Definition of shaman in English:



  • A person regarded as having access to, and influence in, the world of good and evil spirits, especially among some peoples of northern Asia and North America. Typically such people enter a trance state during a ritual, and practise divination and healing.

    • ‘He now suggests they were used as ‘spirit tracks’ by prehistoric shamans who, in trances, travelled along them on out-of-body travel.’
    • ‘Sometimes, magicians and shamans can provide this advice.’
    • ‘Many people consult shamans and other religious practitioners.’
    • ‘Unlike ‘summoners’, mages / shamans / shamanists do not call the spirit and let it fight; they call the spirit and use its power to fight by their own means.’
    • ‘It is said among shamans that each is paired with his or her perfect spirit guide.’
    • ‘Evil shamans involve spirits and have what we would call supernatural powers.’
    • ‘Even Amazonian shamans, when in trance, travel to spirit governments to gain the power to cure.’
    • ‘Other religious practitioners include spirit mediums and shamans, most of whom are women.’
    • ‘Rituals of traditional belief systems mark life-cycle events or involve propitiation for particular occasions and are led by shamans, spirit mediums, or prayer masters (male or female).’
    • ‘Even the most primitive hunting and gathering bands had their chiefs and matriarchs, weapon and tool makers, and shamans or witch doctors who had to be supported, and their part-time services needed subsidy by the rest.’
    • ‘In the past, the Kyrgyz people relied on shamans as healers.’
    • ‘In many rural communities, men and women function equally as shamans and healers.’
    • ‘For millennia, shamans and witch doctors, the therapists of indigenous and preindustrial cultures, made no distinction between physical, emotional, and spiritual healing.’
    • ‘Split into groups to ward off wild animals, bad weather and harmful spirits, the shamans were confidant of their success, though three scouts reportedly were found crying until they fainted.’
    • ‘Religious experts vary from formally installed priests and teachers representing the institutionalized religions to self-ordained shamans, healers, and sorcerers.’
    • ‘Among the Sauk, shamans were thought to be capable of transforming themselves into bears and other animals to destroy their enemies.’
    • ‘Religious roles, from shamans to Catholic priests to Muslim imams, are dominated by men.’
    • ‘The rituals are performed under the direction of the shaman.’
    • ‘While performing the ritual, the shaman (witch doctor) dances and enters into a trance.’
    • ‘One becomes a shaman by apprenticing to a shaman and learning the magic formulas to be recited on different occasions.’
    medicine man, medicine woman, healer
    witch doctor
    peai, peaiman
    View synonyms


Late 17th century: from German Schamane and Russian shaman, from Tungus šaman.