A pseudonym is a fictitious name for an author.

Is the term ever used to denote an alternate or made-up name for anything else, such as a book, a product, or another kind of object?

(The use can be in a figurative way, but if so, I'm looking for examples in mainstream use.)

If not, what would be an equivalent term?

  • 1
    In Hollywood I wonder if they have a word for this type of thing. For example: The obvious Boy Scouts in the movie are not called "Boy Scouts" (presumably because the Boys Scouts organization did not authorize it), but are instead called something else. – GEdgar Dec 3 '11 at 17:44
  • 1
    Definitely movies and TV use fake brands all the time. (Maybe less these days when they can sell product placement and use a real name.) I remember a TV show where the child would go play "Pretendo" instead of "Nintendo", also. I don't think we have a word for that concept, but surely the people who write the scripts must use something to refer to it, so they can remind someone to do it. – Kate Gregory Dec 4 '11 at 18:45

Pseudonym definitely applies to people other than authors. Online users, movie stars checking into hotels under another name for security, victims of crime the media aren't naming, and so on all count as pseudonyms.

For a project or activity, and for products at some stage of development, I think code name is a better choice. For example, the Doctor Who tapes were labelled Torchwood during the series reboot a few years ago, to lessen the chances they would be stolen and leaked. (Later the series that spun off from Doctor Who was called Torchwood as an inside joke. The names are anagrams.) This could also apply to a book while it is being written.

I'm not sure there's a word in English for consistently calling something other than a person by a different name, like using "The Scottish Play" for MacBeth. There's nickname but it covers a lot of different uses.

  • Code name can also be cryptonym. – wchargin Aug 8 '13 at 22:50

The word pseudonym can only used for a name that somebody calls himself. For example, if you were talking about Citizen Kane, you might say

Charles Foster Kane, a thinly disguised version of William Randolph Hearst,

but you definitely could not use the word pseudonym. Since objects can't call themselves anything, they cannot have pseudonyms. The best term I can think of for this situation is "(thinly) disguised version". The terms "code name" and "nickname" suggested in the other answers would work in other situations.

  • 2
    I disagree. When a witness or victim in a court case is referred to by the media as "A. B." or "Jane Doe", that's a pseudonym. – Kate Gregory Dec 3 '11 at 17:26

I've never heard the word pseudonym used for an object. I've always come across it used for people only. It can be used for someone who isn't a writer but doesn't want to be known by their real name, for example a rebellion leader or a criminal.

The only alternative I know which can be used for both inanimate objects and people is aka (meaning also known as), but this one is also used mostly for people.


OED does list an obsolete meaning for "pseudonym":

A name given to a species (or group of species) other than its taxonomic name; a common or vernacular name.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.