Anonymous means someone who can't be identified by name. Pseudonymous means someone who uses false name.

It seems to me that Pseudonymous is a subset of Anonymous. Is it right? If not, what's the difference?

  • 1
    You stated the difference. Whether one is a subset of the other is a judgment call. When an author uses the same pseudonym for a dozen different books, it it really anonymous?
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Jan 28, 2015 at 18:16

3 Answers 3


No, they are related, in the sense they both relate to "hiding" your identity, but they are distinct.

Anonymity means that someones identity is completely unknown. Any statements or writings made by an anonymous person can not be associated with the individual who actually made them. Indeed, if at some future time the identity of said person becomes known, they can no longer be called anonymous.

Pseudonymous merely means you are not using your real, legal name to identify yourself. While it's possible to be anonymous while using a pseudonym, and many people use pseuodnyms for that purpose, they are not necessarily the same. As a simple example, consider any of the dozens of authors that write under pen names: Mark Twain is a pseudonym for Samuel Clemens, but no one would consider Mark Twain "anonymous". Many authors, actors, or musicians use pseudonyms, and continue to use them, long after their identity has become public knowledge.

  • 1
    Online activity is a poor example, since one may use a pseudonym to remain anonymous, and "pseudo-anonymity" may not involve the use of a pseudonym.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Jan 28, 2015 at 18:18
  • 1
    @HotLicks that's true; I had added that part because I think the way people understand anonymity and pseudonymity is changing because of the growth of online activity, but the article I cited was only tangentially related to the idea of pseudonyms. I've removed it.
    – KutuluMike
    Commented Jan 28, 2015 at 18:26
  • 1
    It probably bears mentioning, if only to underscore the inherent ambiguity in the terms.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Jan 28, 2015 at 18:59

Since anonymous means without a name, it can't be that Cincinnatus and George Eliot were anonymous, and therefore pseudonym is not a subset of anonymous.

Then there's the curious case of Anonymous who authored the book Primary Colors.

Do anonymous works have to be unsigned?

Since Anonymous was used on the book's cover and capitalized, it could be argued that it was behaving as a pseudonym of Joel Klein.


These words are synonyms. According to dictionary the synonym to the word 'anonymous' is 'unknown'. The word 'pseudonymous' means bearing a false or fictitious name, having no name.

  • Bearing a fictitious name means that it has a name (albeit fictitious), not no name.
    – Andrew Leach
    Commented Nov 9, 2017 at 13:27

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