Dictionaries usually treat nom de plume as synonymous with 'pen name' or 'pseudonym'. Example from Merriam Webster's dictionary:

Definition of nom de plume: a name that a writer uses instead of his or her real name : PSEUDONYM, PEN NAME

In what context would you use one rather than the other? Is it a matter of regional preferences (ex. one is more prevalent in Britain and the other in America)?

  • 8
    Nom de plume and pen name are for writers but pseudonym is more general.
    – Stuart F
    Commented Sep 18, 2021 at 23:34

3 Answers 3


A pseudonym is any time you are using a name other than your own.

A pen name is when an author publishes under a different name.

A nom de plume is when a pretentious author publishes under a different name.

Generally a pseudonym has the intention of concealing who the real person is. With a pen name or nom de plume it may be for purposes other than concealment.

  • I find several recent articles about famous writers: here and here; it's the article writer who used the term nom de plume in the article title, although they then use "pen name" in the body of the articles. This article use all 3. Would you say it's the article writer that's pretentious, or the writers mentioned? Commented Sep 19, 2021 at 19:06
  • False dichotomy: "Would you say it's the article writer that's pretentious, or the writers mentioned?" Why not all of the above? Commented Sep 20, 2021 at 2:52

I would suggest you write under a pen name rather than a nom de plume. The French don't say nom de plume: they say Nom de guerre. Nom de plume was made up by English-speakers 150 years ago. As H.W.Fowler said (and Etymonline mentions) it is "ridiculous for English writers to use a French phrase that does not come from France."

As Stuart F said, pseudonym is more general. You can write, or do anything you like, under a pseudonym.


I recommend: when in doubt use the most common one...



  • 4
    As "pen name" and "pseudonym" are not interchangeable, their relative frequencies of use aren't relevant.
    – chepner
    Commented Sep 19, 2021 at 15:52
  • Going with the crowd is good advice, so I voted this back up. This Wikipedia bio of Stephen Marlowe may provide some useful context. en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stephen_Marlowe
    – user205876
    Commented Sep 19, 2021 at 18:19

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