I know the word exists, as I've used it before. It's essentially an element added to a book, piece of art, or even software that serves as a nod to information shared between two people. It's an element that would only be understood by the author and a specific member of the audience. I'm also fairly certain that this specific word was used almost exclusively with literary works.

As an example, when programming I'll often add an "easter egg" to my code. Sometimes it's a variable named after a girlfriend's dog, or a comment containing an inside joke, or even an anagram that only a certain sly colleague will find.

The word is not:

  • "inside joke" - It's not always a joke.
  • "easter egg" - It's not always meant to be found.
  • "nod" - It's a bit more personal.
  • "hidden message" - It's specifically related to literature, and I'm pretty sure it was one word.

I've been going crazy trying to remember. I'll look for some examples.

  • 1
    An "allusion"? An "homage"?
    – Dan Bron
    Nov 11, 2015 at 20:52
  • Are you looking for a word for a "signal referring to a previously shared information", a "secret reference" or for the message itself? Your choice of (anti-) examples suggest the latter, but likening to a nod the former.
    – macraf
    Nov 11, 2015 at 21:11
  • I would strongly suggest that you do not name variables after your girlfriend's dog, one programmer to another. It affects readability of your code. when other people are diving through it, they need to know what the variable "Sparky" (for example) does. The name ought to be descriptive. Nov 11, 2015 at 21:16
  • Duplicate (although there's no answer there): english.stackexchange.com/questions/113237/… Possibly innuendo?
    – mkennedy
    Nov 11, 2015 at 21:53
  • Allegory?
    – ermanen
    Nov 12, 2015 at 0:26

2 Answers 2


The technique to include concealed messages in otherwise non-secret texts or media is called steganography.

The above Wikipedia article defines the secret data as payload ("The payload is the data covertly communicated."), although the actual article on payload and three sources referenced there give a more general definition of payload as being any actual data as opposed to meta-data.


Do you mean foreshadowing, perhaps?

Here are some articles about the concept of the word: Wikipedia on Foreshadowing, and (a lesser formal one, but an accurate and articulated one as well) TV Tropes on Foreshadowing.

  • I don't think this is correct. Foreshadowing involves plot or other diegetic elements, where this one is specifically non diegetic Nov 15, 2015 at 2:49

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