Wikipedia explains alter ego thus:

An alter ego (Latin, "the other I") is a second self, which is believed to be distinct from a person's normal or original personality. A person who has an alter ego is said to lead a double life.

So, alter ego sounds more like an identity disorder. But I remember reading somewhere that a person who thinks like you and has the same views and perceptions as you do, can be called your alter ego.

I would like to know if this term can be used to describe someone whose thoughts and behaviour usually match yours?

  • A phrase for "someone whose thoughts and behavior usually match" would be "like-minded" (having a like disposition or purpose : of the same mind or habit of thought -MW; having similar tastes or opinions -Oxford). The term alter ego is in no way related to identity disorders, it's positive. – Kris Dec 25 '12 at 8:41

The Oxford English Dictionary gives the current most common meaning of alter ego as ‘A person's secondary or alternative personality; a persona.’ However, the earliest meaning is ‘A person regarded and treated as another version of oneself; an intimate and trusted friend’. In that sense, alter ego could be someone who thought in the same way as you, but in using it like that you would have to be sure that the context and the circumstances ensured that you would not be misunderstood.

  • Good answer. Now here is a sentence and I would like to know if it sounds correct: In democracy, the government is but an alter ego of the people. – user32480 Dec 25 '12 at 8:12
  • It's grammatical, but it doesn't make much sense, and is ambiguous as between the two meanings of alter ego. Much better to say In democracy, the government represents the people, if that is what is meant. – Barrie England Dec 25 '12 at 8:15
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    @InglishTeeture: That's an interesting question, maybe one you could pose on the Philospher's Stack Exchange. Given that alter egos are close or trusted friends, I think a more accurate sentiment might be: In democracy, the government is but an alter ego of 51% of the people. :^) – J.R. Dec 25 '12 at 9:41
  • Well, 50%+1 anyway. – MetaEd Dec 25 '12 at 15:58

I would not use alter ego to to describe someone whose thoughts and behaviour usually match one’s own, if for no other reason that it has come to mean a superhero’s secret identity in popular or comic-book culture.

And doppelgänger is probably unavailable for that purpose, too, as that has too much of an eerie, supernatural connotation.

Less risky would be to call that person one’s second self. This has some currency and risks no confusion as the other terms do.


According to the dictionary, alter ego can be used in both of the ways you have described.

From Collins:

alter ego (n.)
1. a second self
2. a very close and intimate friend

From Macmillan:

alter ego (n.)
1. a part of someone's personality that is different from their usual personality and that other people do not usually see
2. a very close friend

Apparently, this term (along with its meaning of "a very close friend") is sometimes used in the analysis of literary characters.

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