As anyone that knows a bit about magic in fantasy worlds can tell you, there are many names for magic users, such as wizard and mage. So what makes a wizard different from a mage?

My idea, although this is almost definitely just a personal opinion, is as follows:

  • Wizard - A lot of 'magic power' that is hard to control, requiring the use of a staff and robes+hat to channel it into spells. Supplements he weakness of staff reliance with alchemical potions.

  • Mage - Uses chants to cast magic spells and doesn't require any tools (eg. "Oh spirits of the flame, grant me your power and incinerate my enemies - Fire Ball!").

  • Magician - Requires the use of various magical artifacts such as wands and magic crystals to conjure spells. Basically they don't have their own magic, just the knowledge on how to use artifacts.

  • Sorcerer - Has rather low 'magic power' but sports incredible control over it, using inscriptions, matrixes and magic circles to produce highly 'magic efficient' spells. Good at enchanting objects such as swords to make them sharper, harder, burning etc.

  • Warlock - Similar to a wizard, but instead of direct spells they summon various creatures and demons to fight for them, using their vast amount of 'magic power' to sustain their existence.

  • Druid - A magic user that focuses heavily on the 4 main elements to cast their spells, using incantations and chants. They can also transform their bodies by infusing them with magic.

  • Spellsword - Focuses more on martial arts, using magic only to supplement them. Most of their spells are related to self-strengthening.

I wonder, is there actually any actual difference between all these magic users, or are they just different terms for the same thing, like cat and feline? And did I mention all the major users, or are there any more that I'm missing? I know Thaumaturges are also a thing, but I have no idea what they could be to be different from the basic wizard and mage.

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    $\begingroup$ Conjurer, illusionist, necromancer, manatou, witch, wierd one - the list of words associated is more or less endless. At the moment it's a little broad, could you tell us what the worldbuilding problem you need to solve is? $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 11, 2019 at 20:50
  • $\begingroup$ Pretty much I'm just trying to find the perfect term for my story to use, as I don't want people to be confused when reading. Thus, I just want as much information about the various terms and how they differ from each other, if they even do. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 11, 2019 at 21:03
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    $\begingroup$ Enchanter, magus.... The trouble is writers use these words subjectivley to fit their own tastes - this could be difficult to rephrase in a way that doesn't just get closed as opinion based. Someone might come up with a usefull answer before that though - but as far as I'm aware there's no definitive text to refer to on the point. The Catholic church would use the Maleus Malificarum, writers could do worse than read the Writer's Complete Fantasy Reference (commercial link): amazon.com/Writers-Complete-Fantasy-Reference/dp/1582970262 $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 11, 2019 at 21:13
  • $\begingroup$ Question as it stands cannot be answered with anything but opinion answers (the answer is yes or no, depends on the story and thaumaturges could be anything from miracle worker to engineer). Now if you wanted to ask about the Persian/Greek/Latin etymology of the words magic and magician in the Western world (its a whole different conversation if we go to the East) that could have an answer but might not be best place to ask. It is also similar to this closed question $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 11, 2019 at 21:52
  • $\begingroup$ This isn't a worldbuilding question. Humans over time have developed different names for people who use magic. Sometimes the magic was different. Sometimes it wasn't. The differences by name is intrinsic to real cultures here on Earth and the development of languages. There is not not, nor ever has been, a codified differentiation. Any such differentiation comes from worldbuilding. And since asking for a best name is off-topic, VTC OT:NAW. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Commented Apr 11, 2019 at 22:14

1 Answer 1



Reason being: in the Real World (TM), magic of the fantasy kind doesn't exist. These are just different words that all point to what is essentially the same thing: a user of magical power.

Your underlying query, the one you don't quite come out and ask, can I make a system where different words indicate different kinds of magic user who obtain and channel powers in different ways?, the answer is obviously:


Reason being: it's your world, you make up the rules.


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