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A pseudonym (in certain contexts also: alias , also nom de plume ) is the fictitious name of a person, in particular an author (or several authors) of works . The pseudonym is used instead of the civil name ( real name , orthonym) and is mostly used to disguise identity . The associated adjective is pseudonym (from ancient Greek ψευδώνυμος pseudōnymos "wrongly called so"). If real name and pseudonym are to be compared, they are often combined with the adverb "alias" ( X alias Y ).

From stage name (also stage name ) is mainly involved if works artistically presented are ( Performing Arts ), such as actors , musicians or artists . Cover names are used when a person's identity is to be concealed in a specific context. In the area of espionage is a code name of the usual term (the real name is here real name called). The battle name , also called nom de guerre , is not actually a pseudonym, as the true identity of the wearer is usually known. As a rule, it does not serve to conceal one's identity.

Today, pseudonyms are used particularly on the Internet and in digital communication. However, the internet is usually not about the publication of significant works. The purpose of hiding the true identity is usually in the foreground here.

In addition to the pseudonyms chosen by a person, there are also special cases of pseudonyms that are used by others for a specific person. Usually this happens in the media to z. B. to protect an informant or to protect the privacy of a person.


Historically, pseudonyms were primarily used by writers . In this context there is the French term nom de plume (literally: "pen name"), which is rarely used today.

Some people worked their whole life under a pseudonym (for example Friedrich Freiherr von Hardenberg → Novalis , Marguerite de Crayencour → Marguerite Yourcenar ). For some of these pseudonyms, the actual identity is unknown or controversial (for example the writer → B. Traven or the painter → J. Metzler )

Others only change their name for certain periods of life or creativity or for special works (for example Jasmin Wagner → Blümchen, Agatha Christie → Mary Westmacott, Stephen King → Richard Bachman, Paul Dessau → Henry Herblay). Some people also have different artist names to differentiate between different personal works, as they are supposed to express something different (for example Jean Giraud → Mœbius or Gir, Patrick Losensky → Fler or Frank White).

When using pseudonyms on the Internet and in e-mail, there are considerable differences to the pseudonyms of writers and other artists: In the virtual world, anyone can express themselves under any number of pseudonyms. User names and nicknames of your choice can easily be changed and are therefore only loosely linked to real people.

In principle, anyone can use pseudonyms - in their private life and sometimes also professionally. In some professions, pseudonyms are common (for example in secret services or in prostitution ).

Reasons for choosing a pseudonym

There are many reasons for using a pseudonym.

Simplification or embellishment of the name

Economical advantages

  • In the 19th and early 20th centuries, women often wrote under male names in order to have their manuscripts with publishers: Charlotte Brontë → Currer Bell, Amantine-Aurore-Lucile Dupin de Francueil → George Sand , Mary Ann Evans → George Eliot , Sophie Andresen → S. Wörishöffer
  • Tactical considerations for journalists who write a lot: Kurt Tucholsky → Theobald Tiger, Peter Panter; Günther Stern → Günther Anders
  • A celebrity's name is counterfeited or copied for advertising purposes: Mary Ellen Cook → Mary Carey , Nicole Tanja Hilbig → Dru Berrymore , Dale Carnagey → Dale Carnegie

Image cultivation

  • Expression of certain characteristics, for example, children's book authors of the early 19th century often have positive-sounding names: August Lewald → Hans Kindermann, Jakob Glatz → Karl Heinrich Gutmann, Amanda Hoppe-Seyler → Aunt Amanda, Heinrich Hoffmann (the author of Struwwelpeter ) → Reimerich Kinderlieb ; Ernst Hold (whose identity remained unclear)
  • Desire for individuality and originality: Charles-Edouard Jeanneret-Gris → Le Corbusier , Josef Mahlmeister → Palabros de Cologne
  • A spiritual name (like Sister Claudia) underlines the self-image of nuns and monks ; partly also with yoga teachers
  • The need to distance oneself from an outdated image: Puff Daddy → P. Diddy (both pseudonyms)
  • A more cosmopolitan-sounding name: Stanisław Władysław Rejment → Władysław Reymont

Avoidance of disadvantages

  • Fear of scandals: Dominique Aury , actually Anne Desclos → Pauline Réage
  • Protection from persecution: Aleksander Głowacki → Bolesław Prus , Helmut Flieg → Stefan Heym , Raimund Pretzel → Sebastian Haffner , Mohammed Moulessehoul → Yasmina Khadra
  • Third party acceptance of a pseudonym: Erich Kästner → Berthold Bürger (for the script for the film Münchhausen , 1943)
  • Circumvention of a publication ban : eoplauen was not allowed to publish under his real name under National Socialism
  • Protection of your own privacy: Atze Schröder (who takes legal action against the mention of his real name in the media)
  • One author does not want to be associated with certain works or even keep his distance from them: Søren Kierkegaard
  • Distancing from earlier works oriented towards questionable political directions: Kurt Wilhelm Marek → CW Ceram
  • In order not to be successful just because of an already known name or to avoid other misunderstandings: Michael John Douglas (not to be confused with Michael Douglas , the son of Kirk Douglas ) → Michael Keaton , Nicholas Kim Coppola → Nicolas Cage , Diane Hall → Diane Keaton , James Stewart → Stewart Granger , Reinhard Mey → Alfons Yondraschek, JK Rowling → Robert Galbraith
  • Avoidance of the accusation of improper self-promotion: James Alfred Wight → James Herriot
  • Protection of scientific reputation: Differentiation between scientific works that are published under one's own name and literary works that appear under a pseudonym: Eva Gesine Baur → Lea Singer

Biographical background

  • Often it is a remnant of a school nickname, i.e. by habit: Johann Caspar Schmidt → Max Stirner , Ernesto Guevara → Che Guevara , Gordon Sumner → Sting
  • Retaining the married name after a divorce as a pseudonym: Anna Mae Bullock → Tina Turner
  • Choosing the mother's surname if the father was disliked or unknown: Norma Jean Baker → Marilyn Monroe
  • Choice of the father's name: Susanne Uhlen (daughter of Wolfgang Kieling ) → Susanne Kieling
  • Distancing yourself from the parents and choosing the name of another important person: Michel Thomas → Michel Houellebecq (maiden name of his grandmother)
  • Writing in a foreign language and the socio-cultural adaptation to it: Józef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski → Joseph Conrad , Henryk Goldszmit → Janusz Korczak

Protection of individuals in media coverage

  • Protection of informants from persecution
  • Protecting the privacy of crime victims
  • Protection of criminals from hostility who could also endanger their rehabilitation: Muhlis Ari → Mehmet


When using pseudonyms on the Internet, several of the above-mentioned motives play a role. This includes avoiding disadvantages, cultivating your image and having fun with confusion.

Types of pseudonyms

Many pseudonyms are pure fantasy. Sometimes an anagram is formed from the letters of the correct name (for example François Rabelais → Alcofrybas Nasier or Alcofribas Nasier, Voltaire → François-Marie Arouet (AROVETL [e] J [eune]) by swapping the handwritten letters V / U and J / I as well as self-conferred aristocratic "de"), Paul Ancel → Paul Celan ) or an ananym that reads the real name backwards (for example Kurt W. Marek → CW Ceram ). In the case of a cryptonym , a connection with the real name is barely recognizable or no longer recognizable (for example, strong abbreviation in Horst Bosetzky → -ky).

One speaks of a prenonym when the first name or several own first names are used as a name (Jean Paul Friedrich Richter → Jean Paul , Peter Alexander Neumeyer → Peter Alexander ). A single first name can also be used by dividing it into a supposed first and family name ( Illobrand von Ludwiger → Illo Brand).

Occasionally women hide behind men's names with a pseudo-dronym (for example Karen Blixen → Isak Dinesen) or men behind women's names with a pseudogynym ( e.g. Prosper Mérimée → Clara Gazul).

A Traduktionym is created by translating the real name into another language. For example, the records by the Dutch musician Ton Koopman (Dutch koopman means "businessman") appear under the label Antoine Marchand - the French version of "Anton Kaufmann".

Among the scholars of the Renaissance it was common to use Latinized or Graecized names, for example Georg Bauer → Georgius Agricola , Gerhard Kremer → Gerhard Mercator , Philipp Schwarzerdt → Philipp Melanchthon , Theophrastus Bombast von Hohenheim → Paracelsus

There are also cases where only a Latin ending was added, especially by writers of scientific publications.

A geonym is derived from a geographical name. Examples are the draftsman eoplauen (lived in Plauen as a child), the painter Georg Baselitz (born in Deutschbaselitz ), Jürgen von der Lippe (born in Bad Salzuflen in the Lippe district) and the Austrian singer Hubert von Goisern (born in Goisern ). Theo Lingen chose his stage name after his father's place of birth. The Renaissance scholar Johann Georg Turmair called himself Johannes Aventinus , a Latin reference to his place of birth Abensberg .

The aristonym that is supposed to enhance its wearer with a title of nobility is chosen less often . Many alleged aristonyms are, however, in truth only geonyms and do not want to pretend a title of nobility ( Hoffmann von Fallersleben ). The demarcation is sometimes difficult. Noble-sounding pseudonyms are often chosen with ironic intent ( Jürgen von der Lippe , Rosa von Praunheim , both actually geonyms; Hella von Sinnen ). A case similar to the aristonym are apparent or spurious academic titles (for example Dr. Seuss or Dr. Kurt Ostbahn ). The Hagionym that contains the name of a saint (for example Halldor Kiljan Laxness ) is just as rare .

If the pseudonym is to indicate a satirical or ironic intention of the author, one speaks of an ironym ( Friedrich Theodor Vischer → Deutobold Symbolizetti Allegorowitsch Mystificinski; Hella von Sinnen ).

In addition, there is the allonym , which specifies the name of a well-known personality (for example, with Pablo Neruda , who named himself after Jan Neruda ) and the phraseonym , which reproduces the name in the form of a phrase (for example Farin Urlaub ).

A special form often encountered in the entertainment industry is the collective pseudonym or publisher's pseudonym : In this case, the fictitious name is not assigned to a specific real person, but is used by a company for the uniform publication of works that actually come from different authors. This procedure is common practice with publishers who publish trivial literature in booklet form. One of the most famous examples is “Dr. Summer ”from the youth magazine BRAVO: Originally a pseudonym of the author Dr. med. Martin Goldstein, a team of employees under this pseudonym soon answered inquiries from young readers. In the meantime, the “Dr. Sommer Team” is speaking openly.

Shellac record with the phonogram pseudonym Eric Harden from Carl Lindström AG.

Record companies also used a similar concept early on. A well-known example is the artist name Orchester Eric Harden , which has been used since the late 1920s under the various trademarks of the then largest European record producer, Carl Lindström AG. Eric Harden was not an existing person, but could stand for any studio orchestra that was available for the required recordings. Another pseudonym used by Carl Lindström AG for years was Fred Lustig . Under this name, the group sold various pop singers , such as the then very well-known Luigi Bernauer on his Odeon brand .

A more recent example of use is Bert Brac , a collective pseudonym for composers of accompanying music from the Europa radio play label . An example with a huge influence from science is Nicolas Bourbaki . An example known from the film industry did not arise from considerations of the producer, but from a desire for self-protection: Directors who are dissatisfied with one of their films for various reasons (for example because of strong interventions by the producers) usually choose the emergency pseudonym Alan Smithee .

Pseudonyms that are used jointly by several authors are also referred to as community pseudonyms or collective pseudonyms . A well-known example is “H. Bustos Domecq ”, the pseudonym used by Jorge Luis Borges and Adolfo Bioy Casares for collaborations . The boundaries between collective and collective pseudonyms are fluid, but in the case of jointly created individual works one would rather speak of collective pseudonyms, and a series that appears under a uniform pseudonym, but whose individual volumes have individual authors, more of a collective pseudonym.


Words with the same meaning are referred to as synonyms . In a certain way, this term can be understood as a generic term for the special case pseudonym. This is countered by the fact that synonyms in the usual sense come from the natural vocabulary of a language, while pseudonyms are usually proper names that are deliberately recreated in order to fulfill a specific purpose.

Legal situation

Artist names are protected by name today . According to copyright law, an artist has the right to determine under which artist name he wants to be mentioned. There are certain restrictions on the choice of name due to the personal rights of others. Artist names (and also religious names ) can be entered in the European passport and in the identity documents of many countries .


Artist names can be entered in the identity card and passport . This has been possible for many decades - until a change in the identity card law on November 1, 2007, which abolished the ability to register artist names. This change in 2007 led to protests by artists and journalists who rely on pseudonyms for their professional activities. In 2008, these protests prompted the federal government to re-examine the question of whether artist names can be registered. On December 18, 2008, the Federal Council passed the law on identity cards and electronic proof of identity, in which, as a secondary regulation, artist names were made registrable again. According to Art. 7 of the law, the law only came into force on November 1, 2010, this coincided with the introduction of the new identity card . Until then, the registration authorities were not allowed to enter artist names on the identity card. Religious names were also affected by this regulation. Since November 1, 2010, entries in ID cards and passports have been possible again.

The signature with a pseudonym is legally binding and permissible , provided that the person to be considered as the exhibitor is known without a doubt. If the artist name is signed, then the legal written form is sufficient.

The protection of the pseudonym according to § 12 BGB remains unaffected. The artist name can be used to denote the party in legal actions. In the case of property purchases, entries in the land register using the artist's name only in accordance with Section 15 (1) a GBV are not permitted. However, this may be entered in addition to the family name.

As of November 1, 2012, all characters contained in the String.Latin character set of the Bundesdruckerei have been permitted for artist names .

According to a ruling by the Berlin Administrative Court in January 2015, prostitutes cannot use their pseudonyms as a stage name on their identity card.


In Austria, every person is free to use any name, provided that this does not violate the name protection according to § 43 ABGB . A pseudonym or artist name is acquired through mere use, without the need for a larger scope of use or a longer duration; all that is required is that the code name has become known and noticed by a wider circle, so that the public's idea of ​​a certain personality is connected with its use. Since the introduction of the new security passports in June 2006, the entry of artist names in the passport is no longer permitted.


Artist names and religious names can be included in the passport as “official additions” in Switzerland. For the entry of an artist's name "a well-founded request must be submitted and credibly demonstrated that this name is also objectively important in the economic and social life of a person".

Username on the Internet

Another form of alternative names are nicknames and user names , often also called nicknames or “nicknames” for short - in the course of the spread of computers and the Internet, they are now essential for many. They are needed, for example, to assign rights to operating systems or to use Internet usage options such as e-mail or forums . Pseudonymization is not mandatory here, but in some cases it is definitely recommended (see anonymization and pseudonymization ).

In order to guarantee the protection of personal data, the Telemedia Act in Germany lays down a fundamental ban on mandatory clear names : "The service provider must allow the use of telemedia and its payment anonymously or under a pseudonym, insofar as this is technically possible and reasonable. The user is to be informed about this possibility. "

Anonymization can become problematic if a person uses several identities as sock puppets in order to achieve a majority in discussions or votes.


Bicycle messengers ride under a nick, which originally also serves to make radio communications quick and easy to understand.

CB radio operators always have a nickname (here: Skip), truck drivers also posted this nickname on a sign behind the windshield.

Mostly short-term teams, especially at student sports events, choose a team name.

Drivers of the pioneering days drove races under a pseudonym - often wealthy men who could afford the expensive hobby and who didn't want to get a bad reputation if they failed. Two participants in the long-distance automobile journey from Salzburg – Vienna on June 1 and 2, 1900, namely Baron Anton Codelli under the pseudonym Karl Findeisen and the Nesselsdorf director and railway pioneer Hugo Fischer von Röslerstamm under Vorwärts .

See also


  • Manfred Barthel: Lexicon of pseudonyms. Over 1000 artist, camouflage u. Aliases. Econ, Düsseldorf a. a. 1986, ISBN 3-430-11178-1 .
  • Edwin Bormann : The Art of the Pseudonym. 12 literary-historical-bibliographical essays. Bormann, Leipzig 1901. (Reprint: Nabu Press, 2014, ISBN 978-1-293-48809-6 )
  • Gerhard Dünnhaupt : Chronograms and Cryptonyms. Secret keys to the dating and authorship of the works of the Polyhistor Johannes Praetorius . In: Philobiblon. 21, 1977, ISSN  0031-7969 , pp. 130-135.
  • Wilfrid Eymer: Eymers Pseudonym Lexicon. Real names and pseudonyms in German literature. Kirschbaum, Bonn 1997, ISBN 3-7812-1399-4 .
  • Felix Philipp Ingold: On the poetics of the pseudonym. In: ders., On behalf of the author. Fink, Munich 2004, ISBN 3-7705-3984-2 , pp. 263-299.
  • Holger Scherer: The pseudonym. (= Studies in Law. Volume 101). Kovač, Hamburg 2002, ISBN 3-8300-0699-3 . (also dissertation at the law faculty of the University of Mainz 2002)
  • Hartmut Schöner, Kurt Stöber: Land registry law. (= Handbook of Legal Practice. 4). 13th, revised edition. Beck, Munich 2004, ISBN 3-406-51044-2 .
  • Jörg Weigand : pseudonyms. A lexicon. Code names of the authors of German-language narrative literature. 2nd, improved and enlarged edition. Nomos, Baden-Baden 1994, ISBN 3-7890-3526-2 .
  • Emil Weller : Lexicon Pseudonymorum. Dictionary of pseudonyms of all times and peoples or directory of those authors who use false names. 2nd, increased and improved edition. Coppenrath, Regensburg 1886. (Reprographic reprint: Olms, Hildesheim et al. 1963, ISBN 3-89349-244-5 )
  • Tilo Werner: pseudonym. In: Gert Ueding (Hrsg.): Historical dictionary of rhetoric . Volume 10, Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, Darmstadt 2011, DNB 551958871 , Sp. 993-997.

Web links

Wiktionary: pseudonym  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wiktionary: alias  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wiktionary: Artist name  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations


  1. See pseudonym at Duden online.
  2. ^ Wilhelm Gemoll : Greek-German school and hand dictionary . G. Freytag Verlag / Hölder-Pichler-Tempsky, Munich / Vienna 1965.
  3. Plenary minutes (PDF; 2.9 MB) of the German Bundestag
  4. josch: Artist names are allowed in the passport again. In: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung . February 14, 2009.
  5. BGH NJW 1996, 997.
  6. cf. Artur-Axel Wandtke, Winfried Bullinger (Ed.): Practical commentary on copyright: UrhR. Beck, 2014, ISBN 978-3-406-60882-7 , § 10 Rn. 52.
  7. Hartmut Schöner, Kurt Stöber: Land Register Law. 13th edition. Munich 2004, ISBN 3-406-51044-2 , marginal note 230.
  8. No artist name for sex workers , Administrative Court Berlin: file number VG 23 K 180.14, accessed on January 30, 2015.
  9. Swiss passport: Official additions. (No longer available online.) Swiss Confederation, August 26, 2014, archived from the original on March 14, 2015 ; accessed on January 12, 2016 .
  10. Justification for the Telemedia Act, BT-Drs. 16/3078; Explanation for the Information and Communication Services Act, BT-Drs. 13/7385, p. 21 ff.
  11. § 13 (6) TMG
  12. Martin Pfundner: From Semmering to the Grand Prix: automobile sport in Austria and its ... p. 42. Accessed on May 27, 2015.