The term wizard stems from the 15th century Middle English term wysard, meaning “a wise person”. Wizards are people who claim to possess innate or learned magical powers which they derive from supernatural sources. They are generally depicted as elderly, with white beards, baggy robes, wide brimmed pointed hats, and magical wands or staffs. Wizards commonly appear as heroes or villains in fantasy literature. Famous wizards include Merlin from Arthurian writings, Gandalf from Lord of the Rings, and Albus Dumbledore from the Harry Potter series.
It is thought that the physical appearance of the wizard was originally derived from the Germanic pagan god Woden, a long-bearded king. Historically, writers have written imagined tales about magicians and other characters which were often perceived by readers as real. For example, William Shakespeare’s fictional wizard character, Prospero from The Tempest, was commonly thought to be real. Other historical figures, such as the 16th century magician, alchemist and astologer Dr. Johann Georg Faust, were later perceived to be wizards.
Despite their common depiction in fantasy writing and role-playing, there exists no evidence to suggest that wizards actually exist.