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See also: shamán


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A shaman


Borrowing from German Schamane,[1] from Russian шама́н (šamán),[1] from Evenki шама̄н (şamān), сама̄н (samān).[2] The Evenki word is probably ultimately derived from Pali samaṇa from Sanskrit श्रमण (śramaṇá, ascetic, monk, devotee), from श्रम (śráma, fatigue, weariness, exhaustion; labor, toil etc.).[3] Doublet of Sramana. The Pali term may have entered Evenki through either Tocharian B ṣamāne (monk)[3] or Chinese 沙門 (shāmén, Buddhist monk).[4]



shaman (plural shamans)

  1. A traditional (prescientific) faith healer.
  2. A member of certain tribal societies who acts as a religious medium between the concrete and spirit worlds.

Usage notes[edit]

  • The plural form is shamans, not shamen;[8] the etymologically-consistent plural form from the original Evenki is shamasal,[9] but this form sees no use in English; the plural form shamans is, however, universally accepted.[10]

Derived terms[edit]




  1. 1.0 1.1 shaman” in Unabridged:, LLC, 1995–.
  2. ^ shaman” in the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, Springfield, Mass.: Merriam-Webster, 1996–.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Fortson, Benjamin W. (2010) Indo-European Language and Culture: An Introduction, second edition, Oxford: Blackwell
  4. ^ This theory is ascribed by several other sources to the OED.
  5. 5.0 5.1 shaman, n. (and a.)” listed in the Oxford English Dictionary, second edition (1989)
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 shaman” listed in Merriam–Webster’s Online Dictionary (retrieved on 19 September 2008)
  7. 7.0 7.1 shaman” listed in The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 4th edition (2000)
  8. ^ 1978, Carl B. Compton, The Interamerican, volume 25, №3 (Instituto Interamericano, Denton, Texas) We learn from our readers: We have been wrong in writing the word “shamen” as a plural for “shaman”. The word probably comes from Russian and there is no plural except that made by adding an ‘s’ — e.g. Shamans.
  9. ^ 2003, Howard Isaac Aronson, Dee Ann Holisky, and Kevin Tuite, Current Trends in Caucasian, East European, and Inner Asian Linguistics — “Dialect Continua in Tungusic: Plural Morphology”, page 103 (John Benjamin’s Publishing Company; ISBN 1588114619) [] we note here that -sal tends to exist only as a residual plural marker in -l/-r dialects. For example, in Standard Evenki, as in the Evenki dialects of the Amur basin and the Vivin dialect, use of -sal is limited to a small number of nouns (e.g. bajan “rich person”, pl. bajasal; ɲami:, “female reindeer”, pl. ɲami:sal or ɲami:səl; aβlan “field”, pl. aβlasal; sama:n “shaman”, pl. sama:sal).
  10. ^ 2005, Peter Metcalf, Anthropology: The Basics, box 7.3: “Shamanism”, page 132 (Routledge; ISBN 0415331196) Note that the plural of shaman is shamans, not shamen.