In Harry Potter, what makes a wizard a wizard and a witch a witch? Apparently, wizards can be both men and women. But I'm not sure if men can be witches. So in this universe what is the distinction?

According to the sci fi stack exchange what wizard witch:

"Wizard" can be used for males and females.

According to this question: magic folk

Well, when Hagrid describes Muggles to Harry as "non-magic folk" it might imply that 'magic' is a collective term used to describe witches and wizards. An example sentence might be, "All the non-magic folk to the right, the magic to the left." Also, 'magic' is the word I've most commonly seen/heard as used to describe the genetic attribute that makes a person a witch or wizard. Either a person has the magic gene or they don't.

Because magic means both witches and wizards, this means there is a difference. Women can be wizards and in history men can be witches. Therefore there is a difference between the magic abilities of witch and wizard.

I'm not seeing the clear definition though of what makes one or the other. The question related to a term for both wizards and witches, however, reports it as two separate entities, therefore there exists a distinction between witch and wizard, in the Potterverse anyway, but what makes one or the other according to J.K. Rowling I have not found an explanation that she gives.

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    I'd guess that just two names for same thing, "witch" being bit older name for "female wizard", but in the world of Political Correctness (and since the fact that "witch" might have bit bad connotation) they've decided to call bot males and females simply "wizard". There are more examples of such "gender-defined position" in English language: Chairman ("man" denotes male only), midwife. Even the common "actress" is phased out in favour to gender neutral "actor"
    – Yasskier
    Sep 15, 2016 at 22:01
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    @Mooz how is this possibly a duplicate? That question specifically states a generalization of witches and wizards together, hence that there is a distinction. No answer from that question addresses the specific differences between witch and wizard. Sep 15, 2016 at 22:34
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    I'd suggest renaming it then to "can male wizards be called witches"
    – Yasskier
    Sep 15, 2016 at 22:41
  • @Yasskier why? I want to know differences in technique, spells, class of magics, etc. Why would I want to know if it is proper to call a male wizard a witch? Sep 15, 2016 at 22:52
  • @ElBromista those are general terms for "magic users". For a contrast, creator of the Philosopher Stone is called alchemist because he is a wizard specialising in alchemy, Snape can be called "Occlumancer" because he is a master in this disciple, but there is no such thing as "witchcraft" that would make a witch a special kind of wizard.
    – Yasskier
    Sep 15, 2016 at 23:36

1 Answer 1


Wizard and Witch is the wizarding world's equivalent of Man and Woman, pretty much exactly.

Just as in English we sometimes say Mankind to refer to both men and women, Wizard will sometimes be used to refer to the community of both wizards and witches (as in Wizarding World) and as the wizarding version of the generic he.

To answer your question, if you're a man, you're a wizard, if you're a woman, you're a witch and sometimes wizard will be used in a gender neutral fashion to refer to both.

Counter to what is said elsewhere, I doubt the use of wizard in a gender neutral fashion is because of PC. PC likes removing the so called 'Generic he'. For example, if we have Chairman and Chairwoman, PC doesn't collapse that down to just Chairman, it goes to Chairperson. If there is such a movement in Harry Potter, and there's not much evidence of one, it would move towards 'Magical' IMO. The Magical World rather than the Wizarding World for example. Also more inclusive of non-wizard Beings.

  • Agree except that I don't think there would be more inclusiveness of non-wizard beings. For humans there is the Statue of Secrecy (or whatever it is called) but even so there is much prejudice isn't there? And for goblins &c it's similar: racism/bigotry/whatever you wish to call it.
    – Pryftan
    Feb 17, 2019 at 23:40

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