What's the difference between these, and what are their proper uses and meanings? In a historical and modern sense.

I began to wonder about this while researching biblical texts, but this question isn't necessarily in that context.

  • 1
    Welcome to the site! Go ahead and include your prior research, such as definitions, and then answerers will know where to start – Unrelated Mar 22 '17 at 7:43
  • 3
    I am most familiar with these terms from fiction, where they mean whatever that author wants them to mean. When used in the Real World, the typical meaning has been "anything which I do not understand, and therefore could only have been accomplished via collusion with the forces of evil." – cobaltduck Mar 22 '17 at 12:37
  • Related: One word for witches and wizards, Why are female wizards called “witches”? In a biblical text, these words will be translations of words in some other language, so you should not assume they will have the same "proper uses and meanings" that they usually do in English. – herisson Mar 22 '17 at 18:56

As an approximation, they're equivalent. For example, an online copy of Merriam-Webster defines sorcerer as

a person who practices sorcery : wizard

and wizard as

(1) archaic : a wise man : sage ; (2) : one skilled in magic : sorcerer

The female equivalent of a sorcerer is a sorceress; very roughly, the female equivalent of a wizard or warlock is a witch, although in figurative modern usage "witch" has strong negative connotations (an overbearing or unpleasant personality, physical ugliness) while "wizard" only has positive ones. An "enchantress" could be a female magic-user more likely to be physically attractive than a witch; but could also be simply a beguiling woman who relies on her physical beauty to gain unfair advantage.

Since you mention the Bible, the words "witch", "witchcraft" and "wizard" seem to mostly be used in the (King James) Old Testament, while the word "sorcerer" seems to only be used in the New Testament. I suspect that that's because of separate translations from Hebrew and Greek; in the Bible, they mean the same thing.

(I'd like to add information about the roots of all these words, and the Hebrew and Greek terms, but don't have my reference-materials handy; I may edit for that later.)

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.