pen name


A pen name, also called a ''nom de plume'' () or a literary double, is a
pseudonym A pseudonym () (originally: ψευδώνυμος in Greek) or alias () is a fictitious name that a person or group assumes for a particular purpose, which differs from their original or true name (orthonym). This also differs from a new name that ...
(or, in some cases, a variant form of a real name) adopted by an
author An author is the creator or originator of any written work such as a book or play, and is also considered a writer or poet. More broadly defined, an author is "the person who originated or gave existence to anything" and whose authorship determi ...
and printed on the title page or by-line of their works in place of their real name. A pen name may be used to make the author's name more distinctive, to disguise the author's gender, to distance the author from their other works, to protect the author from retribution for their writings, to merge multiple persons into a single identifiable author, or for any of a number of reasons related to the marketing or aesthetic presentation of the work. The author's name may be known only to the publisher or may come to be common knowledge.


The French phrase ''nom de plume'' is occasionally still seen as a synonym for the English term "pen name," which is a "back-translation" and originated in England rather than France. H. W. Fowler and F. G. Fowler, in ''
The King's English ''The King's English'' is a book on English usage and grammar. It was written by the brothers Henry Watson Fowler Henry Watson Fowler (10 March 1858 – 26 December 1933) was an English schoolmaster, lexicographer Lexicography is divided ...
'' state that the term ''nom de plume'' evolved in Britain where people wanting a literary phrase failed to understand the term ''
nom de guerre NOM may refer to: * Nasdaq Options Market * National Organization for Marriage * Natural organic matter * New Order Mormons * Nickelodeon Original Movies * ''Nintendo Official Magazine'', official British Nintendo magazine; now discontinued, super ...
'', which already existed in French. Since ''guerre'' means "war" in French, ''nom de guerre'' did not make sense to the British, who did not understand the French metaphor. See also French phrases used by English speakers.

Western literature

Europe and the United States

An author may use a pen name if their real name is likely to be confused with that of another author or other significant individual. For instance, in 1899 the British politician
Winston Churchill Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill, (30 November 187424 January 1965) was a British statesman who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom The prime minister of the United Kingdom is the head of government The head o ...

Winston Churchill
wrote under the name Winston S. Churchill to distinguish his writings from those of the American novelist of the same name. An author may use a pen name implying a rank or title which they have never actually held. William Earl Johns wrote under the name "Capt. W. E. Johns" although the highest army rank he held was acting
lieutenant A lieutenant ( or abbreviated Lt., Lt, LT, Lieut and similar) is a commissioned officer in the armed forces, fire services, police and other organizations of many nations. The meaning of lieutenant differs in different militaries (see compar ...

and his highest air force rank was
flying officer Flying officer (Fg Off in the RAF and IAF; in the RAAF; in the RNZAF; formerly F/O in all services and still frequently in the RAF) is a junior Officer (armed forces)#Commissioned officers, commissioned rank in the Royal Air Force (RAF) and t ...
. Authors who regularly write in more than one genre may use different pen names for each, sometimes with no attempt to conceal a true identity.
Romance Romance (from Vulgar Latin , "in the Roman language", i.e., "Latin") may refer to: Common meanings * Romance (love) Romance or Romantic love is an emotional feeling of love for, or a strong attraction towards another person, and the Court ...
Nora Roberts Nora Roberts (born Eleanor Marie Robertson on October 10, 1950) is an American author of more than 225 romance novels. She writes as J. D. Robb for the ''in Death'' series and has also written under the pseudonyms Jill March and for publications ...
erotic thriller Erotic thriller is a film subgenre defined as a Thriller film, thriller with a thematic basis in illicit Romance film, romance or Sexual fantasy, erotic fantasy. Most erotic thrillers contain scenes of Softcore pornography, softcore sex and nudity ...
s under the pen name J. D. Robb (such books are titled "Nora Roberts writing as J. D. Robb"); Scots writer
Iain Banks Iain Banks (16 February 1954 – 9 June 2013) was a Scottish author, writing mainstream fiction as Iain Banks and science fiction as Iain M. Banks, adding the initial of his adopted middle name Menzies (). After the success of ''The Wasp Factory ...
wrote mainstream or literary fiction under his own name and published
science fiction File:Imagination 195808.jpg, Space exploration, as predicted in August 1958 by the science fiction magazine ''Imagination (magazine), Imagination'' Science fiction (sometimes shortened to sci-fi or SF) is a genre of speculative fiction which typ ...

science fiction
under Iain M. Banks;
Samuel Langhorne Clemens Samuel Langhorne Clemens (November 30, 1835 – April 21, 1910), known by his pen name Mark Twain, was an American writer, humorist, entrepreneur, publisher, and lecturer. He was lauded as the "greatest humorist the United States has prod ...

Samuel Langhorne Clemens
used the aliases Mark Twain and Sieur Louis de Conte for different works. Similarly, an author who writes both fiction and non-fiction (such as the mathematician and fantasy writer Charles Dodgson, who wrote as
Lewis Carroll Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (; 27 January 1832 – 14 January 1898), better known by his pen name Lewis Carroll, was an English writer of children's fiction, notably ''Alice's Adventures in Wonderland'' and its sequel ''Through the Looking-Glass''. ...

Lewis Carroll
) may use a pseudonym for fiction writing. Science fiction author
Harry Turtledove Harry Norman Turtledove (born June 14, 1949) is an American author who is best known for his work in the genres of alternate history, historical fiction, fantasy, science fiction, and mystery fiction. Early life Turtledove was born in Los Angel ...
has used the name H. N. Turtletaub for a number of historical novels he has written because he and his publisher felt that the presumed lower sales of those novels might hurt book store orders for the novels he writes under his own name. Occasionally, a pen name is employed to avoid overexposure. Prolific authors for
pulp magazines Pulp magazines (often referred to as "the pulps") were inexpensive fiction magazines that were published from 1896 to the late 1950s. The term "pulp" derives from the cheap wood pulp paper on which the magazines were printed. In contrast, magazi ...
often had two and sometimes three short stories appearing in one issue of a magazine; the editor would create several fictitious author names to hide this from readers.
Robert A. Heinlein Robert Anson Heinlein (; July 7, 1907 – May 8, 1988) was an American science fiction File:Imagination 195808.jpg, Space exploration, as predicted in August 1958 in the science fiction magazine ''Imagination (magazine), Imagination.'' Sc ...

Robert A. Heinlein
wrote stories under pseudonyms of Anson MacDonald (a combination of his middle name and his then wife's maiden name) and Caleb Strong so that more of his works could be published in a single magazine.
Stephen King Stephen Edwin King (born September 21, 1947) is an American author of horror fiction, horror, supernatural fiction, Thriller (genre), suspense, crime fiction, crime, science-fiction, and fantasy novels. Described as the "King of Horror", a pla ...
published four novels under the name
Richard Bachman Richard Bachman's author photo, credited to Claudia Inez Bachman. The actual subject of the photo is Richard Manuel, the insurance agent of Kirby McCauley, who was Stephen King's literary agent">Kirby_McCauley.html" ;"title="insurance agent of Ki ...

Richard Bachman
because publishers did not feel the public would buy more than one novel per year from a single author. Eventually, after critics found a large number of style similarities, publishers revealed Bachman's true identity. Sometimes a pen name is used because an author believes that their name does not suit the genre they are writing in. Western novelist Pearl Gray dropped his first name and changed the spelling of his last name to become
Zane Grey Pearl Zane Grey (January 31, 1872 – October 23, 1939) was an American author and dentist best known for his popular adventure novels and stories associated with the Western genre in literature and the arts; he idealized the American frontier. ...

Zane Grey
because he believed that his real name did not suit the Western genre. Romance novelist
Angela Knight Angela Ann Knight Order of the British Empire, CBE (born Angela Ann Cook, 31 October 1950) was the chair of the Office of Tax Simplification. She was replaced on 18 March 2019. Previously she was the Chief Executive of Energy Retail Association, ...
writes under that name instead of her actual name (Julie Woodcock) because of the
double entendre A double entendre (plural double entendres) is a figure of speech A figure of speech or rhetorical figure is a word or phrase that entails an intentional deviation from ordinary language use in order to produce a rhetoric Rhetoric ...
of her surname in the context of that genre.
Romain Gary Romain Gary (; 2 December 1980), born Roman Kacew (also known by the pen name Émile Ajar), was a French novelist, diplomat, film director, and World War II aviator An aircraft pilot or aviator is a person who controls the flight of an a ...
, who was a well-known French writer, decided in 1973 to write novels in a different style under the name Émile Ajar and even asked his cousin's son to impersonate Ajar; thus he received the most prestigious French literary prize twice, which is forbidden by the prize rules. He revealed the affair in a book he sent his editor just before committing suicide in 1980. Some pen names have been used for long periods, even decades, without the author's true identity being discovered, such as
Elena Ferrante Elena Ferrante () is a pseudonym A pseudonym () or alias () (originally: ψευδώνυμος in Greek) is a fictitious name that a person or group assumes for a particular purpose, which differs from their original or true name (orthonym). This ...
Torsten Krol Torsten Krol is an Australian writer resident in Queensland Queensland ( ,) is a state situated in northeastern Australia, and is the States and territories of Australia, second-largest and third-most populous Australian state. It is bordered ...
. A pen name may be shared by different writers in order to suggest continuity of authorship. Thus the ''
Bessie Bunter Elizabeth Gertrude Bunter, better known as Bessie Bunter, is a fictional character created by Charles Hamilton, who also created her more famous brother Billy Bunter William George Bunter is a fictional schoolboy created by Charles Hamilton us ...
'' series of English boarding-school stories, initially written by the prolific Charles Hamilton under the name Hilda Richards, was taken on by other authors who continued to use the same pen-name. In some forms of fiction, the pen name adopted is the name of the lead character, to suggest to the reader that the book is an autobiography of a real person.
Daniel Handler Daniel Handler (born February 28, 1970) is an American writer and musician. He is best known for his children's series '' A Series of Unfortunate Events'' and '' All the Wrong Questions'', published under the pseudonym Lemony Snicket Lemony Sn ...
used the pseudonym Lemony Snicket to present his ''A Series of Unfortunate Events'' books as memoirs by an acquaintance of the main characters. Some, however, do this to fit a certain theme. One example, Pseudonymous Bosch, used his pen name just to expand the theme of secrecy in ''The Secret Series''. Authors also may occasionally choose pen names to appear in more favorable positions in Bookshop, bookshops or Library, libraries, to maximize visibility when placed on shelves that are conventionally arranged alphabetically moving horizontally, then upwards vertically.

Female authors

Some female authors have used pen names to ensure that their works were accepted by publishers and/or the public. Such is the case of Peru's Clarinda (poet), Clarinda, whose work was published in the early 17th century. More often, women have adopted masculine pen names. This was common in the 19th century, when women were beginning to make inroads into literature but, it was felt, would not be taken as seriously by readers as male authors. For example, Mary Ann Evans wrote under the pen name George Eliot; and Amandine Aurore Lucile Dupin, Baronne Dudevant, used the pseudonym George Sand. Charlotte Brontë, Charlotte, Emily Brontë, Emily and Anne Brontë published under the names Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell, respectively. French-Savoyard writer and poet Amélie Gex chose to publish as Dian de Jeânna ("John, son of Jane") during the first half of her career. Karen Blixen's very successful ''Out of Africa'' (1937) was originally published under the pen name Isak Dinesen. Victoria Benedictsson, a Swedish author of the 19th century, wrote under the name Ernst Ahlgren. The
science fiction File:Imagination 195808.jpg, Space exploration, as predicted in August 1958 by the science fiction magazine ''Imagination (magazine), Imagination'' Science fiction (sometimes shortened to sci-fi or SF) is a genre of speculative fiction which typ ...

science fiction
author Alice B. Sheldon for many years published under the masculine name of James Tiptree, Jr., the discovery of which led to a deep discussion of gender in the genre. More recently, women who write in genres commonly written by men sometimes choose to use initials, such as K. A. Applegate, C. J. Cherryh, P. N. Elrod, D. C. Fontana, S. E. Hinton, Gail Riplinger, G. A. Riplinger, Nora Roberts#J.D. Robb, J. D. Robb, and J. K. Rowling. Alternatively, they may use a unisex pen name, such as Robin Hobb (the second pen name of novelist Margaret Astrid Lindholm Ogden).

Collective names

A collective name, also known as a house name, is sometimes used with Serial (literature), series fiction published under one pen name even though more than one author may have contributed to the series. In some cases the first books in the series were written by one writer, but subsequent books were written by ghost writers. For instance, many of the later books in ''Simon Templar, The Saint'' adventure series were not written by Leslie Charteris, the series' originator. Similarly, ''Nancy Drew'' mystery books are published as though they were written by Carolyn Keene, ''The Hardy Boys'' books are published as the work of Franklin W. Dixon, and ''The Bobbsey Twins'' series are credited to Laura Lee Hope, although numerous authors have been involved in each series. Erin Hunter, author of the ''Warriors (novel series), Warriors'' novel series, is actually a collective pen name used by authors Kate Cary, Cherith Baldry, Tui T. Sutherland, and the editor Victoria Holmes. Collaborative authors may also have their works published under a single pen name. Frederic Dannay and Manfred B. Lee published their mystery novels and stories under the pen name Ellery Queen, as well as publishing the work of ghost-writers under the same name. The writers of ''Atlanta Nights'', a deliberately bad book intended to embarrass the publishing firm PublishAmerica, used the pen name Travis Tea. Additionally, the credited author of ''The Expanse (novel series), The Expanse'', James S.A. Corey, is an amalgam of the middle names of collaborating writers Daniel Abraham (author), Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck respectively, while S.A. are the initials of Abraham's daughter. Sometimes multiple authors will write related books under the same pseudonym; examples include T. H. Lain in fiction. The Australian fiction collaborators who write under the pen name Alice Campion are a group of women who have so far written''The Painted Sky'' (2015), ''Der Bunte Himmel'' (2015), and ''The Shifting Light'' (2017). In the 1780s, ''The Federalist Papers'' were written under the pseudonym "Publius" by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay. The three men chose the name "Publius" because it recalled the founder of the Roman Republic and using it implied a positive intention., p.51 In pure mathematics, Nicolas Bourbaki is the pseudonym of a group of mostly French-connected mathematicians attempting to expose the field in an axiomatic and self-contained, encyclopedic form.

Concealment of identity

A pseudonym may be used to protect the writer of exposé books about espionage or crime. Former SAS soldier Steven Billy Mitchell used the pseudonym Andy McNab for his book about a failed Special Air Service, SAS mission titled ''Bravo Two Zero''. The name Ibn Warraq ("son of a papermaker") has been used by dissident Muslim authors. Author Brian O'Nolan used the pen names Flann O'Brien and Myles na gCopaleen for his novels and journalistic writing from the 1940s to the 1960s because Irish civil servants were not allowed at that time to publish works under their own names. The identity of the enigmatic twentieth-century novelist B. Traven has never been conclusively revealed, despite thorough research. A multiple-use name or anonymity pseudonym is a pseudonym open for anyone to use and these have been adopted by various groups, often as a protest against the cult of individual creators. In Italy, two anonymous groups of writers have gained some popularity with the collective names of Luther Blissett (pseudonym), Luther Blissett and Wu Ming.

Eastern literature


In Indian languages, writers may put a pen name at the end of their names, like Ramdhari Singh Dinkar. Sometimes they also write under their pen name without their actual name like Firaq Gorakhpuri. In early Indian literature, we find authors shying away from using any name considering it to be egotistical. Due to this notion, even today it is hard to trace the authorship of many earlier literary works from India. Later, we find that the writers adopted the practice of using the name of their deity of worship or Guru's name as their pen name. In this case, typically the pen name would be included at the end of the prose or poetry. Composers of Indian classical music used pen names in compositions to assert authorship, including Sadarang, Gunarang (Fayyaz Ahmed Khan), Ada Rang (court musician of Muhammad Shah), Sabrang (Bade Ghulam Ali Khan), and Ramrang (Ramashreya Jha). Other compositions are apocryphally ascribed to composers with their pen names.


Japanese poets who write haiku often use a ''haigō'' (俳号). The haiku poet Matsuo Bashō had used two other haigō before he became fond of a banana plant (''bashō'') that had been given to him by a disciple and started using it as his pen name at the age of 36. Similar to a pen name, Japanese artists usually have a ''gō'' or art-name, which might change a number of times during their career. In some cases, artists adopted different ''gō'' at different stages of their career, usually to mark significant changes in their life. One of the most extreme examples of this is Hokusai, who in the period 1798 to 1806 alone used no fewer than six. Mangaka, Manga artist Ogure Ito uses the pen name Oh! great because his real name Ogure Ito is roughly how the Japanese pronounce "oh great".

Persian and Urdu poetry

:''Note: List of Urdu language poets provides pen names for a range of Urdu poets.'' A ''shâ'er'' (Persian language, Persian from Arabic, for poet) (a poet who writes ''Sher (poem), she'rs'' in Urdu or Persian language, Persian) almost always has a "takhallus", a pen name, traditionally placed at the end of the name (often marked by a graphical sign placed above it) when referring to the poet by his full name. For example, Hafez (poet), Hafez is a pen-name for ''Shams al-Din'', and thus the usual way to refer to him would be ''Shams al-Din Hafez'' or just ''Hafez''. ''Mirza Asadullah Baig Khan'' (his official name and title) is referred to as ''Mirza Asadullah Khan Ghalib'', or just ''Mirza Ghalib''.

See also

*Art-name *Chinese courtesy name *Ghostwriter *List of pen names *List of pseudonyms *Nom de guerre *Pseudepigraphy *Ring name – the equivalent concept among professional wrestlers. *Stage name – the equivalent concept among performers. *Slave name


Informational notes Citations Further reading *

External links

Pen NamesThe King's English, H. W. Fowler & F. G. Fowler
{{Authority control Pseudonyms, Pen name Pseudonymous writers,