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'?
  • 2
    Judging from the pronunciation, the question should be: "Why didn't wise change to wize?" – GEdgar May 11 at 13:57
  • @GEdgar, Added it to the question. – Decapitated Soul May 11 at 14:00
  • Alchemy. Or a non-magical scribe muggling the spelling. – Edwin Ashworth May 11 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. – John Lawler May 11 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/… – user121863 May 11 at 16:53


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.

| improve this answer | |

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

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  • I believe there are many such words, usually where the z spelling is used in the US and s is used in the UK. --- That's usually for verbs (-ise, -ize, yse, yze etc). 'Wise' is an adjective. Also, the z in wize changed to s and s in wisard changed to z - that's odd and perplexing. It should've been either 's' or 'z' in both (both have /z/ sound) :P – Decapitated Soul May 11 at 18:23
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    @DecapitatedSoul - are you sure that “the z in wize changed to s”? I think both spellings were used in the past and finally the s spelling prevailed. – user121863 May 11 at 19:03
  • @Hachi, Not sure about 'wize' but sure about 'wisard'. :/ – Decapitated Soul May 12 at 9:51
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    @DecapitatedSoul - the two spellings coexisted for some time, finally “wizard” became the codified version in dictionaries. Probably its pronunciation was more in favour of a “z” sound. books.google.com/ngrams/… – user121863 May 12 at 10:01

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.

| improve this answer | |
  • I know 's' gives /z/ sound in many words... But why did the 'wisard' change to 'wizard' in the first place? – Decapitated Soul May 12 at 9:48

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