For example, a king may forbid people from using the previous king's name. People loyal to the old king may name their children some alternate name that secretly refers to the forbidden name. A specific example (I can't find a source, but did read this) is that the name Marion is a stand-in for Charles Edward Stuart (Bonnie Prince Charlie, full name Charles Edward Louis John Casimir Sylvester Severino Maria Stuart).

I am looking for the name of the (single) word that defines the "replacement" word.

  • Can you remember where you read it? Did it have anything to do with Marc-Joseph Marion du Fresne?
    – WS2
    Commented Jan 15, 2014 at 18:34
  • I don't recall where i read it. I thought it was a wikipedia article about Bonnie Prince Charlie or the Jacobite Rebellion, but I have searched all those articles and cannot find the reference. So it must have been elsewhere. Commented Jan 15, 2014 at 18:37
  • The word that I am seeking applies to a hidden meaning that is not known to the general public. In my example, those loyal to Charles would know the meaning, but others would not. Commented Jan 15, 2014 at 19:23
  • You may find the word you are looking for in this related question: english.stackexchange.com/questions/31080/… Let us know if it's there!
    – nxx
    Commented Jan 15, 2014 at 22:51

5 Answers 5


euphemism - the substitution of an agreeable or inoffensive expression for one that may offend or suggest something unpleasant; also : the expression so substituted.

It's more commonly used in contexts where the "offensive" term is so-called because some (or many) other people consider it rude/smutty or sacrilegious. But effectively the word being avoided is taboo, whether that's because of general perception or the edict of an all-powerful ruler.


There is a word 'hemiteleia'. Before you get too excited it is not even in the Oxford English Dictionary. But it is recorded by the following two authors:

Roberts, Chris (2006). Heavy Words Lightly Thrown: The Reason Behind Rhyme. Thorndike Press. ISBN 0-7862-8517-6. Bryson, Bill (1990). Mother Tongue. Penguin. ISBN 0-14-014305-X.

I know that Cockney Rhyming Slang is not the precise subject under discussion, but in many instances it is designed to replace a word that the speaker wants to avoid. The way it works is that a word like 'stairs' will be replaced with 'apples and pears'. Since 'pears' rhymes with 'stairs' the speaker will drop the pears. They will then refer to 'stairs' as 'apples'.

In the case of the word 'c**t', the rhyming slang is 'Berkeley Hunt'. So anyone wishing to refer to a woman's genitals will just mention 'her berkeley'.

And so as not to appear sexist about this I should perhaps mention 'cobbler's awls', and we (chaps) all know what a kick in the 'cobblers' feels like.

Now apparently this system of subterfuge is referred to as 'hemiteleia'. It, and Rhyming Slang generally, are extensively discussed in a Wiki article: see.


  • 1
    I suppose I'd count as a Cockney. In 60 years, I've never once heard anyone use the word berk to directly refer to female genitalia. Nor have I ever heard the full word berkeley used as rhyming slang. But I've heard & used berk countless thousands of times as a general term of abuse (occasionally, good-natured). My guess is only maybe 10% of speakers know the origin - but to all intents and purposes, 0% of speakers extrapolate from that to actually apply the "hypothetical" anatomical reference. Commented Jan 15, 2014 at 21:23
  • @FumbleFingers Yes, you are right. It was not the best example. But I'm sure you know what a kick in the cobblers is all about! And you would also know about taking a butchers, and speaking about what you saw on the dog.
    – WS2
    Commented Jan 15, 2014 at 21:31
  • I know more rhyming slang origins than most, because I'm more interested in such things than the average person. New ones are always being coined, as some of the older ones fall into disuse. Cobblers and berk are firmly established among the general population, but only older Cockneys are likely to use bees (& honey) = money, or trouble (& strife) = wife. And even then, they're often doing it somewhat self-consciously. Personally I've rarely heard dog (& bone) = phone in recent years, except in re-runs of old TV shows. Commented Jan 15, 2014 at 21:53

An "alias" is a name that is assumed or used in place of a person's real name. It's usually adopted by the person themself, but by definition, is not the only use or assignation of an alias.

In some cases, use of a alias is meant to disguise the true identity of the person (as in your example), or in this example, is self-assigned:

When the American pop singer Prince had a recording contract dispute that would not allow him to make music under his own name, he adopted a love symbol as his alias, intentionally choosing an unpronounceable symbol since he intended to use his name again once the terms of the contract had expired.


There is the concept of nom-de-guerre (war name) dating back to at least the early 18th century. In later usage

Noms de guerre were adopted by members of the French resistance during World War II for security reasons. Such pseudonyms are often adopted by military special forces soldiers, such as members of the SAS and other similar units, resistance fighters, terrorists, and guerrillas. This practice hides their identities and may protect their families from reprisals

These are a subset of pseudonyms which also include nom-de-plume (pen names) and stage names




A pseudonym or code name; esp. one given to a spy or to a clandestine operation.

1862 St. James's Mag. 4 490 For a short time he assumed several unobtrusive civilian cryptonyms.

1876 J. R. Lowell Dante in Among my Bks. 2nd Ser. 16 Only a cryptonym by which heretics knew each other.

The second example is probably closest to the one you mean.

  • 2
    Someone has said that 'He who must not be named' must actually be regarded as a name. Commented Oct 15, 2020 at 16:40

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