1. a man in stories who has magic powers
  2. someone who is very good at something

Origin and usage: The word wizard comes from the Middle English word 'wys' meaning 'wise'. In this sense, it first appeared in English in the early 15th century. As a word used to describe a man with magical powers, wizard did not start to be used until around 1550 - MacMillan Blog

The word wizard is derived from wise.

Wizard -> wise + ard

Wikitionary says wisard is archaic form of wizard.

Wize: Obsolete form of 'wise' — Wiktionary

The 's' in wisard changed to 'z' and 'z' in wize changed to 's'.


  • Why did the 's' in 'wisard' change to 'z'?
  • Why did the 'z' in 'wize' change to 's'?
  • Alchemy. Or a non-magical scribe muggling the spelling. May 11, 2020 at 14:06
  • 2
    English spelling is not consistent. It's not consistent with English pronunciation, and it's not consistent with other English spellings. If you don't expect it to be, you won't be disappointed or confused because it isn't. May 11, 2020 at 16:31
  • Apparently wise and wize coexisted in the past, probably given to different pronounciations, but the spelling wise survived once language was codified. books.google.it/…
    – user 66974
    May 11, 2020 at 16:53
  • A far-fetched hypothesis is that the words wizard (with ME spellings wysard, wysar, and wyzard, among others) and vizier (with ME spellings vesir, vezir, visir, wizir, among others) may have had some influence on each other. (ME spellings are from the OED. Etymologically, the words are unrelated.) May 11, 2020 at 18:24
  • 1
    The first spellings in English that were anything like universally standardised were those adopted from Johnson's dictionary of 1755 and these were adopted only because it became a de facto standard. Johnson derived many of his spellings from analysis of the origins in Greek and Latin but must have made a comparatively arbitrary choice of the spellings of words from other origins. That's why we get spellings like 'now', 'plough', 'sow'(a pig), sow(plant seeds), hoe, though, tough and so on. Asking why a word like 'wizard' is spelt that way isn't going to get you a proper answer.
    – BoldBen
    Sep 9, 2020 at 10:37

3 Answers 3


A smart* person might have cogni(z|s)ance of another word where the original s changed to a z. According to the OED, this change (in the spelling of cognisance) was due to the fact that the s sounds like a z. But a spelling with the original s also survives.

There are many such words, usually where the z spelling is used in the US and s is used in the UK. In some cases, like seize/seise plus their adjective forms seizable/seisable, the original s spelling is only used in a niche meaning.

I think therefore that wizard switched to a z because that’s what it sounds like. And other words like wise did not because they just kept their old spelling.

* Or someone who knows how to search in the right places :p



wise, adj. (n.3 and adv.)

The standard pronunciation with voiced s (z) is presumably derived from the oblique cases. The normal representative of Old English wís with (s), as in ice (Old English ís), survives in some northern dialects; the regular Scots pronunciation is /weis/.

Wizard: Etymology: late Middle English wysar(d, < wys, wis, wiss, wise adj. + -ard suffix. The pronunciation with voiced s (z) follows wisdom and wise.


Because wisard is pronounced as wizard. Wise is also pronounced with z sound. There are many words in which s is pronounced z. like rose = roze but it is not written as roze because the s already gives z sound.


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