronunciation Usage Guide

Syllabification: sha·man

Audio Pronunciation

– American English
– British English

Phonetic Spelling

  • American English – /shAY-muhn/
  • British English – /shAHm-uhn/

International Phonetic Alphabet

  • American English – /ˈʃeɪmən/
  • British English – /ˈʃeɪmən/

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

Related Terms

Cite the Definition of Shaman

ASA – American Sociological Association (5th edition)

Bell, Kenton, ed. 2014. “shaman.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Retrieved May 23, 2024 (https://sociologydictionary.org/shaman/).

APA – American Psychological Association (6th edition)

shaman. (2014). In K. Bell (Ed.), Open education sociology dictionary. Retrieved from https://sociologydictionary.org/shaman/

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

Bell, Kenton, ed. 2014. “shaman.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Accessed May 23, 2024. https://sociologydictionary.org/shaman/.

MLA – Modern Language Association (7th edition)

“shaman.” Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Ed. Kenton Bell. 2014. Web. 23 May. 2024. <https://sociologydictionary.org/shaman/>.