Definition of shaman in US English:


nounPlural shamans

  • 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 practice divination and healing.

    • ‘Even Amazonian shamans, when in trance, travel to spirit governments to gain the power to cure.’
    • ‘In the past, the Kyrgyz people relied on shamans as healers.’
    • ‘Sometimes, magicians and shamans can provide this advice.’
    • ‘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).’
    • ‘Religious roles, from shamans to Catholic priests to Muslim imams, are dominated by men.’
    • ‘The rituals are performed under the direction of the shaman.’
    • ‘He now suggests they were used as ‘spirit tracks’ by prehistoric shamans who, in trances, travelled along them on out-of-body travel.’
    • ‘Other religious practitioners include spirit mediums and shamans, most of whom are women.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘One becomes a shaman by apprenticing to a shaman and learning the magic formulas to be recited on different occasions.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Many people consult shamans and other religious practitioners.’
    • ‘Religious experts vary from formally installed priests and teachers representing the institutionalized religions to self-ordained shamans, healers, and sorcerers.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Evil shamans involve spirits and have what we would call supernatural powers.’
    • ‘It is said among shamans that each is paired with his or her perfect spirit guide.’
    • ‘While performing the ritual, the shaman (witch doctor) dances and enters into a trance.’
    • ‘Among the Sauk, shamans were thought to be capable of transforming themselves into bears and other animals to destroy their enemies.’
    medicine man, medicine woman, healer
    View synonyms


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