A sobriquet (/ˈsbrɪk/ SOH-bri-kay) or soubriquet is a nickname, sometimes assumed, but often given by another and being descriptive in nature. Distinct from a pseudonym, it typically is a familiar name used in place of a real name without the need of explanation, often becoming more familiar than the original name.

The term, sobriquet, may apply to the nickname for a specific person, group of people, or place. Examples are Emiye Menelik, a name of Emperor Menelik II of Ethiopia, who was popularly and affectionately recognized for his kindness ('emiye' means mother in Amharic); Genghis Khan, who now is rarely recognized by his original name, Temüjin; and Mohandas Gandhi, who is better known as Mahatma Gandhi. Well-known places often have sobriquets, such as New York City, often referred to as the Big Apple.


The modern French spelling is sobriquet. Two early variants of the term are found, soubriquet and sotbriquet. The first early spelling variant, "soubriquet", remains in use and is considered the likely origin.

The second early spelling variant suggests derivation from the initial form, sot, foolish, and the second form, briquet, is a French adaptation of Italian brichetto, diminutive of bricco, ass,[clarification needed] knave, possibly connected with briccone, rogue, which is supposed to be a derivative of the German brechen, to break; but the philologist, Walter William Skeat, considers this spelling to be an example of false etymology. The real origin is to be sought in the form soubriquet.

Émile Littré gives an early-fourteenth-century soubsbriquet as meaning a chuck under the chin, and this would be derived from soubs, mod. sous (Lat. sub), under, and briquet or bruchel, the brisket, or lower part of the throat.


Sobriquets often are found in music, sports, and politics. Candidates and political figures often are branded with sobriquets, either while living or posthumously. For example, president of the United States Abraham Lincoln came to be known as "Honest Abe".[1]

In the A Dictionary of Modern English Usage (1926) Henry Watson Fowler warned, "Now the sobriquet habit is not a thing to be acquired, but a thing to be avoided; & the selection that follows is compiled for the purpose not of assisting but of discouraging it." He included the sobriquet among what he termed the "battered ornaments" of the language, but opinion on their use varies. Sobriquets remain a common feature of speech today.







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Related articles


  1. ^ Mansky, Jackie. "When Lincoln Was More a Politician Than an "Honest Abe"". Smithsonian. Retrieved 2017-09-26.
  2. ^ "'St. Thomas Aquinas'". New Advent. Retrieved 2012-05-06.
  3. ^ "Profile: 'World banker to the poor'". BBC News. 2006-10-13. Retrieved 2006-10-16.
  4. ^ Berkery, Patrick. "The Big Piece's big Game One: What does it mean?". phillyBurbs.com. Archived from the original on 29 November 2011. Retrieved 18 November 2011.
  5. ^ "4c. City of Brotherly Love — Philadelphia". ushistory.org. Retrieved 18 November 2011.
  6. ^ Schwartz, Larry. "Dr. J operated above the rest". ESPN SportsCentury. ESPN. Retrieved 18 November 2011.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h Andrew., Delahunty, (2003). Oxford dictionary of nicknames. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 140. ISBN 0198605390. OCLC 52486228.
  8. ^ "'The Greatest' Is Gone". Time. 1978-02-27. p. 5.
  9. ^ "Moi: the ruthless 'professor of politics'". The Age. 16 October 2002. Retrieved 31 March 2013.

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