“Shamanka” and “Saman”

There are some variations of the word “shaman” that have been used and here we discuss where these terms came from.


The word shamanka is a complete Russian invention. In the Russian language, it is important to distinguish male from female. Anything feminine has an “a” at the end. Even with last names, women of the family will pronounce their names with an “a” at the end while men of the same family would not.
Shaman was a word that was used for both men and women by the Evenk and Buryat peoples. When the Russians started to use the word, they invented “shamanka” to describe a female shaman. This is not a traditional word among the natives.


The word “samancomes from a transcription error. Saman came about because some anthropologists use a transcription system for the Evenk (Tungus) language that does not distinguish between “s” and “sh”.

One other thing to note: The word shaman is pronounced SHA-man, not sha-MAN. In our language (Buryat), almost all words have the accent on the first syllable. Only if there is a double vowel in the second syllable does it get emphisized. The a’s in the word are pronounced “ah” and not a hard “a”.