What is the appropriate word or phrase which means the internet name of a person. I mean the nickname that a person uses in almost all places on the internet like blog, IRC, forums, mailing lists etc.

  • 2
    it's a good question, really I think just "internet nickname" is best. I've never seen a one-word term for this. nom de net, maybe :)
    – Fattie
    Commented Jul 28, 2014 at 10:53
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    "Avatar" could be used if your profile has a character representation of the user. Commented Jul 28, 2014 at 15:21
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    Just for historical record. I've been a user of online services for more than 30 years and have determined that: "Handle" comes from BBSes. "Screen Name" comes from AOL. "Nick" comes from IRC.
    – weasel5i2
    Commented Jul 29, 2014 at 16:58
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    "Handle" comes from CB-radio slang, which enjoyed a brief craze in the mid-70s. BBSes picked it up several years later. Commented Jul 29, 2014 at 17:19
  • You're right! That pre-dates even BBSes. Thanks, I had forgotten completely about amateur radio. ^_^
    – weasel5i2
    Commented Jul 29, 2014 at 18:46

14 Answers 14


There are various terms for this. Once upon a time, “screen name” would likely have been the most common.

However, it seems to me that this convention has been driven by the most pervasive websites. So, with Facebook et al's move toward encouraging the use of real names, “screen name” seems much less common (phrases such as “nickname” appear to be used now by these sites).

However, I have always thought of aliases used online as being just that (which may be why Google+ includes an option to add “aliases” to one's profile now). As a result, I have tended towards the more general term “handle” which was apparently derived from CB Radio operators and then later popularized in use by Bulletin-board systems.


My name is “Sam,” but I often use the handle “halosghost.”

As @DoubleDouble (and others) suggested, the terms “username” and “profile name” might also have some relevance. I chose not to include these in my suggestion on the grounds that they often mean something different than what I believe the OP is asking for.

Often times, the “username” refers specifically to the account itself rather than what will appear to other people online. A perfect example would be how Steam handles its accounts. When you create an account you specify a username (which you use to log in) and a “display name” (another perfectly valid answer to the OP's question). No one ever actually sees your username. Of course, not all services work this way, but many do.

“Profile name” seems more relevant to me than “username,” however it feels focused on a particular profile rather than the person's general persona.


My profile name here (“HalosGhost”) is a variation on my typical handle “halosghost.”

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    I think "username" or "profile name" may be along the lines of "screen name" as well. Commented Jul 28, 2014 at 15:18
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    Handle is really the most precise word for the concept -- a name or id that a person uses in many different online environments -- but I'm not sure if it would be well understood by a general audience. Screen name has the benefit of being somewhat self-explanatory.
    – AmeliaBR
    Commented Jul 28, 2014 at 18:29
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    Yes, it's definitely "handle" to mean a secondary name that a person has chosen for themselves as a "cyber-alias". Also, not the same as profile name/username, which are context (site) specific. Nickname is a more "every-day" alias and doesn't have the internet/cyberspace connotation of "handle". Commented Jul 28, 2014 at 23:13
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    "Screen name" appears to have the primary definition of "a user's internet name" (ref: Google), and most likely was made popular by AOL (America On-Line), arguably one of the first main ISPs (Internet Service Providers), most likely due to their aggressive marketing strategy (free floppies and CDs for everyone!). Before that, frequenting a BBS (Bulletin Board System), you were more likely asked for a "handle", and hackers often had "handles" (e.g. Hackers, 1995)-- a conjecture would be that BBSs were initially for/by hackers. If you want "hacker", use "handle", else "screen name."
    – phyrfox
    Commented Jul 29, 2014 at 6:07
  • A plus to "handle" is that it will be immediately understood by CB users. ;-) Commented Jul 29, 2014 at 20:00

I guess screen-name is appropriate:

Noun, Digital Technology:

  • a unique sequence of characters that a person chooses to use for identification purposes when interacting with others online, as in computer games, instant messaging, or forums.


  • +1 Good answer, but this site strongly favors identifying sources or authoritative support in an answer. There are several for your answer here. Consider adding one or more of these definition and a link.
    – bib
    Commented Jul 28, 2014 at 12:21
  • I agree with "screen-name". I'd offer "online name" or even "online-id" as alternatives. And, of course, on a given site it is often known as the "User Name". I might avoid it by saying something like "My name is Corry, but online I'm known as TecBrat".
    – TecBrat
    Commented Jul 28, 2014 at 12:51
  • This brings up a secondary debate: one word, two, or hyphenated? Just looking through comments on this page, I see screenname, screen-name and screen name.
    – AmeliaBR
    Commented Jul 28, 2014 at 18:26
  • @AmeliaBR Technically, AOL probably made "screen name" popular, so two words treated as a noun would be the correct spelling (e.g. capitalized when used in a title). Here's one such example of the "Sign On" screen from AOL: pontus.megapath.com/kb_20/?View=entry&EntryID=242 (third image from the top).
    – phyrfox
    Commented Jul 29, 2014 at 6:12
  • screen name is way too AOL.
    – James
    Commented Jul 31, 2014 at 13:16

Pseudonym has meanings beyond the web, but is just as applicable to usage online as off. It's also generally more appropriate to both formal writing, and writing for non-technical audiences. It's a bit more widely understood than the alternatives, being several hundred years older and more established in the language.

(Screen Name and Handle are, as already mentioned, also both perfectly accurate and appropriate, and a bit more specific to digital interaction.)

  • This is a good general-purpose word, especially if you are writing for a non-tech audience. E.g., in a (print) magazine article about a blogger, you could write: "Joseph Smith, who uses the pseudonym Bubba Joe in his online rants about rural life, has become a surprise sensation among hip young city-dwellers." However, pseudonym is less applicable for a username like mine, which is a contracted version of my full name, rather than a false name.
    – AmeliaBR
    Commented Jul 28, 2014 at 18:22

I suggest 'Internet handle' (but having said that, Fathima's screen name is a well-established term, as a Google search will quickly show).

  • but screen name sounds old-fashioned as if you were saying "pen name" ;)
    – beginer
    Commented Jul 28, 2014 at 11:51
  • @beginer: Interesting -- "pen name" doesn't sound old-fashioned to me! Is there a "modern" replacement term? Commented Jul 28, 2014 at 13:18
  • @j_random_hacker , no replacement...cause pen itself has become an ancient thing ;D
    – beginer
    Commented Jul 29, 2014 at 6:59
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    @beginer Screen name sounds old fashioned because it was AOL terminology that stuck around because of heavy usage but is falling to the wayside as the AOL generation fades into adulthood.
    – Jason C
    Commented Jul 30, 2014 at 1:23
  • @JasonC, oh thats very correct sir. +1.
    – beginer
    Commented Jul 30, 2014 at 3:16

Nickname is the appropriate word because it is a common synonym of screenname in computing. It is used outside the internet but it became a common word in this context.

Nick (short of nickname), on the other hand, is mostly used in technical contexts.

  • 1
    Indeed I have seen nick often. Actually, I am not in an English-speaking country, but the term has caught ground nevertheless.
    – Vorac
    Commented Jul 28, 2014 at 18:39
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    I agree with "nick" (or maybe "usual nick" to imply that we're referring to a preferred nick used when possible). Commented Jul 29, 2014 at 1:52
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    +1 for nick; /nick is the IRC command to change your nickname/screen name/display name/handle. (Which confused a 12 y/o me: "But my name isn't Nick!")
    – Patrick M
    Commented Jul 29, 2014 at 5:37
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    @PatrickM lol thats right, first that came to my mind when I saw this answer was IRC.
    – beginer
    Commented Jul 29, 2014 at 7:01
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    "Nick" and "Nickname" can also be used in contexts where "screen name" is not appropriate. Especially in gaming contexts, where the name of another player might not even be visible on-screen. Those environments might call for "callsign" instead, but "nick" covers both.
    – DevSolar
    Commented Jul 31, 2014 at 17:52

I have often seen "alias" used in this way in describing what someone is called on an Internet community.


A moniker or handle would be an appropriate word for internet name.

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    Please add a reference to a trusted source. Commented Jul 28, 2014 at 13:11
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    @Honza a 'trusted source' isn't required. While it can improve an answer - especially a contentious one - the main mechanism for establishing the trustworthiness of an answer is it's score, not the number or quality of hyperlinks contained therein. Commented Jul 28, 2014 at 15:29
  • Well back in the day we certainty used "handle" and you could use Cybergypsies. by Indra Sinha as a source a number of us are credited by our handle in that book Commented Jul 29, 2014 at 18:18

According to the the canonical reference for all things hackish, it's handle, nick, or screen name.



I personally use "Alias" to reference an online user's name. It's similar to nickname, but the context is clearer that it's a false name.


Another discussion is here http://forum.wordreference.com/showthread.php?t=2216027

'username' seems to be acknowledged as indicative without accompanying baggage.


  • I don't think "username" is good here. It presumes a relationship to a specific program of which the person is a user. So John Doe's username can be "j.doe" in gmail, "doe" in his company intranet, and "JohnnyD_1980" in Skype. It doesn't denote a consistent online identity the way "handle" does, it just frequently happens that the users choose their favorite handle as a username in many programms if not constrained.
    – rumtscho
    Commented Jul 28, 2014 at 14:10
  • I would use "username" in the context of the question.
    – Entbark
    Commented Jul 28, 2014 at 17:33

Handle, alias, username, nickname and screen-name are all ones that have been mentioned that I would consider.

One I haven't seen mentioned yet is: Persona

noun: persona; plural noun: personae; plural noun: personas
the aspect of someone's character that is presented to or perceived by others.
"her public persona"
a role or character adopted by an author or an actor.
synonyms:   image, face, public face, character, personality, identity, self; More
  • 1
    Persona is the total package that you put on for others. The name you identify yourself as is just a small part of that.
    – Jason C
    Commented Jul 30, 2014 at 1:24
  • @JasonC While I do agree that persona can be/is "bigger" that simply an online name, at its core is aspect of someone presented to others. Identity is bigger than just a name, but simply being a subset (name is subset of persona) doesn't mean this can't fit as a good word/definition in the right situations.
    – WernerCD
    Commented Aug 1, 2014 at 13:52

I use "moniker" and I've found that usage to be quite common in the tech world, although it is referred to as slang:


noun Slang. a person's name, especially a nickname or alias.

Origin: 1850–55; probably < Shelta mŭnnik name (alleged to be a permutation and extension of Irish ainm name); final -er may represent -er1 or, as a spelling of ə, simply release of the k.

(I know this choice was already mentioned, but without sourcing it. I use it regularly and it immediately came to mind when I saw the question, so I sourced it.)


Why not, "alter ego"? It may be rather high-toned but in my opinion it matches the use of a nickname, especially used on the internet where the anonymity is valued.

I'm interested in opinions that oppose mine though :)


  • 3
    Generally, Alter Ego carries an implication of not just a new name, but a new persona. Commented Jul 28, 2014 at 15:28
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    It's been shown that people sometimes do act differently online when they are allowed to cloak their identity with a handle, so one's "Internet name" may very well be their "alter ego." (e.g. uh.edu/news-events/stories/2014/January/12114Santana.php). That said, alter ego would only be appropriate if one were writing a discussion about this phenomenon, and not about casual Internet usage, such as posting on a forum or social network.
    – phyrfox
    Commented Jul 29, 2014 at 6:21
  • I use alter ego with some frequency, sometimes shortened to alter for added caché.
    – Kit Z. Fox
    Commented Jul 29, 2014 at 18:57

It depends on your audience, but I’ve always liked the phrase nom de guerre.

  • 1
    Well, it should be nom de métier, since we aren't fighting. Commented Jul 29, 2014 at 17:17
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    I've seen nom de net (ab)used before. Commented Jul 29, 2014 at 19:50
  • Then I'll throw in nom de plume.
    – Mr Lister
    Commented Jul 31, 2014 at 6:45

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